To recap: I had just worked as a gallery assistant for one day. I'd arrived home feeling anxious and conflicted and defeated. This was a great opportunity for networking, learning, gaining exposure, and for... like... just making some friggin money. But after one day I felt so terrible, like I was about to make a huge mistake that would affect me for a really long time.
I'd felt that way before. Interestingly it was when I worked for one day as an assistant to an art curator in Bethesda. It was, like this job, a seemingly terrific way to get my foot in the door. I left that day in tears, despite the fact that it had been a fine day. The curator was friendly and interesting and patient, albeit quirky. Her collection was incredible, and the projects she was working on were fascinating. There was no reason for me to be crying to my then-boyfriend on the phone on the bus ride home. But I was. I’d had that same feeling of dread and anxiety that day that I had after my day as a gallery assistant.
This is wrong.
That’s it. That was my gut feeling. I’ve had it before less intensely; at a job I quit a month in, or after enrolling in a college I transferred out of, or when I’d say “sure” to a date with a guy I’d stop seeing shortly thereafter. Maybe it’s fight or flight. My gut instinct telling me “this is a trap.” And it’s at war with, “but what if it’s not a trap?” The idea that this is an opportunity that I might never get again, or that it will never be better for me, is the strongest foe my gut instinct can face. Probably yours, too.
Anyway, when I got home to Kyle and Mustard I was feeling pretty crummy. I started thinking, maybe I need to give it a couple more days, at least until the trial period is over. Maybe they won’t even decide to hire me!
I talked it over and over with Kyle, but thinking back now I’d say that feeling of relief I got when I thought “maybe they won’t even hire me” was my answer. Kyle knew about 10 minutes into a conversation that lasted the whole night and weekend (off and on), what the answer was. I wasn’t going back.
If you’re wondering why this whole thing was such a huge ordeal for me, it’s because I’d decided if I wasn’t going back, I was going down a different road entirely. Starting my art business has been a years-long process that is scary and wobbly and weird, but I knew that if I didn’t take this job, I’d be hitting the bricks hard. I also knew that if I did go back to the gallery, it would delay the process of me achieving what I really wanted potentially by years. Creating my own business is what I wanted to do when I arrived in California, originally. It’s why I sold off so much of my art before leaving DC- so I could have the funds necessary to finally do it. Well, then COVID-19 struck and everything became a huge question mark. I spent the first month here in California finding projects around the house so I could avoid thinking about art and my art business. The apartment is beautifully decorated, but I wasn’t so much farther from where I started business-wise. And with all that guilt mounting, I approached (what’s left of) the job market.
So there I was, knowing in my heart that I’m not going back to this job on Monday. My chest feeling like it has expanded to twice its size but not the good way like in yoga. My heart is bloated with anxiety.
Melissa, just send the email. You’re torturing yourself. Send the email. I sit down, I type out the “Thank you so much, but…” email. I hit send.
And the fucking wave relief was monumental.
I like to say “Leap and the net will appear.” A friend of mine gave me that phrase 5 or 6 years ago, and that’s how I’ve been trying to live since. Another friend posted this Anais Nin quote somewhere years back-- “The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I’m not typically one for inspirational quotes, but these two resonate with me on practically a daily basis. They’ve not led me too far astray yet.
Of course, with any major life decision, the fallout is not far behind. It’s been just over 10 days since my gallery assistant experience, and in those 10 days I’ve cried myself to sleep, lost sleep, lost hope, lost faith (I found those last two again, but not the sleep yet), had three health-related issues to deal with, had a seemingly infinite number of technical hurdles to jump over, blue-screened my website, and dealt with a hundred stupid little annoying minute setbacks that might deter me from keeping on. I am also about to get my period, which is a huge motivation killer for me every month and besides the world is dying and people are terrible and everything is corrupt AND WHY EVEN BOTHER?!
But here I am, doing the work. And though it has been a rough 10 days, it’s also been very productive. I finished my Madonna and Child piece, I’ve done a lot of website work, I’ve started a new project, I finally got a P.O. box, I’ve done a few watercolors, I’ve been working on cognitive reprogramming, I’ve been taking care of myself. Kyle says I should give myself more credit. Maybe he’s right. I won’t, but I’m grateful he’s there saying I should. I can only keep going. Because I can’t not.
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