(I wrote this a year ago, and edited it this year for this event. I still think it holds up somewhat.)
I was surprised to hear a couple people referring to me as an entrepreneur. Or having entrepreneur skills, or entrepreneur spirit, or just something. I was pretty-dumbfounded by hearing it, because honestly, I never saw myself as one. I always thought I just had my head in the clouds and no real tactics to survive in the real world. I’ve always been a dreamer, and realizing that certain small day to day tasks need to be accomplished, so that I can reach those dreams, has never been my forte.
But after some thought I realized why they saw this in me.
Whatever amount of entrepreneurism I have is not coming from my own self. I believe though, that it came from my mom. And I don’t mean it came in the genetic sense, because genetically, or by nature, I feel I have none of it. But I mean came as in she taught me that.
I clearly remember, ok maybe not so clearly, but I remember this.
I was drawing on the dining room table, or maybe I was reading, or doing whatever dumb stuff I did on my computer back then. The light was warm flooding in from the open windows of our house. And it felt like my house. Whenever I think of my house, it’s that time of day that I think of it.
Now that I think of it, I was probably looking at some incredible artist’s video on YouTube. And what happened pretty often is that I either felt really great about becoming an artist, or I felt miserable. Like suddenly seeing how capable they were, and how incapable I was, revealed to me how impossible it would be the road ahead. How much I lacked in talent, and skill and knowledge. How I had no idea how to get a job or make money off of this. How probably I WOULD be sleeping under the bridge after I graduated. And that’s what was all going through my mind at the time. And my mom passed by, and somewhat jokingly I must’ve asked her how was I ever going to do it. I’m pretty sure it was a semi-joke, because I somehow also still thought I could be the one to brave the dark water of creative artistry. I mean part of my whole narrative behind choosing art is just the sense of glory, adventure and unknown that it carries with it. But anyways, after I joked, she sat down, right next to me, pen and paper in hand.
“Ok, Andrew. What do you want in life?”
“To be an artist, question mark?”
“See. That’s already the wrong mindset. You can’t relay yourself to just a ‘stand-in’ name. When you choose a career you’re not choosing an identity. You’re choosing a path to travel. One from which you can always move out, and jump on the other one. What you have to understand is what you want to do. Now here, you have a variety of talents. What other careers have you considered?”
“I’ve thought of writer, artist, psychologist, pastor and missionary.”
“Now what you have to understand with all of those is that their not essential. They all vary in the way they happen. There are a thousand ways of being a write, or an artist, a psychologist, pastor or missionary. And in the end of the day it doesn’t matter which one you choose, at the end of the day with all of these what do you want to do? What’s your goal?”
“I don’t know, moooom,” inset teenager eyeroll here “Why are you complicating this so much? I just want to know what to do with my life.”
“But, Andrew, what do you want to do? Because if you think about it, writing and being an artist, even a pastor is all about communication. Transmitting ideas, thoughts, feelings.”
I acted unsurprised. But when I think back to this point, I was very blown-up. I believe I did the common teenager move of kind of completely disregarding what she was saying, but not actually. It stayed with me. No matter what I did, that was indeed what I wanted: to communicate, to bring together, images, words, ideas, feelings, and people. To show things under a new light. And up until here everything was pretty unpractical advice she was giving. My mom tends to do that. She likes to go deeper, and dig for a root causes, root problems. I had never up until that point realized how fluid a career can be, and how one isn’t necessarily relegated to one position, one name or career choice. Giving me that, was giving me freedom, one that I felt I never received at school. And it was necessary then, to close in on the specifics if I did want to go towards the path of a visual communicator.
“I do. That’s I want. I want to be a visual communicator of sorts, open to different paths.”
Once I admitted that, she felt safe then to nail down a plan.
“OK. Now is then when we can go ahead and think of how to get you there. So, who are the people that you follow? Who exemplifies what you want to do?”
I listed them off.
“Okay. How do you get there?”
I recounted several ways that all left it up to chance and luck to get there.
“No, no, no. You’re thinking of the impossible. That’s too far. What are small steps you can do to get there? What are things they would be doing at your age to be getting there?”
I told her of all the artists’ I saw that did commissions, an did events, and created ways to make money.
“So what do you need to get there?”
And we talked about all this. It was all about breaking down my BIG dream, into manageable parts. Small things I could. It was about revealing that the dream wasn’t that big after all, it was just something that had to be built up to.
But I think what was left with me from that conversation, besides all the practical stuff I needed to get on to and learn, and start the journey on, was one remark she said. Or maybe she didn’t say, but it became prominent in my heart. One of the biggest problems I have to work on.
Because, I’m still here. I’m still trying to hone my craft. I’m still trying to figure out ways to grow my audience, and how I can reach them. I’m trying to figure out how to make money and survive once I graduate. But what has shown to be one of the biggest struggles is just trying to figure out what I have to say. What I, a regular human person, have to share with the world that matters?
And as much as I can become a great art-business person, and find the necessary means to make a living from art. Does it really matter if what I’m creating isn’t adding something meaningful to the world? We see so much these days through all our different social media channels. There’s already so much creative work being done in the world. What can I make, that’ll be good and meaningful?
A visual communicator, without a message, isn’t a communicator at all.