The world is changing and unpredictable. It’s hard to know how to plan for our futures.
What will tomorrow bring?
One thing is sure, ten years from now, things will not be like they are today. Rather than consternate over it, maybe it’s easier to learn how to be adaptable.
It is so easy to get discouraged when living a creative life. Your words are criticized; your paintings don’t sell. “They” don’t believe you have any promise. Sometimes the struggle to be commercially successful in a creative field can be so daunting that you abandon the art. But then you remember that art isn’t about “them” or “success” or “critical acclaim” at all. It’s about bringing your truths into the light, being creative, pushing yourself, being you.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the case of Henri Rousseau, a forty year old toll collector who wanted to paint. His work was derided, and yet he continued. He found joy in the painting. Not until the end of his life did anyone take his work seriously. As summarized by Maria Popova:
Long before history came to celebrate him as one of the greatest artists of his era, long before he was honored by major retrospectives by such iconic institutions as the MoMA and the Tate Museum, long before Sylvia Plath began weaving homages to him into her poetry, he spent a lifetime being not merely dismissed but ridiculed. And yet Rousseau — who was born into poverty, began working alongside his plumber father as a young boy, still worked as a toll collector by the age of forty, and was entirely self-taught in painting — withstood the unending barrage of harsh criticism with which his art was met during his entire life, and continued to paint from a deep place of creative conviction, with an irrepressible impulse to make art anyway…. [Rousseau’s life is] an emboldening real-life story, and a stunningly illustrated one, of remarkable resilience and optimism in the face of public criticism, of cultivating a center so solid and a creative vision so unflinching that no outside attack can demolish it and obstruct its transmutation into greatness.
The message from Rousseau’s life speaks to all of us: he was a success all along. He persevered with a remarkable resilience to produce work that spoke to him and pursued a passion that made him happy. That, the pursuit of great art, rather than the financial success was what gave his journey depth and meaning and lifted up his soul.
We all will fail at something. Lots of somethings. But it is in the resilience, in the getting up, that we succeed. Perhaps life would be easier if we went into each day expecting some set-backs, believing that not everything will always go according to our best case scenario. Then we could look at each day ready to appreciate the good and deal with the bad. Not in an Eeyore pessimistic way, but in a way that we will accept the day with its ups and its downs. Then when we encounter some of each, we won’t be surprised. In any event, don’t forget to bounce.
Oh, child. How I wish for you to have a life without misery and heartache, a world without disillusionment and betrayal, a childhood unmarred by neglect or abuse, a journey without conflict. But, alas, that will not be. We do not live in a utopian world, but here in this world, and you will know sorrow and pain and, as much as I would love to shield and protect you from it, I cannot. There will be dark days, my love.
But you are brighter than the darkness, and, even in your misery, you will find a way to shine. And when you are at your lowest point, I will be there beside you knowing that you will rise again and that this pain will make you more compassionate and humble, more honest and fierce, more determined to make this world a more perfect place, because you, my beautiful child, are not meant to be kept down in the darkness, but to shine.
It is so easy to get settled in–to our homes, our lives, our ideas, our expectations, our views of the world. We put down roots, dig in, and clench, holding tight.
But, inevitably, something comes along to upset the apple cart.
And then what?
For those who insist on that one way to do or see things, what comes is a lot of frustration, heartache, and anger. But for those who can bend, open to another point of view, and keep learning–never stop learning– what comes is the next chapter.
How risk adverse are you? It’s only natural to want to protect ourselves from failure or danger, but should we? Isn’t pushing those boundaries where innovation happens, where new discoveries are made, where new friendships are forged?
Isn’t it in the picking ourselves up from failure and trying again, where we build strength and resilience?