Today I am pleased to share a guest post from Eileen Knowles inspired by a book that is making some waves, Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room by Matt Appling. You can find Eileen and follow her journey as she takes The Scenic Route at www.eileenknowles.com Connect on Twitter and Facebook.
“As artists and humans, we have to learn to color inside the line that is imperfect, messy or even a mistake. Nothing in your life will ever be just right. There will always be pressures and conflicts, making errant smudges and splatters on your life. Living a ‘good’ life is not about living a ‘perfect’ life.” ~Matt Appling
I recently read this statement in Matt Appling’s new book Life After Art. It accurately describes my journey as a human and as an artist.
As far back as I can remember, I struggled with perfectionism. I still recall the story my mom shared with me after a meeting with my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Esquiebel, to discuss my progress. The teacher told my mom I was a wonderful, hard-working student, yet she had one word of caution for my parents. She told them that “they” (my parents) needed to stop putting so much pressure on me to succeed.
My mom couldn’t help but laugh as she answered Mrs. Esquiebel, “We don’t put pressure on her — she does that to herself!”
This was true. My parents were the ones encouraging me to chill out whenever they observed me getting spun up in my perfectionist web.
And yet, despite my perfectionist tendency, there was this desire inside me to create things and to use my imagination.
One thing Matt shares in his book is that all kids are “natural creators.” He says that you might not have been any good at drawing or coloring (I certainly was not, perfectionist or not) but you were creating even before you knew the definition of the word create.
When I was little girl, I loved creating a classroom. I loved to play “school.” For years, I would save all my old school books and papers. Whenever a friend would come over to my house to play, we would take turns being the student/teacher, one of us became the learner and the other the teacher. My bedroom was transformed into a classroom.
I still remember the day when I made the decision to the throw out all my old books and papers, the moment I decided that my days of playing school were over. The old books and papers were now only clutter in my bedroom. They were taking up valuable space for more “important” things.
Not Failing vs. Succeeding
As I look back on that moment, I realize now that it was the first decision of many to “grow up” and leave the classroom behind. My tendency for perfectionism followed me every step of the way too. Creating became secondary, doing things flawlessly became priority. In my effort to not fail in life, I settled for easy.
When I was in 8th grade, after “failing” as a cross-country runner, I chose not to join any other sports. When I was in 12th grade, I dropped a trigonometry class because it challenged me and I was afraid it would kill my 4.0 GPA. After my mom died when I was 18, I ran back to a relationship with a man who was not good for me. But in an effort to live a “safe” life, I ran back to the familiar.
However the ironic thing is, I actually ended up making things in my life more difficult. I created more pain, not less.
I’ve learned so much from my mistakes and all the wrong turns I took in life. I’ve learned that when it comes to living a good life, aiming for easy will seldom lead to beauty. Sometimes, it only leads to empty. I’ve also learned that a pain-free/risk free life is a lie. It’s a lie because the pain of settling is far worse and far more costly than the pain of failure.
About 12 years ago, I reached a point in my life when I decided to take some risks. I decided to follow through on some scary decisions. I was done settling for easy. I desperately wanted a “good” life. I desperately desired a life that was beautiful. And you know what…I found it!
What did you like to create as child? Does the fear of failure ever hold you back from creating a life that is beautiful?
Eileen Knowles is a small town Arizona girl who studied English at The University of Arizona a long, long time ago. She now lives in small town North Carolina with her husband, Roger, their nine-year old son, and one quirky dog named Bisbee. When she is not working part-time as a virtual assistant for eaHelp, she thoroughly enjoys drinking coffee, running, playing Scrabble, and writing about how cool it is to journey through life with Jesus holding her hand.
Eileen is passionate about leaving a legacy for her son and encouraging others along the way who might need a dose of hope poured into their weary lives.