This was a big year for me, professionally and personally. I started off unhappy with where I was living, struggling on my salary, unhappy in a relationship, and I barely had a social life. Now I’m financially comfortable for the first time, I’ve taken a job in a leadership position, my studio practice is gaining momentum, and my emotional health is better than ever. Here are some of the things I learned along the way that helped me reach this point.
1. Let others do their part
The most enlightening term I’ve learned this year is “overfunctioning,” and it’s counterpart “underfunctioning.” I learned these terms right around the same time that I learned in GLI that my independence is holding me back professionally -- that it’s in my best interest to relinquish control of some things, trust that someone else can do it, allow others to contribute, and to appreciate those contributions.
2. Talk about money
At the beginning of 2018, in addition to working full time and trying to maintain a studio practice, I held a part-time job just so I could make ends meet. Every weekend I’d drive an hour and a half away for some extra income. After many, many conversations about salary, hearing actual salaries of actual colleagues, spending time on Glassdoor and GuideStar, reading articles about pay equity and the pink slope in museums, I learned that I’m worth much more than I was getting, and I sought out to take it. I dropped the part-time job, took a new full-time job, and got some paid art gigs; I am making about $15,000 more than I was at the beginning of the year, and I know there’s more out there for me.
3. Prune your workload
There are only so many hours in a day, and only so much creative energy a person has. Wherever you can cut, cut. This is especially important for creative types who generate lots of ideas and attempt to pursue too many at once (guilty!). Allow your energy to be where it should, and don’t waste it on little things. This might mean cleaning up time-consuming or redundant procedures in the office, or it could mean cutting projects entirely. This year I didn’t submit anything to galleries so that I could focus more on murals, and just this morning I deactivated my Etsy account for the same reason.
4. No friendliness without respect
Some people just won’t like you. Whether it’s a personality mismatch, a generational divide, or a workstyle conflict, it doesn’t matter. If someone doesn’t respect you, you don’t need to be friendly to them. It won’t make them like you. It won’t make your life easier. You are free to be unfriendly.
5. I am my biggest obstacle
Well, maybe the patriarchy, white supremacy, and financial oppression are the biggest. But the biggest obstacle that I can control is me. I need to believe in my skills, trust in my ideas, exorcise self-doubt, and most of all, I need to MAKE. ART.
To bring this back to #1, I want to acknowledge the people around me who contributed to my recent growth. Thank you to GLI for all the lessons learned that are having lasting impact on my professional and personal habits; to my colleagues who helped lift each other up; to everyone who has supported my artwork-- giving me opportunities to paint, buying my products, sharing my work via word of mouth and social media; and to everyone who has reached out to say something nice. You’ve been indispensable.