“Just wait. Give it six months, and Chelsea will be dating someone new and totally wrapped up in whatever thing that guy is into.”
This was the last thing I heard that an ex-boyfriend had said about me.
As unfair as I thought this was, because let’s face it — as much as we don’ want to be gossiped about, our only solace is usually that the gossip is unfounded, there was one thing that rang true: I wasn’t spending time on my one passion. I had cultivated enthusiasm for everything from video games to classical music or ballroom dancing because I had a partner who shared those interests, but when it came to the one thing that I really wanted to pour myself into, I was afraid.
At the time I was a competitive ballroom dancer: I had won a national championship, and I was determined to break through to the next level, and everything inside of me screamed that I couldn’t give it up. Not now. Not when he was telling everyone I would. Not when I loved it as much as I did.
But dancing meant I wasn’t painting. And as much as I loved it, it wasn’t anything I ever planned to make a career out of. But painting was. It was the thing that scared me, the thing I avoided as hard as I could because trying at the thing I truly wanted was petrifying.
So I quit. I quit, and resolved to spend the countless practice hours that would have been spent at the studio instead in the studio. And it was going to work.
By August, 2018 I had done the next two important things that frightened me: I introduced myself to an artist I wanted to have as a mentor, and at his suggestion I booked a space for a pop-art exhibition one month later.
I made about 20 paintings in 30 days and, with the help of friends, managed to get all of them (some of them still wet) on the wall. I sold seven paintings at that show, and friends wound up keeping the room packed. Most sales went to friends or family, but it was the most I had ever made from my art.
And best of all, the largest piece went to someone entirely new: a young, talented tattoo artist who had never invested in an original painting before. I didn’t entirely realize it at the time, but that experience changed me. It showed me the joy in sharing a part of yourself with someone totally new. A stranger who sees themselves in your art.
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