This is it: I AM Grown Up

every child

Crayon image courtesy of

This is how I remember our house in 1977: green shag carpet, a brick fireplace in the center of the family room wall and padded bench seats built in on either side. I kept my paper and crayons inside one of those benches. I had a little table in front of the bench, and that corner of the room was my artist shop. (I was only five, so I didn’t know that artists have studios.) My mom would place orders for pictures and I would draw them for her.

Once, instead of a piece of paper, she let me draw on a long envelope. Because of the shape of my “canvas,” I drew a parade. I have a fragment of memory of that drawing, pencil horses attached to a circus wagon. In my memory they look just like high-stepping white horses with pretty arched necks. But I know if I were to get my hands on that drawing today, they would probably look more like kidney beans with legs.

I was going to be an artist when I grew up.

Like every kid, I changed my mind about this pretty often. I went through phases: a veterinarian, an actress, a truck driver, a writer. (The truck driver phase was inspired by “BJ & The Bear,” a television show about a truck driver who had a chimpanzee. When I understood that the chimp wasn’t standard issue, I let that one go.) But my earliest aspiration was to be an artist.

Fast forward 37 years and here I am, doing marketing for a specialty contracting firm. It’s not awful, but it’s a far cry from art. Over the last couple decades as a working mother, there’s been little time for creative pursuits. There have been scrapbooking sessions with my girlfriends and the occasional art class or workshop—those have been some of the brightest stops in the march of my days. But the truth is that art—the regular practice of it—has been missing, and I feel the lack in an anxious, pent-up way, like a dog that’s been kenneled too long.

My easel is collecting dust in a corner. My paints are dried up in a drawer in the garage.

This is not acceptable.

Today’s prompt in the writing challenge was to write about loss—and make it the first of a three-part series. I’ve written too much about loss already; I’ve wallowed in loss these last few months. I don’t want to write about loss anymore.

Instead, I’ve chosen to write about things that I plan to find again, losses I can take back. Art is an easy one.

I began this blog as a way to examine some of the questions of midlife, and here’s a good one: now that my kids are grown and my time belongs to me again, what am I going to do with it?

I’m going to make art, damnit. I’m going to set up a little corner artist shop like I had when I was five, with art supplies at the ready, and I’m going to default to my easel or my journal instead of my television at night. I’m going to draw and paint and collage and whatever else I can get my hands on.

I believe that the beauty of art is as much in the practice and meditation of creating it as it is in the finished product—in my case, probably more so. I think it’s important to flex your creative muscle whether you produce something “good” or not. So I’ll post about my process and how I’m taking back my inner artist. I’ll even show you my crappy circus ponies or whatever else I churn out.

I would love to hear from any of you who have managed to maintain a regular artistic practice. How do you incorporate art into your daily life?


14 thoughts on “This is it: I AM Grown Up

  1. I seem to remember a variation on that same green shag carpet, maybe more of a mustard yellow variety. Stylish for the time to be sure. I am not sure whether to be excited or disappointed to recall that time in my life. No, not because of the shag carpet. I am over that scarring, I think.

    It is more about the anxiety of missing out on opportunities as a child. I had my crayons. I had my Mickey Mouse diary that was my prized possession from a Disney vacation. But, I never let it amount to anything more than dust collectors in the corner. Looking back now as a similar “grown up” in the world of corporate America, there is a not so small part of me that wishes I had paid a little more attention to that creative ember inside. It is only in the past year or so that this ember has been fanned into a flame, a candle of insight with an infinite wick. You see, I absolutely love the written word since I have given it the attention that my psyche has been pleading for.

    “I believe that the beauty of art is as much in the practice and meditation of creating it as it is in the finished product.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. And yet, given the opportunity to write, to create, I instead flop on to the couch to watch television, or lose myself in the trivialities of the internet. Blah.

    The message you convey has been penned many times before in many different forms. Just write. Just create. For some unknown reason, the resolve in your words has shifted something inside. And I look forward to following your process towards rediscovering your creative self. I just might try to tag along myself 😉 Thanks for sharing and best wishes for an inspired day!

    • Hi, Dave! Glad to hear you’re feelin’ it! I write, too, but not nearly as much as I should. That’s why I joined the Writing 101 Challenge, because I’ve been slacking. Creativity begets creativity so the writing fuels the painting and vice versa. Hopefully I get a nice up-spiral going. Best to you too!

  2. My bedroom between 1973 and 1979 had green and yellow shag. My parents remodeled the entire house, so there must have been a shag carpet sale. The first house my husband and I bought had orange and brown shag in the small entry closet. I was thankful the rest of the house had been re-carpeted with neutral cream! But, I do have fond memories of that green and yellow bedroom.

    I love your idea of reclaiming art, and I am attempting to do the same. I’ve reestablished my writing corner near my kids’ study zone. That way I simply have to turn my chair around to engage with them and reengage with my writing. Coffeehouse excursions are a must when I need to disengage a bit more. I think the key is the regular practice you mention. Writing 101 is part of that incorporation for me, too.

    Great post! Happy creating!

    • The other green shag memory from that room involves roasting marshmallows in the fireplace. I’m the fifth of six kids and my older brothers and sisters love to tell me about when my marshmallow caught on fire and I panicked and threw it onto the carpet.

      I was an artist, not a genius, apparently.

      That’s a good idea, to set your station up like that. I think it’s important just to have a zone set up.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Oh, my! Great story! Creating a zone definitely aids staying in the zone. Hope you have fun setting up your corner. I am not an artist–though I like drawing–but I love pens. Enjoy the process!

  3. While I’ve never been the typical artist, I do have a creative mind. I’ve felt the pull in mid-life to assert that creativity through writing, but also mosaics or something along that line. My dad was a wonderful potter and I think I have a little of him in me. It’s amazing how our older self calls us to pull out that in us. I think your idea of turning off the tube and getting to that corner is a great one. Put on some music and draw those crappy circus ponies!

    • Thank you for always reading my blog. Warms my heart.

      Well, I think we’re just too busy when we’re in the early years, raising kids, establishing careers, etc…or maybe we don’t prioritize as well til we start to realize how finite the time is. But yes, I do see the tendency in a lot of people to gravitate towards creative pursuits as they get older. Thanks for the encouragement! And do try the mosaics…I have seen such cool stuff at the little workshops near my house. It seems so satisfying, such a substantial kind of craft.

  4. I either wanted to be a zookeeper when I grew up, because I would be surrounded by animals, or a librarian, because I would be surrounded by books. Either way though, I just KNEW that I was going to be a writer. Writing wasn’t a hardship for me; I loved setting pencil to paper and letting my mind take off.

    Forward 20 years later and I am neither a zookeeper or a librarian, and when I write, it feels like trying to snatch bananas from a monkey. Your post is so inspiring, it reminds me of all the dreams I had and how badly I wanted them. Where did that fire go?

    It’s never too late though. I look forward to seeing your artistic muscles being flexed!

    • Yes, I probably had a zookeeper phase, too.

      Thanks for your kind words! I think banana-snatching probably just takes practice too. Grateful for this writing challenge to get me back in the habit. Good luck to you.

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