The first 15 years of life I created art through play. I was free, creating, exploring and having fun. I didn’t have a reason to do it except that it felt perfect and was pure joy! Every stroke, line and mess was an adventure. I knew I was an artist. I knew I wanted to BE an artist – this was what I was made to do!
Upon graduation of high school, I felt the pressure of society to pursue the American Dream. By definition its the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. Sounds great, right? Nope. Its a farce. The American Dream is the pursuit of material possessions, social status and titles to feed egos that wreck lives. The American Dream creates a cultural where we use people and constantly seek an arrival. It’s cultivates fear, pride, dissension and results in the bondage of our creative hearts.
I chose the American Dream over my own.
Why? I was certain I wouldn’t survive as an artist. Selling art wasn’t a thing in 2000. MySpace didn’t even exist yet and what’s Instagram?! All I saw was my grandmother, an amazing well loved fine artist, struggle to sell her art.
This is where I dropped my creative freedom and grasped fear and pride. I was so afraid I wouldn’t be seen and have the approval of those around me that I chose an American Dream over my own. I set out to become an Art Director. Because that would make me a “real artist.” That would make me known.
16 years later I had arrived. I was an Art Director! But unknowingly on this expedition to the summit in becoming an Art Director, my creative freedom had been slowly crushed by the process of the “arrival” in the American Dream; short deadlines, tiny budgets, intense politics, impossible parameters, long job descriptions, absurd expectations, etc. I struggled to condense the freedom I knew of creativity into a two hour block on my schedule in between countless meetings, on 4 hours of sleep, while working in an industry where competition between your coworkers is far more natural than the celebration of diversity in creativity. I developed intense anxiety. I went 8 years without expressively painting or drawing. I lost my sense of wonder and adventure. I was in a never ending state of anxiety because I knew that what I had just created was going to be intensely analyzed and measured through completely objective lenses in which the feedback was supposedly “intended for growth and development.” 12 years of cynical, pious, fierce and sometimes snobbishly vague feedback had settled into my heart, and I was questioning everything I knew about myself. I felt like I was in bondage and suffocating. Am I an artist? Am I creative? Was I ever an artist or creative?
I had reached the summit of the American Dream, a dream that I had voluntarily chosen to pursue, and I was sick, depressed and my creative heart was in bondage. This is NOT what I thought this would be! This is AWFUL! My breathing was shallow, my chest was tight, I barely slept or I would sleep for days. I was in a cycle of intense analyzing that left me completely paralyzed in my personal life. I was heartbroken and sick all the time. My body was in complete shambles. Mostly because I had abused it through binging and purging for 8 years. The eating disorder had become the only vehicle in which I could rid myself of the things trapped inside me. It became my only release. I was then forced to analyze every morsel of food and environment that I entered because of a laundry list of food and environmental allergies discovered in year 5 of my climb. At this point, a one mile walk had me in tears from all the pain in my body. I just completed the hardest climb of my life and I was convinced I would die on this summit void of creative freedom.
I am going to die as the American Dream and not the artist God created me to be.
Then God gently placed His hand on my face and turned my cheek. I saw another peak in the distance. There it is. That’s MY dream. I began to feel lighter. My chest loosened up. I took a deep breath. Even though the view takes everyone’s breath away, I’m breathing deeply at the highest elevation I’ve ever been. A place where oxygen is low. It’s the most beautiful peak I could ever see in my life and I’m not even close enough to experience it in all His glory. Everyone says it’s impossible – That summit is unreachable because the climb is impossible. But I see a child dancing on the top of it. I desperately want to talk to her. I want to BE her. My heart immediately filled with a white hot purpose. My palms were sweaty and my body was tingling all over from the elevation and adrenaline that was surging through my veins. I knew what I wanted to do more than anything I had EVER done in my life. I was desperate to tell her all the things that I have experienced. I wanted her to know that despite anything anyone says or thinks about her or how she climbs, that she is a creative heart. That she IS an artist. That she IS creative and can be who she knows she is because that’s how God made her. He made her in HIS image. The image of the grandest artist, designer and creator that ever was and ever will be. That He approves of her and everything she creates in Him.
Then God said, “That child is you… You are declaring these words of encouragement to the woman I am growing you to be. The woman you have prayed to be all these years. The woman you have always wanted to be. The woman I made you to be. A woman of child like faith that uses the fullness of the waterfall of freedom and every gift I’ve given to glorify my name. The past 16 years were an expedition, not failure. Life is a journey and I will use your life and art. Now go pave a way for Creative Revival in joy by the Holy Spirit.”
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21