“Once a bee, always a bee.”
Not the rally cry heard at most universities focused on football and other achievements in sports or even academics, but a promise made by Paula Wallace, president of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
I graduated from a college known for producing teachers. Although I knew I was not cut out to be a teacher in the conventional sense, I’ve always been one in the unconventional sense. As an educator and academic advisor, I’m not convinced conventional education serves everyone. Especially the creatively quirky ones.
When I attended my niece’s graduation from SCAD last weekend, I realized why. Celebrating the achievements of these eloquent writers, devoted designers, illustrious illustrators, innovative architects, visual and sound artists, advertisers, fashion merchandisers, and gamers, I instinctively knew that finding the right educational environment made this moment possible for many of them. Their dreams might not have survived a conventional approach.
Had I known about SCAD when I was considering college, surely I would have gravitated towards it. But at the time, I didn’t know such a place existed.
So I carved out a creative life on my own. Slowly. Over time. Wandering around the desert with my dog.
As Barbara Sher says, “Isolation is the dream killer.”
Consequently, I can appreciate the value of a college for creative careers that focuses on creativity, community, and collaboration. I swarm to that like a bee to honey.
In this brave, new world of instant and constant connection, there really is no excuse to hide out as an artist or creative person. There is always someone, somewhere who will “get you“, who will see, understand, and be empowered by your creativity. No matter how old you happen to be.
And while art school might have been or still might be a pipe dream for many of us (because art school is expensive), where there’s a will, there is often a way. Figuring out how to get there – wherever your Promised Land may be – is part of what makes arriving so satisfying.
As the confetti fell from the ceiling and the acrobats twirled overhead, I contemplated the opportunities that await these gifted graduates. I felt inspired not just by these students but by anyone who has the courage to create.
In my world, there is a special place in heaven reserved for those who make life bearable by sharing their art and the beauty of their words, their music, or their creative visions. (There is also a special place for those who make indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and clean, safe drinking water possible.)
You don’t have to go to art school to create something meaningful, beautiful, innovative, or excellent. You don’t have to graduate from any institution to prove your value, your worth, your right to be here, and your need to contribute.
It is something to be proud of, for sure. The connections made and the experience gained from any educational experience will serve you for years to come.
But so will showing up every day not just with your degrees, portfolio, client list, and resume, but with your palpable passion, clear purpose, endless curiosity, and open heart.
Oh, to “bee” a SCAD grad would be an honor, indeed. But so is being all of who you are and not being afraid to bring that to the table over and over again.
I’d love to hear about your “graduation” – from school, from a relationship, from a job, from a place – in the comments below.
G: What choices have you made that, had you made a different choice, you feel your life would have been completely different. Not necessarily better or worse but just different.
P: Last month I had an opportunity to make a choice that would have definitely changed life as I know it. You can read about it in my post The One That Got Away.
Although it may appears as though nothing has changed externally, I can assure you that everything has rearranged itself internally.
I have this saying in my office that reads, “The deepest joy exists in those rare instances of clarity when there is no wanting, no yearning, no clinging to some idealized life we believe exists somewhere other than exactly where we are.”
I got to experience of one those rare instances of clarity as I struggled to choose between the dream I’d held onto for the past 20 years and the reality I’d been quietly but consciously concocting the last 8.
I got to think about other choices I’d made that could have radically changed the course of my life. Like choosing to remain in the Midwest instead of going to graduate school in California right after 9/11. Or staying at my fitness job in Texas instead of moving to Mexico to work at an upscale spa long before that.
In the end I simply reminded myself we are always where we need to be, doing exactly what we need to be doing. Actually, this was one of my “wear sunscreen” pieces of advice I wrote for graduates in my booklet, The Graduate’s Guide to Life.
I came across this today by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic. “I understand that the best you can hope for in such a situation is to let your old idea go and catch the next idea that comes around. And the best way for that to happen is to move on swiftly, with humility and grace. Don’t fall into a funk about the one that got away. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t rage at the gods above.”
And I absolutely love this from Dear Sugar, aka Cheryl Strayed, “I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
So here I am now, gratefully writing from – I kid you not – Shoreline Drive, saluting all the ships that have sailed without me.
Join us in playing the No Matter What Game. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Or contact Gillian at www.gillianpearce.com and arrange to have her send you your very own prompts to get your creative juices flowing .
Whether it was the missed connection, the dream job, the international man of mystery, the lady in red, the big fish, or the 200+ inch, double drop tine buck**, nothing haunts us quite like the one that got away.
Having lived long enough to have made my share of questionable decisions, the best decision is to have no regrets.
If in the agony and urgency of attempting to make a life-changing decision I can remind myself there is not just one perfect soul mate, one perfect job, or one chance of a lifetime, this is easier.
Granted, these opportunities are rare. But I’ve come to trust that what is meant for me has a curious way of circling back around.
Through a series of outrageous occurrences, I was invited to Miami Beach for a creative writing residency by the founder and creative director of one of the world’s finest greeting card companies. The chance to spend a little time writing cards at the beach escalated into an opportunity to become an integral part of the company.
Anyone who knows me knows being part of a creative team of writers and artists and brilliant minds is a dream come true. Everything about this opportunity beckoned me. Exceptional people. Exceptional place. Exceptional potential.
Except for the equal and opposite dream I have been quietly crafting in my own back yard.
Before I had a home, a husband to be, and a steady job that supports my writing habit and frequent flights of fancy, I would often imagine in detail what a free-spirited, super successful, single person’s writing life should look like.
Suffice it to say, it looked like what I was now being offered. Living the dream for a few days was intoxicating.
Returning to the reality of my regularly scheduled life was excruciating. Not because it isn’t alluring in its own right, but because I had been unequivocally altered. Only those closest to me knew to what extent.
I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t reconcile the gap between achieving what I’ve always wanted professionally and the price it would exact personally.
In getting a glimpse of this parallel life in all its glory, I got that my dreams must evolve as I do. Like an app on an iPad, I must update them regularly in order to address the glitches I fail to factor in when I originally envision them.
Life-changing decisions are not meant to be easy. By their very nature they urge us to evaluate everything, question our assumptions, check our egos, inventory what’s important, and listen deeply to our own wisdom.
They are designed to wreak havoc. They are going to cause some grief since something has got to give and some things have got to go.
Adding to the pressure, they are usually time-sensitive and affect other unsuspecting people.
We remember the one that got away with such angst because he/she/it catapulted us out of our comfort zone and demanded we address our soul’s deeper yearnings.
Whether we act on the invitation, take a leap of faith, and change our current trajectory or not, the real gift is conjuring up the courage to consider doing so.
To feel deeply, love flat out, and shamelessly want what we want reminds we are alive with infinite input into how we live our lives.
Living this way is both exhilarating and exhausting. And will undoubtedly define us as the one that got away in someone else’s story.
Now go. Discover creative ways to live your updated, awe-inspiring dream. Live large in small areas of your life. Or go big and still go home. Whatever works. It’s up to you.
And when you get a minute, tell me about it in the comments below.
**I only know about such things because the buck is Bob’s dream. No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog post.