Thursday, September 15
The truth about my life
"I just lose myself in my sewing. I don't know how to describe it. You know when I start beading... I'm so absorbed in what I'm doing, I forget everything. I'm sewing and I'm creating a design and I just don't know how to describe it. I just lose myself in it. "
I am usually kind of up beat about everything. About life and my art in general. I think life as an artist/ freelancer is great but today, or rather the past couple of months, I've been feeling a bit down and just tired. And yes, today I've decided to be really honest and not hold back with what I have to say about my life. I was speaking to a few other creative friends and it's just sad and apparent how life as an artist/ creative/ freelancer is hard. I mean life in general is already hard. Regardless of whether or not you're a banker, a lawyer, scientist, teacher or artist. But I think life as an artist is especially hard. I grew up being told I wouldn't make any money as an artist. In Singapore, and almost everywhere else, that's pretty much the mindset of people. To a certain extent, I hate to admit it but I think it's true. The past couple of months, I've just been thinking a lot about my practice, my work and just the person I am. I've always been a really motivated and driven person. Back in high school, I already knew I couldn't do anything else apart from art. So I pushed myself and did art all day long. I made sure I got myself into design school.
While in design school, I knew I wanted to be artist for the rest of my life. I discovered my passion for teaching and educating. So I worked and studied and made lots of crafty stuff. People my age were having the time of their life, partying, travelling. But I on the other hand chose to stay home and make art all day long. Don't get me wrong, but I really loved it and still think it was the best thing to do. Right after my design diploma, I plonked myself in teaching for a year and worked with so many kids. It was amazing. Such a wonderful opportunity. and till today, I still think discovering my love for teaching back then, was probably the best thing that ever happened for me.
Right after teaching for a year, I packed my life up and moved to Melbourne and went to art school to do my painting degree. I remember back in second year, my friends were all having fun and partying after school hours. Some of them were working part time to earn extra cash. I earned my cash by selling and making art. All day long. I thought hard and turned my work into home wares and affordable alternatives. In my opinion, people would be more inclined to buy smaller stuff that was usable, as compared to a large painting. I think I was probably the only idiot preparing myself for the unglamorous artist life after art school. I often spoke to my friends about our ambitions. I remember for a class, everyone had to share what their dream after art school was. 90% of my classmates said they plan to travel the world, and take a year off. I thought to myself then, as if I'd had such a luxury!
So during my second and third year at uni, I did a lot of testing and experimenting, all on top of my own school work. I did craft markets, and kept on working, working and working.
Just before I graduated last year, I decided to start looking for a job as a teacher. I landed in a part-time teaching job which I grew to hate. Had a boss that drove me nuts and pressured me to tears every time I worked. I finally left the job after several months. And now I'm working freelance. I spend my days working on making art, commissions, teaching part time.
Sometimes people tell me what they would give, to have my life and that I should appreciate the fact that I get to do what I love. I know. I do appreciate it and everyday, I wake up and I'm so thankful I get to do what I love. But sometimes, this life of mine scares me. I'm turning 25 next year. I know I'm young. But I'm thinking is this really what I want to go through for the rest of my life? I know compared to some many others, I am really lucky and blessed. I know that. I am! But it just scares me to think if this is really it. Am I going to have to worry and fret over financial stuff for the rest of my life, in order to pursue what I love? I know and am so sure I want to have my own studio, teaching kids and making art. But how am I going to get myself to the point where I can say ' Ok! This is it! I am ready and I've got the money! Let's lease this little shop space and start my own thing! ' Truth is, I am VERY ready. It's just the financial side of things. Mmm...
As of right now, not knowing whether or not, I get enough money for the coming month. If I would get any commissions, freelance jobs. Constantly having to think up new things to make, advertising my work and having to keep encouraging others to buy my art. Tweeting, blogging and just bombarding people with promotions. It just makes me feel so horrible. I think about having kids and whether or not my life as an artist would be enough to start a family. I start asking myself why am I not good with anything else other than art and teaching? Is that really all I can do? What if ten years down the road, they both don't work out? What would I be left with?
I often get emails about people asking me how I do it, how I earn a living. My answer, God knows! No, seriously, without God and my faith in Him, I don't even know how I'd survive. I' probably be crazy by now. I always tell myself God provides and will provide no matter what happens. But I just sometimes cannot deal with this whole big question mark of what's next. I often find myself admiring others. My friends are all lawyers, doctors, bankers, accountants. They have steady incomes and are looking at buying houses, investing. What about me? I have no clue about all these property investment stuff. I still feel like I'm 16. Totally clueless and thinking I'm ready to take on the world with my art. I don't have any back up plans.
I don't know how to describe my passion for teaching and art making. I really don't. I just love it and I do it because it's what makes me happy. Just like Mabel. But at the same time, reality is always harsh and it comes back to kick me in my butt. Reality tells me how passion isn't enough to just sustain me. Passion isn't going to just pay my rent for me every month. I think of teaching. How I could teach and work in a school. But the thing is, art teachers are mostly part-timers too. What are the chances of me being offered a full-time art teaching job? I keep trying to work hard, but time after time, I find myself getting kicked back to square 1.
Just this year, on top of all the doubts and worries, I've had my work stolen and copied, sold without my knowledge. I've been cheated and taken for granted and as a result, lost some money I thought I was getting. I've been in an out of a job. I've lost my friend and the loss reminds me of how short life really is. I don't know what to do.
I have other creative friends who are really lucky. They're able to pay their bills and go full time with what they love doing. But I also have friends who had to shut down their businesses, get a proper job. Give up what they love. It's a struggle for people like us.
Sometimes I think, people need to know that freelancing isn't easy. That life as an artist is probably one of the shittiest thing ever, but at the same time it is so rewarding. How contradicting. But yes, that's the ugly truth. You pay and spend lots of money making art. You tell yourself it's all for passion. You work so hard, not knowing if you'll get anything in return. It's all a matter of faith and hoping. Some days, you wake up smiling and knowing it'll be a good day. Some days you wake up wishing you were smarter and had a regular job.
Well, I don't know. I was speaking to a friend yesterday. And she mentioned we should probably have some sort of crafters therapy group or something. Ah. I couldn't agree more. Oh well. Sorry for complaining and being all whiney. I just needed to get this all out of my system.