Roadblocks Encourage New Paths in the Direction of Our Dreams
Last April, my Special Ed director told me that I -and several other Special Ed. paras throughout our school district- would no longer have a job in the fall, as the district was removing aide positions. I was shocked, even though that very morning I’d asked myself on the way to work, “Would I ever quit my job if my art started selling?” Then I asked, “What would I do if I lost my job?” *(Insert theme from “The Twilight Zone” here.)
Though I’d always dreamed of being a full-time artist, I loved my 17 years with the school district. Seeing a student learn a tool to use in life- a method to tackle a problem or perform a task-whether an algebraic formula or following a recipe- was very fulfilling, but I’ve always known it’s not my “truest path.”
The weekend after the getting the news, I painted in my studio for around six hours, creating a large landscape in oil. Besides being therapeutic, as art always is, I realized that it would take me about 130 hours of working at the school to earn this painting’s retail value. It might take awhile to sell, but it’s not a loaf of bread or a cookie- it’ll keep. And if I really need money, I can lower prices or get some of those long-put-off commissions done. I began to realize, “Hey, this is possible.”
I began to prepare, which wasn’t difficult since I gave up playing hockey and sold our horses years ago to make art a bigger priority in my life. My summer job as a museum worker/information provider afforded me time to paint, and I put every spare dime into car payments or a savings account. I was blessed with many encouraging sales, mostly because knowing I wouldn’t have much income in the fall, I slashed prices to sell. I sold art to people from 10 different states over the summer, and one piece went to France- one that I’d painted from memory of a view from a classroom window, a view that as a teacher’s aide I’d only dreamed of painting.
I’ve been busier than ever with two art shows this fall, and the Christmas season approaching. My days are filled with obligations and duties that line up with my dreams- I couldn’t be happier. During the first week of school, I sold five paintings. To make that amount of money as a teacher’s aide, I would have had to work around 80 hours, or just over two weeks (and I made an excellent wage for classified staff). I imagined God reminding me of Jeremiah 29:11, “See? ‘I know the plans I have for you.'”
I know the winter may be long and dry in sales, or it might not. As one client told me, the work of establishing myself over the years (while working two jobs) has paid off.
I have a renewed love for domesticity- finally finding time for the house, the garden and flowerbeds. I’m at peace, and giddy with the prospect of being my own boss at least part of the time. People have asked me to give lessons and teach community art classes, which will get me through the financial dry spells and grant me some of the fulfillment I found in the classroom.
You know what they say about God closing doors and opening windows. What might seem like a tragedy at the time can be God’s way of putting you on your correct path. As to the question I’d asked myself on the way to work that morning, I doubt I would have weaned myself from that steady paycheck to pursue art. Without the job loss, I may have never known the feeling of going in the direction of my dreams or living the life I imagined.