What defines a person? Is it your job? Your role in society? Your strengths and weaknesses? How do you define yourself? When I was in my teens and early twenties I used to define myself by what was wrong with me. Then, I went through a period of being completely unsure of who I was or what I liked or what my place in the world should be. As I grew into my late twenties I found that I defined myself by what I thought was best about me. In my early thirties I felt confident that I had figured everything out in my late twenties, and my best qualities were what defined me as a person. It took a while, but I eventually realized that maybe I was not as awesome as I thought I was, and I started to dig deeper. I started to understand tragic flaws, and complexities in personalities, and I saw that everything was not black or white, but mostly shades of grey.
At 41, after a failed marriage, and 3 children, I found myself in the strange position of once again not being exactly sure who I was. Finally, a thought arose in my head that I was the sum of my strengths, weaknesses, and experiences, but I still was unsure of how to channel that into my persona. I had not felt a lack of confidence or insecurity since my teens, and feeling that at my current age felt worse than it did when I was young. In my twenties and early thirties I let my looks pick up any slack that my intellectual or social inadequacies left around. When I was married and in the second round of the “me as mom” mode, I fell comfortably into the mom/wife role, and loved it – for a while, and let that cover up any type of uncertainty about who I was. But it soon became clear to me, as it does to all mothers everywhere, that your role in life is not just “mom.” But, by this stage in life it is too late to fall back to party girl, or college student, or anything you were before…so what is it?
I am not going to give any advice, or act as if I know what anyone else may think or feel, but, for me, I uncovered what defines me as a person as if it was something just out of my reach, but when it came into my grasp I held onto it with an iron grip, determined never to let it slip from my hands again. One day I came to understand very clearly who I am in an instant. One day I understood exactly how to define myself in one word.
I am an artist. I always said it, but for some reason, until recently, I never understood that that is what makes up the major part of me.
It does not make me any less of a mom, or a professor, or a sister, or daughter, but that is how I can best describe myself. That is how I can encompass all aspects of my personality. If I have to give you one word to encompass me, it is artist. And, I am grateful for that. It does not matter if I am an art history professor; a bar tender, or a mom because under any of those titles what I am at heart is an artist.
I wonder if anyone else can count themselves so lucky as to know exactly who they are, and to be able to get it across in one word. The realization came to me in a Facebook private message. I unexpectedly dumped a bunch of my personal burdens onto to someone who had asked me a simple question. In a message about work-related issues, a friend politely asked, “how are things?” and I totally unloaded, and in a nutshell, he responded with this,
“Fuck. So sorry... And, I know you prob don't want to hear sorry, but I am because most people deserve to have better…tragedies in our lives somehow, someway, make artists better. You have that one gift over every other mother fucker out there to fall back on. Give yourself therapy with. Keep kicking ass like you always do.”
Sometimes people do not know the effect they have on you. Sometimes those effects are little, and sometimes one sentence from an unexpected Facebook pm can make or break your day, or your year, or your life. I count myself lucky for many things – not only for my awesome friends and family, or for being reminded that I, “have that one gift over every other mother fucker out there,” which is art. But, I am thankful to have that gift of art at all. And, I wonder if others are so lucky as to understand themselves with one powerful, wondrous, and definitive word – ARTIST.