Do you ever dream of being a full-time artist? Or did you ever? Here’s an honest look at one full-time artist’s actual life. Many of us imagine other lives for ourselves: our future life that we are working toward, the life option we left behind at some point, or the lives we see others living. Usually these other lives are imagined in airbrushed perfection, which no real life can ever match up to. It can be enlightening to get the reality check of a candid glimpse into the life of someone actually living that life. I offer the look at this particular artist’s life to show how hard she works and how demanding her success is across so many media and platforms, not that she is complaining in the least. I know Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and she’s not.
When you see the beyond-airbrushed reality of someone else’s life, it can remind you why you didn’t choose it. Or it can illuminate the challenges of that path which may help you later when you encounter them yourself: instead of seeing them as setbacks you may remember that they are just part of that path. It can remind you that no life is perfect; it can suggest that the life you are living now might look perfect to someone outside it.
It might also help you to see that you are already on the path that is right for you, even though it might not look or feel the way you imagined it would. You may be creating exactly what you always wanted for yourself, but you could miss seeing and appreciating that because it doesn’t exactly match the image you had of it. Joseph Campbell wrote, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” [Read more Joseph Campbell here.] If we’re obsessed by our failure to live up to a rigid picture of how our life should look, then we’re unable to see, appreciate, or build on our actual successes. I’ve written more about this elsewhere.
We expect the path to success to be a straight line and the reality is it’s anything but. Why do we expect such simplicity? Growing up on too many Disney movies? I don’t know, but maybe it is the nature of dreams to look seamless so they can inspire us and draw us forward.
Whatever our chosen path, it’s easy to be so stuck in the weeds that we can’t see the bigger picture of our progress.
Some years ago, when I was a freelance database developer working from home, I had to make an unscheduled trip to my daughter’s school to pick her up. Her school was about 30 minutes away. I was up to my elbows coding a new system and not happy about taking an hour out to make this run. I started the drive feeling cranky and frustrated.
It was fall, and the route included a beautiful stretch of highway that gave view to acres of trees in full fall colors. At some point I noticed the gorgeous trees and cloudless, sun-filled sky and had a sudden mind-shift. I just suddenly saw my life from an altitude of 80,000 feet.
I saw how fortunate I was to be out in the middle of the day on this road, just as part of an ordinary Tuesday morning. Not only that, I was driving to pick up my amazing daughter who I loved so crazy much. I saw my good fortune in having a daughter period, and a second amazing daughter too. And how grateful I was to have engaging, well-paying part-time work in a second career I had segued into from a non-technical career as a corporate trainer. It was a moment of seeing that the life I was living was actually the life I wanted. I tended to be so insecure about work and money that I missed seeing what was right in front of my face. And soon enough I would return to that glass-half-empty frame of mind.
Tips and Tricks
If/when you find yourself imagining the perfection of some other life, here are a few constructive things you can do.
- Make a list of some of the ways your current situation is going well for you.
- Make a list of some of the ways that you imagined life might be challenging or difficult.
- Make a list of the aspects of the imagined life that you envy.
- Using that list, identify some ways you could have some of that in your current life.
- Identify the next steps you could take to do so.
- Take those next steps.
- Imagine you are an acquaintance of yours. How might your life appear perfect to that person?
- Read The Art of Possibility by Ben and Ros Zander.
- What about your life is perfect for you?
I’m not saying there’s never a time for massive course corrections. There are certainly times when course corrections are in order. But that’s a different post.