“As far back as I can remember I wanted to work in the ‘creative industries’, veering between childhood day dreams of becoming an actress, musician or artist. Unfortunately, as our house was fairly uncultured, gallery visits were rare, and what passed for art on the walls were reproductions of little girls crying.*All this contributed to the fact that I didn’t even recognise the possibility of my dreams becoming a reality until one particular day in primary school, when the teacher announced to the class that my work had been selected for an exhibition in a local high school.
At aged 8, my infantile brain wasn’t able to comprehend the full implications of this discovery or what it would mean to me, but I finally had something I could hold on to – I was good at art. Of course, this kind of realisation doesn’t really hold much truck with the academic rigour of a good Catholic education, so no more mention was made about it and off I went on my merry way towards a further education in maths and the sciences.
Some years later, as it became time to make those crucial decisions about career choices, each pupil in my year lined up for their appointment with the careers advisor. Despite my previous intentions to pursue ‘academic’ aims, the moment she asked me what I wanted to be, the only answer that came to mind was artist.
Obviously I had no idea how one would go about pursuing this, and presumably neither did she, but it was to be understood that ‘artist’ was not a ‘career choice’, which was pretty much the extent of the advice* available that day. Following this unfortunate meeting, I was roundly mocked in class by my form tutor who had been given a list of the proposed careers of his students. However, by this point I’d mostly given up on the idea of education, and would for a few years to come, until I returned to art school at age 20.
Thankfully, since then, I’ve enjoyed an interesting and varied career as an artist, producing my own work, staging exhibitions for others and teaching people in the community. I’m also currently enrolled on a PhD in Fine Art, proving that it’s not only possible to have a career as an artist, but also that it doesn’t necessarily have to be to the exclusion of academia.
So, in essence, if I was to offer any advice* at all, it would be this: Education is not a conveyor belt that you have to stay on or get left behind, and if you want to do something badly enough, you will do it anyway, whether or not it makes sense.”
* Incidentally these are now all the rage, so maybe there is something inspirational about them after all
* Obviously I’m using the term ‘advice’ loosely here
* See previous footnote