Hanging Onto my Creative Destiny :: by Megan O. Andersen
Hanging Onto My Creative Destiny
by Megan Andersen
I grew up in a house stocked with paints, pens, fake hair, pipe cleaners—you name it. My parents were elementary school teachers and my mom taught art classes. I was drawing animals at the zoo before I could say their names. I knew I wanted to grow up and be an artist. I loved it. It made me feel like I was creating the world around me. And when the actual world around me was scary or lonely, I always turned to art to draw/sculpt/paint a better version of what I wanted.
A Creative Career
In the mid ‘90s I went to college and studied graphic design. It seemed like the profession of choice for “artistic types” who still wanted to bring home a paycheck. I was successful as a designer and quickly moved up in position at the ad agency I worked for, but my heart was not in the work. I would come home feeling empty after sitting in meetings with CEOs who mused over font colors as if they had nothing else to do that day.
I began writing a lot of marketing copy to “pitch in” and transitioned OUT of design when I realized that marketing was a solid profession that I enjoyed, and it left me enough creative juice to get through the evenings. For years I worked in marketing, and when I landed at one particular company, I thought I would be there for life. It was a great product, fantastic owners and staff, and a really enthusiastic customer base, and I happened to be extremely well loved by everyone in the company and all of the clients they worked with.
So when I walked into the HR department one Friday (thinking I was there to win an award) and ended up being handed my last paycheck in a wave of lay-offs, I was devastated. Like, lay-on-the-couch-in-your-jammies-weeping-openly devastated. I would get dressed a few minutes before my husband would come home from work, so that he wouldn't see how bad it really was. But I felt lost. I had been the breadwinner in my relationship and now our financial future was uncertain. I had worked with said company for over five years and most of the staff there was the majority of my friend pool. Since I was commuting three hours round trip for this job, I knew that I would no longer see many of my friends at work. I went on and on mourning my lost job. The economy was as bad as it had been since the Great Depression and all I could do was cry.
My Uncle Glenn
Not long after the lay-off, my mom called to tell me that my closest uncle was sick. Really sick. By the tone in her voice, I knew it was urgent. I drove up to visit him in the hospital that night. He had been the picture of health the week prior, but now he was in a coma. He died within three days from a rapid moving leukemia. This particular uncle was the backbone of our family. He kept us all together in hard times and made everyone feel welcome. The entire family buckled. I had already been feeling low from getting laid off not a month earlier, and now my sweet, charming, and funny uncle was robbed from me. From all of us.
While sitting in his funeral listening to story after story about all that he had done in his life, I realized that he had been retired from teaching for over 15 years. I had never thought of him as “retired” because he was always busy learning, making, helping, and doing. He was non-stop. I realized that I needed to pull myself out of my own funk because my Uncle Glenn would not want to see me shuffling around the house in my pajamas. He would never have done that himself.
Living my Dream
The day after the funeral, I came home and started writing a blog about recipes, gardening, travel, and crafts. I needed something to look forward to every day, and giving myself little assignments and projects felt good. The blog opened a lot of doors for me. I treated it like my full-time job and worked hard to bring quality tutorials to my readers. I began teaching craft classes at the local craft shop. I started hosting craft parties. I was pitching articles that were getting published. I was even flown to Austria to record two digital photography workshops for an online training company.
My days became busy and hectic and fulfilling. I was out of bed at 6 a.m., fully dressed and working on the day's project or post by 7 a.m. I’d never felt so alive. My audience began to grow, and opportunities kept coming. I was on the local news a couple of times showing off holiday crafts, was on TLC's Craft Wars, and started recording craft workshops for Creativebug. Also, my Etsy sales were going through the roof!
I was finally living my dream. I was doing what I loved; making, creating, writing, and sharing in a creative field —but now I was the one making the decisions and musing over font colors (not really!). I still do some freelance marketing and writing to pay the bills, but if I hadn't carved out a career in crafting I would have been lost for a long, long time.
Never Been Happier
Even though I miss my dear uncle, my friends at my former job, and certainly the comfort of a regular paycheck, I have never been happier than I am now. I never really know what the next day or week will bring, but my husband is my biggest supporter and somehow we make it work. When I think about taking on too many corporate freelance jobs doing tech writing, social media, or editing marketing copy my palms get a little sweaty and I start to weigh the real costs involved. Art saves. It saved me, and I plan on hanging onto my creative destiny with a Kung Fu grip!
To learn more about Megan Andersen, visit radmegan.blogspot.com.