This was probably one of the most pivotal statements anyone has ever said to me. I’m sure someone had said something like it before, but it was all the more powerful because of the timing.
I think we forget that sometimes with all of our tweets and posts – that timing has a way of making our words more powerful and sometimes not talking, posting, or tweeting is better.
I was attending my local community college when the importance of this statement finally sunk in. I had to take a life drawing class for the degree I wanted – you know, drawing naked people… At the time I was still struggling with the idea that I was a creative, talented person – or dare I say, artist.
I was struggling with a lot of other things too, but that’s for another post(s).
So here I am in a class where I have to stare at a naked model and try to not be uncomfortable. It took a few weeks, but I was finally able to get past all of my prudish hangups, insecurities, and relax enough to actually draw. The professor was great. He walked around the class offering encouragement and tips to each of us.
I was secretly waiting for him to stop at my desk and tell me to get out. That I had no business being in his class. That I was crazy for even thinking that I had any artistic ability.
This is a lesson to all of you parents out there. No matter how bad you think you’re child’s artwork is or how dumb or crazy you think their dreams are, do not say things like that to them. I am 40 years old and my parents’ words are still stuck in my head and I have to fight them every day.
And I do fight them, because I know better now, but I didn’t in that class. Every time I didn’t draw something exactly how I thought it should be or as well as the person sitting next to me I would panic. I would tell myself I was crazy for believing or even hoping I had any talent.
So when the professor said it was okay to start over if something wasn’t quite right I thought it was preposterous! Truly talented people get their artwork (manuscripts) right on the first try. They have no need for an eraser or even extra paper.
I could tell that some of my classmates thought he was nuts, too. How could we possibly start over when we had spent so much time on our artwork already?
But that’s exactly what I did on the last assignment and it changed my life forever.
We had to recreate a famous drawing for the last assignment. I forget now what it was, but even I knew it so it must have been pretty famous. So I start my drawing and it’s going pretty well. There is, after all, rules to drawing the human form. I’m good with rules. I like rules. Rules soothe me and make sense of the chaos.
Anyway, everything is going along fine until I get to the calves. I’m not sure what happened but they were just not in proportion with the rest of the woman and no matter what I did I couldn’t make them look right. I’m erasing and drawing the lines again, but I know that they will never look right because I started too low on the paper.
Keep in mind that I’m almost finished at this point and we only have a couple of classes left for the semester. But as the professor comes toward my desk I make my decision. I crumple up my drawing and I pull out a fresh sheet of paper and start again.
Even the professor was startled. I’m not sure if it was because he didn’t think I had enough time to finish it from the beginning or if it was because I actually took what he said to heart.
Another life lesson – someone is always listening to what you say whether you realize it or not, whether they are the intended audience or not, whether you’re spouting nonsense or not. What we say affects others…
So I start over. And in that moment I understand that all of my fear cannot stop me unless I let it. Once I took that courageous first step toward freedom of others and their opinions and oppression nothing could stand in my way.
Oh, and everything is always faster the second time around.
Armed with that knowledge I was able to step out of my comfort zone a little more for my next classes. I was able to volunteer for projects and offer opinions at work. I was able to shut out my parents’ nagging voices in my head.
I’m not saying it’s easy or that I still don’t have doubts or that I actually want to start over. Starting over sucks and probably always will. But it’s getting easier. It also helps with the anxiety and stress. There’s a certain kind of power that comes from knowing that I have the ability and courage to start over if necessary.
That I don’t have to get it right the first time. And neither do you…