starting again

How many times do we get an opportunity to set aside 20 years of learning and working and do something completely different? Not many times, right? So in 2015, when a kernel of that kind of opportunity came our way I grabbed it with both hands. When my husband got a transfer to London, I quit working and became a full time mother in pursuit of creative satisfaction.

Now while that sounds very satisfying, anyone who is a parent knows that being a full time parent to young children and looking for creative satisfaction is a bit of a paradox. There is precious little time left in the day to give you the peace and quiet creativity demands. Working mothers however have their ways to get things done and I knew this was one opportunity I couldn’t let slip by me. Making the shift from a full time software engineer to a full time artist didn’t happen overnight — it happened as my daughter grew from 4.5 to 9.5, it happened while we were building a new life in a completely new country with no family and very few friends, it happened in snatches of time, but it happened! Here’s what worked for me,

Starting with what I knew: As a child I was always drawing and painting, a skill I had built up to a reasonable extent before I switched to Engineering. 20 years of not doing anything can erode every skill, nevertheless the idea of drawing didn’t cause any fear or stress and I was excited to get back to it. Pen & paper, pencil & paper, simple and satisfying. Easy to do in all those little slices of time that I had at the beginning.

Accountability: A regular job provides you with all kinds of scaffolding to help you progress and succeed. When you strike out on your own there’s no scaffolding. You need something that can keep you on track on days when your own motivation & passion are not enough. I am very lucky to have friends who volunteered to be my accountability partners. I would message them my work and got pulled up if nothing was sent! Nothing very complicated, but it worked and allowed me to get into the habit of creating regularly. Recently I got myself into an artist membership group that helps me with the scaffolding I need to move things ahead.

Finding the right teachers: A big part of taking time away from work was to be able to spend that time with my daughter. Which is why I didn’t want to enrol myself into an art degree program even though London offered the most fantastic opportunity to do so. I did however find the local art school in Hampstead that runs daytime classes in a variety of art disciplines. God send!! I have been taking a regular weekly class at the school since 2016 and it has allowed me to work on my skills, meet some lovely teachers and just get to know a whole lot more about art. Even the smell of an art school is satisfying!!

Instagram: How would I have found my community without Instagram? Inspite of spending more than half my life immersed in technology I am quite low tech in life and wasn’t on Instagram till about 2017. Getting on Instagram was one of the best things I have done for myself as a self taught artist. The ability to connect with other creatives, pick their brains, meet them in person has immeasurable value. It’s something an art school would give you, but since I didn’t go down that path, Instagram was the next available and best option 🙂

Working out the long game: This is again a part of working out the paradox of parenting and building out a creative practice. It’s going to be over a period of time for me. I am happy to take smaller steps if it means I get the time to spend with my child while she grows up. I know it’s only a matter of time before she’s on her own and I have time at my disposal to push my practice ahead. Understanding this upfront has helped me pace myself and enjoy the process instead of getting frustrated.

Shifting from a well established and successful career path to a completely different life path hasn’t been easy. It has however been deeply satisfying. I go to bed every night extremely grateful for being able to have a creative practice and I look forward to waking up and seeing how I can push it ahead every single day!

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