Our story: Our why

“If we love to make art, why don't we do it more often?”

That was a question that prompted my wife Kimberly and I to sit down after years of ignoring the answer and thinking more deeply about why we were letting our creative gifts go to waste.

As we kept digging and taking a look at ourselves and our current situation, we started to become aware of the fact that not answering the question was making us more harm than good.

After long conversations in the car (for some weird and unknown reason, my wife and I have the habit of having the most deep-wide opening conversations in the car, before going to work-out and waiting for the pre-workout to kick in) and shed some tears, we arrived at the same conclusion: we must make more art and start our own art business.

How it all started

We both had decided to go to the best art school in Puerto Rico with one goal in mind:  to learn how to make art, graduate, and live off of our Picasso’s level artwork that everyone would certainly fight for and pay extravagant sums of money to have our masterpieces hanging on their walls. With that, we would had enjoyed the recognition and wealth that would come along while exploring the world.

The plan was brilliant, simple, and straightforward enough. What could have gone wrong?

Let’s say we did not include in our equation this thing called life. As we would soon find out, life had other plans for us. 

We ended up dropping out of art school and moving from the island to the United States, where we found ourselves starting our adult life together as a couple.

Little by little things were coming together.

We both had well-paying jobs, got nice cars, and a great apartment located in a decent community, and on the weekends, we would go to restaurants.

From the outside, things seemed to be going okay, but from where we stood, things were not.

Yes, we met great people that gave us direction while in a foreign country, learned and explored new things and places, and made some nice memories.

All of those things shaped us and helped us grow as adults, for which we are grateful.

However, things felt dull inside our hearts. Something was wrong. Something was missing from our lives.

That something was art.

We forgot art was our passion and what made our hearts rejoice.

Sadly, making art seemed like a luxury we could not afford at the moment.  

We had to keep working to get money and pay our bills, and certainly art would not help us with that or so we thought, so it was disregarded.

We felt that everything we were doing was to work our butt off for others, trapped in a corporate wheel we did not particularly like at all.

We wanted to build something that was ours, that we could work on together as a married couple.

We decided then that a business was a good idea, but after trying a few business ideas not related to art, nothing seemed “to click” for us.

Finally, we decided to forget everything and move back to Puerto Rico to be with our families. 

Being close to our families truly helped us emotionally. We felt better spending time with them, having adventures, eating together, and laughing. For a time, we forgot about how we felt before.

Yet, there was still something missing… but we ignore the answer we already knew was art and kept regular jobs, paid our bills, and on the weekends went to restaurants.

Sounds familiar?

We ended up doing the same thing as in the United States, trapped in the rat race, and it did not feel right. 

It wasn't until that moment that we looked around us and saw others doing what they were passionate about and not only we noticed they were fulfilled (or seemed to be), but they were making money off of their passion.

How was that? 

Could you do what you were passionate about and make money as well? I mean… Was that even legal?

That was a wake-up call for us.

After many of those conversations we use to have while waiting in the car for the pre-workout to kick in, it was decided: we were going to make art because we enjoy it, and we were going to take the risk to run our own business, and not any business, an art business.

Now, let me share with you the main reasons  behind that decision:

Summoning the god of luck

We got tired of seeing others doing whatever it was they liked to do, either on a part-time or full-time basis while we just dreamed about it.

If they could do it, why not us?

They were regular, average people going about their days as normal human beings while having fun doing what they were passionate about.

After carefully looking at ourselves, nothing seemed to stand out particularly.

We were, in a strict sense: an average couple with an average life.

What was then the difference between them and us? What kind of deal were they able to arrange with the god of luck? 

Well, for starters, they decided to take action and invest time, energy, and resources, even if it was just a little from time to time.

The bottom line: they decided to do something about it, not just wish.

The fact that we were average people was good news for us: it meant that whatever success principles others were applying, we could as well.

We could take advantage of the rule of averages, and build up our life from there to live a fulfilling life without neglecting our gifts.

It meant there was a way to harness our own luck. 

100 pounds on our shoulders

Among the reasons for us in making the decision of creating more art and taking the risk of starting our own art business, was because we wanted to stop lying to ourselves trying to be someone we were not.

We did not want to keep doing things we did not like or did not match our values for the sake of…. What exactly again? 

In my case, I was able to get a job in a mortgage bank, because supposedly I wanted to be in the real estate industry and that job could open some doors for me, which would have helped me to follow the steps from some of the gurus I have watched on Youtube.

In fact, the job opened up some doors for me.

When I opened the doors, I found anxiety, depression, fear, and a shadow of myself, not the real me.

I was trying to fake being someone else, faking that I liked that particular industry, and faking that it was always my dream, when it was not, maybe for others, but not for me. 

I could not recognize myself.

That experience caused me a lot of emotional pain, which negatively impacted my marriage.

Finally, after deciding that we were going to do this, I quit the job at the mortgage bank and took another one that could help me fund our new goal without adding extra pressure on my daily routine.  

Kimberly had her fair share of emotional struggles as well.

For her, there was nothing more disappointing than to be in the rat race of working a job to just pay bills without any direction in life and to try to act like everything was okay when it was not.

What was the purpose of all of this? When did life become so… dull, and purposeless?”

She raised her concern to me many times in one way or another: “Is this what I’m going to be doing the rest of my life: living to work, not working to live?"

She knew she was neglecting herself the joy of using her gift in arts by not doing anything with it.

However, after deciding we were doing this, her mindset and emotional well-being completely shifted.

Now, Kimberly could look at her job as a medium to achieve something bigger in life, not an end in itself.

Her job became a tool to fund her dream of being an artist. She found hope again. 

The Garden of Gifts

There are things that are meant to grow while others are not.

Those things which are meant to grow, should get plenty of nourishment so it can fulfill its goal of growing and producing certain results.

Otherwise, it is considered sick, rotten, or worse, dead.

It is our belief that gifts are meant to grow and produce.

An artist's gift is that of utilizing their high sensibility to make art in any of its different forms. 

After Kimberly and I decided to drop out of art school and leave the island to move to the United States (even when we came back to our homeland) art was something we did not talk about a lot.

We pushed down our creative gifts into a very deep corner of our beings to accommodate ourselves to adulting and the challenges that come with it. 

Day after day we worked very hard to build a modest successful lifestyle, but with a very weak foundation.

We focused too much on the things we had or did not have, but not on our inner selves, and whether or not we were fulfilled as individuals and a married couple. 

Since our gifts were not being nourished, they started to rot.

As you know, when things start to rot, they tend to stink and impact negatively the things around them.

That is what was happening to us by letting our creative gifts perish: it started to affect other areas of our lives indirectly.

By ignoring it, the problem became bigger and bigger.

We started to feel anxiety about the future. Our purpose was unknown. There were no reasons to feel hope. The contradictions within oneself made us feel we were living a lie.

Basically, we felt we were just wasting our lives… 

The decision to consciously make more art and start our own art business helped us to understand that each of us has the right and (to some extent) an obligation to nourish our own garden of gifts, whatever they are.

It should not matter what kind of gifts you have, impressive or not, big or small, weird or common. If you have a gift, nourish it, and rejoice in what it produces.

We all were given a gift to do something with it, not to let it die. 

The green piece of paper

I remember being in art school and looking at the itinerary where the classes for the next four years were shown and thinking to myself: “Where is the business art class, you know, the class where you learn how to make money with your art?”.

Well, after I finally got the chance to take the class, I felt disappointed.

The class felt very outdated and did not teach us anything about how the Internet, social media, online marketing, etc., could be a tool to help us live off of our art by learning how to find a job or start our own art business. 

I was very ignorant at the time, but I remember thinking: “Well, if this is how you make money with art, we are destined to misery". At least, that was the impression I got. 

It was then that I started to think about how could I possibly make a lot of money.

And after some research, two things were clear: a 9-5 job will not provide a lot of money, not under the terms I wanted; secondly, building a business was the way to go.

About art, I could not find any connection between money and art. That's when I dropped out of college to go to the United States in pursuit of my big shot and went

Kimberly felt the same way, that somehow-someway the art school was too focused on the making of the art, the techniques, and the processes, but forgot to teach us any real-world skills that could help us share our art with others and make money with it.

We had to pay bills after all, right? 

After learning a few things from adulting and how the Internet can be an extremely useful tool for any would-be-entrepreneur,  we now know that it is possible to make green paper with the arts, or virtually with any passion or interest you might have. 

As of now, our new goal is to fund our dream of running a successful art business with the income we get from our jobs to the point where our job incomes are no longer necessary and we can be full-time artists. 

Not able to go back in time

We are now almost 30 years old, but just yesterday we were seventeen years old, going to college and enjoying the thrilling life of a college student: freedom, adventure, romance, friendship, rebellion, the ‘I know it all’  attitude…

We do not remember at what point did we become adults and started adulting.

Routines, jobs, bills, health insurance, house chores, going to the mechanic…

It was all so sudden, or so it seemed.

When we look back, my wife and I know that there were things that we should have done, decisions that must have been made.

The time of our younger years is now a bittersweet memory. 

It is safe to assume that this same phenomenon about the passing of time will happen again by the time that we are much older.

We would be looking back and asking ourselves: “How did we get here?”, “Where did all the time we had to enjoy life go?”.

If by the time we are in our golden years, we look back and the only thing we see is a pile of unfulfilled goals and dreams, I believe resentment and regret will definitely make our final moments in life miserable.

There is one remedy, and only one as far as I am concerned, that can help us fight against the passing of time: to make the most of our present and work hard in fulfilling the purpose we all have inside of us.

Since the present is the only portion of time we can directly influence, at some point we should stop and ask ourselves: “What exactly do I want to achieve in life before it is too late?”.  “Am I doing with my limited time on earth the things that I want to do?”.  “What can I do today that will make me feel more fulfilled and give meaning to my life?”. 

Those were some of the questions my wife and I asked ourselves. 

Among the things she and I talked about, came up the subject of art, and how much we wanted to make art and become professional artists no matter the sacrifices we had to make. 

The thought of both of us being professional artists was exhilarating and scary at the same time.

What if nobody liked our art? What if we never ended up selling one single art piece? What if our art is not that great? What if… what if… what if...?

Then we thought what was the worst thing that could happen...

What was so bad about giving ourselves the chance to take the present day and try?

Others can do it, why not us? We would never know until we have tried.

We agreed the worst thing that could happen is that we suck so much at making art that for sure we know it is not for us.

On a positive note, that would give us the mental peace of knowing we tried our best, knowing we can either choose another life path without having any regrets or, hey, just keep practicing harder and get better.

In any case, we would feel fulfilled with our lives.  

The bottom line is this:  we wanted to make sure that by the time we became very old, not able to do much for ourselves, we could look at each other with our heads high and say with a smile: “We gave life our all.”

Conclusion

I think we all have the tendency to think about ourselves and our challenges as too unique, and different from everybody else. 

But are you going to tell me that your situation is that unique that we cannot find anybody else in the world that is going through the same thing as you, similar, or worst, and that was able to overcome their challenges from which you can learn something?

Doubtful. 

The chances are, you are not that special.

Regardless of the bad impression this might give you, it is in fact a positive thing.

Recognizing you are not special means recognizing you are not alone, and that if others could overcome their challenges and fulfill their purpose, you can too.

As a would-be professional, business owner, or simply someone in the pursuit of whatever your goals are, you are bound to find your own share of struggles along the way.

So what?  

Again: what is so bad about giving yourself the chance to try? 

Anyway, struggles are everywhere and at every level.

It is not then about avoiding the struggle, but about choosing the ones worth overcoming. 

 Finally, if there is only one thing you take out of our story regardless if you are an artist or not, please, let it be this: take action before it is too late. 

 

Author: Jason Berberena

Visual artist and co-founder of Kreation Artzone. 

 

 

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