Songs for the Struggling Artist


Graduating into an Artist’s Life
April 26, 2015, 9:52 pm
Filed under: advice, art, Creative Process, education | Tags: , ,

I have a Feldenkrais client who is about to graduate from an arts program and he was struggling with the anxiety of what will happen next. Talking with him about it reminded me of my own college graduation anxiety and even though it’s really not my job as a Feldenkrais Practitioner to give Arts advice, I found myself assuring him that it would be all right.

And it will be all right – though probably not in the way that anyone expects. Graduating into a world in which you’re choosing to be an artist is different than graduating into a job, or moving to a city, or just getting to know yourself for a while. The thing I didn’t understand at that age was how fluid my life was about to become. Because I had gone from school to school to school, each choice made a monumental impact on my life’s trajectory. And each choice neatly led to the next.

I had no sense of the randomness of the artists’ life before me. I thought I’d get that acting job and it would lead to the next acting job and it would lead to the next acting job and so on until I was on Broadway or on TV or in The Movies! And while I got that acting job, I did not get the NEXT acting job right away and it was a little bit of a shock that one thing did not lead to another as it had in education.

This is terrifying on one hand but also tremendously freeing. Each choice becomes slightly less heavy this way. You make one choice, it may or not work out. . .6 weeks later, you’ll be making another choice. There is no RIGHT choice. There’s always just a series of choices. And, sure, these choices add up to a life – but probably not in a predictable way.

In a way, you’ll always be graduating – which I can understand doesn’t sound appealing given the drama that comes with that event. And I suppose it shouldn’t. This life ain’t easy. An artists’ life is really like one graduation after another. One new beginning, another ending. Learning how to deal with that constant change is the most useful skill an artist can have.

Maybe it’s not comforting to think of the next phase of your life this way – but for me, it might have helped. It might have given some lightness to something that seemed very heavy. You don’t have to know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life or even what you’re going to do right after you graduate. You could not know and then know and not know again and all of that is perfectly normal. You can also choose an artist’s life and then leave it. Most of the people I started out with have done that. You just don’t know from where you’re standing.

All you can do is do the next thing in front of you with all that you have and be ready to leap when the next opportunity comes around.

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