When I was too young to understand the actions of others, there was something about me which made me a target to others. Whether my ability to interact with adults, or my beyond-my-years intelligence, or possibly my creative spirit and ability to draw, I unintentionally inspired jealousy in others.
I was teased and tormented by other children, made to feel like there was nothing I could do that would be worthwhile to anyone. I was told a lot that I should just die and that everyone hated me. Worst of all was the reactions to my artwork. Pieces were damaged, destroyed and stolen, joked about or insulted. The more teachers and other adults praised my work and made me an example, the worse it got. My dreams of where I could go with my art were laughed at, and if it wasn't for the constant encouragement of my family, teachers, and some friends, I would probably have given up long ago on my artistic pursuits.
When I was at that age and I talked about the bullying, I was told over and over that it was happening because the other kids were jealous of me. I could never understand what they were jealous of, since they seemed to hate everything about me and nothing I did ever impressed them.
Years later I had an experience that opened up the mystery for me and helped me to understand what was going on when I was younger.
For about seven years I was in a relationship with someone I cared very much about. As I got to know this person, I learned that he had a deeply artistic soul but that he was far too afraid to even complete a piece of artwork for fear that it might not be perfect.
He had grown up with a loving family and yet under a lot of pressure. His mother and other members of his family were creative and artistic, casually creating lovely paintings and occasionally taking art classes. At a young age he frequently would draw and even planned on a career involving art, but something went wrong. For unknown reasons, several of the adults in his life crushed his dreams while he was a teenager. Between that and the desires of his parents for him to go to college and have an impressive job, he gave up on art.
It continued to be a love of his, and he couldn't deny his creativity completely. He'd start on projects but quit before they were completed. Even with a good solid foundation and artwork that was poised to come out beautifully, his doubts would crush his ability to continue and it would begin to collect dust... and finally be filed away somewhere in an attempt to forget.
Encouragement didn't help in anyway, and was met with defiance and insistance that every bit of work was garbage and his skills could never progress to anything more than mediocre. I tried so often to express what amazing potential he had, and how much more skilled he already was than he understood, but my words fell on deaf ears.
While it is painful to know that someone you care about is suffering in this way, what came next twisted our relationship to the point it couldn't be fixed.
Because he had wanted so much and for so long to feel success from creativity but couldn't allow himself to get that far, he harbored tremendous amounts of anger and jealousy towards people who did keep pushing towards success. He wasn't outwardly cruel towards me as my artistic skills progressed and I began to find some success, but with each marker along my path he'd try to congratulate me. I could always see it though, etched into his face and shadowing his eyes - every good thing I was able to do only served to point out what he wasn't able to do.
Even though I was only doing what came natural to me and swimming upstream to try and build a niche for myself in the world, it was as if I had rubbed my triumphs in his face, pointing and laughing at his failures. It progressed to the point that I was afraid of being any more successfull because it was creating a wedge between us. The difference would always be there and could never be erased: I did what I needed to do to get my art out into the world and that felt like a stone in his shoe, constantly reminding him that he wasn't. After coming home from shows or when I'd complete work or sell work, bad moods would roll in and he'd barely speak to me for hours or days. I felt guilty for everything I did.
Eventually the day came when I was frustrated about one of my failed attempts at progressing my audience, and he told me I should just give up. I had grown up with a family who taught me the exact opposite. They always believed in me and never, ever stopped encouraging me. We all have things we don't like about our families, but this is one standout place I cannot fault them in the least. They've always been behind me 200% and even when I'm down they push me to believe in myself. To hear someone telling me that I should give up was a total shock to me. Even with all the nastiness I'd experienced from my peers in school, nothing ever shocked or hurt me like those words. After all the time I'd spent encouraging him and trying to help him have the confidence to try...
I had slowly begun to lose my interest up until this point, and at that moment, I stopped trying for quite a while... all the color drained out of my life.
I ended up walking away from that relationship, and my art has flourished ever since. This story is the foundation that explains what I'm about to say and why I am saying it...
If you have any desire, whatsoever, to pursue something that matters to you... do not be afraid to pursue it. I know that it is scary, I live that fear every day of my life. I have those moments where I hate everything I've drawn or painted or made. I have days where I do something else so that I don't have to think about my art. But most of the time I am in love with my art - flaws and all. And it is flawed. No human is perfect therefore there is no perfect art. Nothing is without flaws and it is those flaws that make what we do unique to each of us.
Don't be so obsessed with perfection that you can't put pencil to paper. It is so much better to draw a million failed drawings to get to the one that you really love than to never even try to draw that image at all.
Please don't give up on yourself. No matter who you are, you have something special to give to this world and we need for you to share that with us. Try, try again, we all fail but try again anyway. Give every attempt your all and in time you'll find that you have more and more and more to give.
For you, for me, for everyone - use your creativity. It is the most beautiful part of every person, and every person has it.