Drawing the nude figure, studying Michelangelo, pursuing your passion; why would anyone in their right mind study classical art in Italy when they have a safe reliable career? Okay, okay, in hindsight this might be a bit dramatic, and an oversimplification, and a problem of privilege, but my candid admission is that the past nine years have been a one-man wrestling match of obsessive discomfort and hope for the courage to jump, to study art.
You see, for years I’ve been scared of anything that doesn’t fall into the category of “safe,” all the while harboring a secret hope. A hope that one day I might be able to magically muster the tenacity, the audacity, to momentarily relinquish my well-paid well-recognized position as an aerospace scientist to pursue a love for visual design. A wholly ridiculous, cliché, …and amazing dream!
So let’s kick this off. Three weeks ago I announced to management that I would be leaving the company. 4 days from today, January 28, 2017 I will be boarding a Boeing 787 to an undisclosed location in Italy. The plan is simple: study classical art, eat amazing food, study the Italian way of life, learn a language, paint the countryside, and … proliferate beauty through art and design.
First, let’s not pretend like I know what I am doing; that this crackpot plan has any semblance of safety or surety of success. What I can say is that it is an idea that feels right, that “success” is mine to define, and that as mere mortal limited to few choices during a short period of existence, I must accept the possibilities and limits that make up the framework of this life. At this moment a door has opened, and it leads to an adventure in Italy. I’ll take it.
Before turning the drama nob up to 11, I should state that this is my first blog post. Ever. And, that as a thoroughly indoctrinated engineer, sharing feelings and opinions, let alone writing pros is a far cry from my daily routine of monitoring lab results and populating spreadsheets. So, pardon the spelling, pardon the style, this is catharsis, this is the beginning of a new journey, and a return to an old dream.
“When there is no desire to escape discomfort, away from what is, then out of that absolute inescapable reality comes this flame of passion, and without that there is no beauty. You may write endless volumes about beauty, or be a marvelous painter, but without passion, which is outcome of understanding sorrow, I don’t see how beauty can exist.”
Picture this if will: an all-wood 70-year old assembly line that manufactures fighter aircraft. This mega-hanger is a half-a-mile long with ceilings that reach 50 feet, a windowless fortress that has produced military products through 5 major American wars.
Today this stormy grey fortress houses blue-collar workers in the style of grizzled hells angels, rats, cockroaches, and aerospace engineers. If a stranger were to walk its corridors, passing saggy brown cubicles, over the moldy water-stained navy blue rugs, she might come across a door with a coded padlock labeled J78. Behind this door she would find – me, a 32-year-old red head with a talent for running aerospace research and a hunger for art.
So how did I get here, to this job, no doubt rewarding, safe, exciting, blah, blah, blah, but definitely not foolishly aligned with my passion.
Well, to start, money. Simple, we don’t live in some fairyland where one can jump willy-nilly from one whimsical idea to another without considering the need to (1) eat food, and (2) sleep under a roof. Of course, a simple solution to this problem is to mooch off of someone else, our parents, our husband/wife, but adopting the role of “moocher” risks subjugation under the rule of the “moochee.” In other words, mooching kills freedom. So, for these reasons I’ve decided that financial independence is a prerequisite to acting foolish.
Second, and more important is fear, fear that comes in many different shapes and sizes and from many sources and situations. Fears that result in beliefs that color the lenses through which I view life, and that have ultimately limit the possibilities of life: “art is not a career”; “failing will result in public ridicule and physical hardship”’; “Your industry will not take you back” etc.
For the purposes of this discourse, detailing my own personal fear inventory would not be helpful, interesting or important to the reader. What is important, is acknowledging the value that I have gained in doing the work to face these internal complexes. In realizing that my own thoughts, judgments and beliefs about life cloud the actual, real, visceral experience of life, and as a result the unhealthy motivations that lay hidden beneath and behind our daily choices.
In writing this entry my interest is not to describe the “how” of doing this “work,” which can be accomplished through a variety of avenues, but to highlight one lesson: freeing myself from myself is more complicated than simply taking a new action: “I will do XYZ and my life will be better”… wrong. This Italian trip was made possible by continually working to address the root. Me.
So I’ll leave it at that. No prophesizing, no 10-step program for quitting your job to pursue your passion, none of that. Simply this: an experiment, in Italy, on myself. What happens with fewer plans, more heart, brighter eyes and bushier tails?
“Life unfolds effortlessly and we naturally walk into our destiny, when we simply get of our own way.”