My Journey : Denial, Suppresion, and Pleasing Others - A tragic combination.

Setting: A crowded flea market in my hometown

Her: (a lady my mom’s age I’ve known my entire life)  I’ve seen your art on social media! I didn’t realize you were so artistic.

Me: I didn’t either.


This was a benign lie.

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One of those lies that you tell people that you know but you don’t know well. A person to whom to backstory might be interesting might be interesting but isn’t exactly important since her husband is standing looking at his watch seven feet away and strangers are bustling by your elbows.

I have always “been artistic”. The smell of cheap acrylic paint instantly transports me back three decades. But for a large portion of that same time I’ve also actively suppressed that artistic side.

I won a coloring contest in elementary school. I was awarded some prize for decorating a cardboard egg that put my large teeth + large glasses on the front page of the localpaper. In middle school I drew a still life that my grandparents had framed.

And then nothing.

I looked longingly at the creations of fellow students at my slightly larger public high school a couple years later but never actively searched for a spot for an art class in my schedule.

Instead I took agriculture and shop classes where I could moon over the boys who I was too shy to flirt with. I failed my first semester of home ec which included the care of a newborn. {Luckily, they don’t ask for those grades as you’re leaving the hospital with your actual newborn.}  I took a semester of theatre. My Nana and her best friend Nancy cane to see the performance and I remember my grandmother telling me that Nancy had said, “Her eyes are shined. She comes alive on the stage.”

 

But no visual art.

 

Because what would a girl who plans to live her life in Southern Arkansas do with making art? Would she paint one of the 2000 chickens she and her yet to be determined but statistically likely future chicken farmer husband grow? Would she paint the baby calf in the spring? Or perhaps the steak dinner come autumn?

No. There was no place for visual art in a my foreseeable life. So, in the manner of pleasing those around me (and pursuing the things that I thought would lead me to a happy life, ie. married to a chicken farmer), I suppressed my desire to make art. I denied a huge piece of myself so that I could best fit the expectations of those around me.

So when I was asked what I was going to major in as a college freshman ten years after the decorated egg that made me small town famous, my shoulder shrug wasn’t apathy. It was the product of years and years of effort of covering up my own desires.

That shoulder shrug lasted a full decade. Ten years wasted. Ten years that it took me to learn that life was much bigger than than possibility of being the wife of a prominent chicken farmer*.


*A very important tangent:

If you, dear reader, are the wife of a chicken farmer I mean you no harm.

My late Nana, who I adored and who I’ve praised as my creative muse and whom I’ve written about extensively (link) was the wife of a cattle farmer.

No. This isn’t my looking down on the wives of farmers or ranchers or agriculture as a whole. It’s a profession that is hard and worthy.

My problem was that I saw “being the wife of...” as my entire goal. My goal was to be married. My teenage love story obsessed  tunnel vision didn’t allow me to see outside of that singular focus. THAT was my problem.


Learning that life is bigger than a single goal. Not denying my creative urges. Pursuing the things set my eyes ablaze despite the fact that they may not be sensible. I’m still learning to do that things which are the opposite of the shoulder shrug. And I’m so glad of it.