Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Badges of Honour

I'm posting this blog I wrote after i dropped out of the education program, just to get you all caught up!

January, 2011

My decision to quit- no, not quit...

My decision to drop out- no, not drop out...

Ok, well, there’s no pretty way to say it. There is so much stigma built up in those words. Quitter. Drop out. I am neither a quitter, nor a drop out. I did not give up on my education. I did, however, give up on being unhappy. Pretending to be someone I’m not was terribly exhausting and I couldn’t wear that mask anymore.

Have you ever gotten an order of french fries and stumbled across an onion ring? I felt like I was that onion ring. I felt this way since the beginning of the semester. My peers and fellow student-teachers were so keen and adamantly passionate about teaching (and everything that made up the program). On the first day of classes, we sat in a circle and one by one introduced ourselves. I listened to everyone’s seemingly rehearsed responses about why they were in the program: “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.” “I absolutely love kids and I want to be a part of their learning experience.” I’d list more but I’ll be honest and confess that I zoned out and didn’t much care to hear anyone’s answer. When it came to my turn, I smirked and honestly stated, “I’m here, because I don’t want to be a starving artist.”

I did want to share my passion for art with students. It wasn’t that long ago that I sat in the high school art classroom. I remember exactly how it was and how the majority of students took it as a bird course. That infuriated me. I wanted to change that. I wanted students to be hungry and crave for art the way I did. I thought the education system (more so, the art program) needed me - not just another teacher, but an artist.

So, I suppose that’s what initiated my decision to go into education but I don’t regret going into the program and “wasting all that money” (as friends feel ever so inclined to mention so). I didn’t waste money. I spent money - and I spent it good - finding out exactly what I didn’t want to do.

I fought through the first semester. It dawned on me that I wasn’t meant to be a teacher during my first practicum of practice-teaching at a nearby high school. I sat in the corner of the art class, desperately fighting the realization that I did not want to teach art - I wanted to make it.

My last four years of doing my Fine Arts degree was exactly that - making art. It was a priority. It was my life. I didn’t realize how much I missed making it until I didn’t have time for it anymore.

I was contemplating the possibility of “dropping out” (ugh, there’s that phrase again) for awhile. I had talked to many people about it. A common response was, “Beth, being a teacher is such a great profession! You get holidays and summers off!” Are you kidding me? I’d snidely shoot back with “I’d work every day of the year if I absolutely loved my job.” The majority of people told me to suck it up - that the program was only two years and that it would go by in no time. But truth be told, I didn’t want to suck it up. The thought of dreadfully dragging my ass into another practicum was enough to make me throw up. It reminded me of when I was in swimming lessons many many years ago...

I had been in swimming lessons since I was five years old. I always had a fear of diving. Any time my instructor would tell us to hop out of the pool and line up on the side, I’d get the worst gut-wrenching pain. Every time my swimming group was about to do dives, I would ask to use the washroom and wouldn’t return until they were all finished diving. For years, I ended up passing each level without having to dive. But my fear didn’t subside; it only increased and I would go out of my way to avoid having to dive. Eventually, I was enrolled in the course to become a lifeguard where I confessed my fear of diving to my fellow swim-mates and instructor. Everyone lined up on the side of the pool and dove in, one by one. I watched their techniques. With the help of them, their patience and their understanding, I was able to conquer my fear of diving.

So, every time I sat in class or even thought about going into another practicum, I’d get that same gut-wrenching pain and temptation to just run and hide.

I, in no way, am putting down the teaching profession. If anything, I respect teachers a hell of a lot more after experiencing life from their perspective. Teaching isn’t for everyone and it certainly isn’t for me. I was dying inside. I felt like I was a square trying to be shoved into a sphere-shaped hole. I was absolutely miserable, stressed, and had little time and energy to do the only thing that ever made me happy. I had no motivation or inspiration to do the only thing that ever meant anything to me - art.

I got my first semester marks back. Four A-’s and one A+. Are you kidding me? Please, please, please tell me you’re joking. I would rather a C- and know damn well that I earned it. I would take that C- and wear it proudly on my chest. I should’ve felt proud. I got straight A’s; however, I absolutely did not. I felt terrible that I was doing just as good in the program as the students who were taking it seriously and were as passionate about teaching as I am about my art. I knew then, that it was time to bow my head and step back. I didn’t want to invest any more time or money into something that meant nothing to me.

So, eventually I found myself on the edge of the pool with my family and friends lined up beside me. I listened to their advice and comforting words. With the help of them, their patience and their understanding, I was able to take the plunge and take my teacher hat off. I realized that there is a difference between being an art teacher and being an artist. I am an artist.

I spent the last two days making art. I’m sitting in my tiny apartment with paint, canvas and every other precious art material spewed over my kitchen table, floor, walls, and myself. I stare down at my paint-stained hands and I remember what my father once said to me during supper as he glanced down at my then, too, paint-stained hands. He smiled and said, “badges of honour.” I clenched my blue and green paint-splattered hands into fists and smiled. I missed these hands. I missed this feeling.

I realize now, that even if my failed attempts at becoming any tiny bit successful in the art world land me nothing higher than a starving artist, I will accept that title because I’ll surely be happy. Life is too short to be anything but yourself... and to be anything but happy.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

1 comment:

Ra8ed said...

wow! That's very interesting! I love the images you create ^^ I didn't expect you would respect teachers that much. In my experience during high school art class, it was anything but artsy and creative as a period, and I blamed the art teachers for that.
You sound like an artist! Its seems that you're not to be confined in a fixed system. Keep on seeking more! Keep us posted about your travels too!
Cheers from Lebanon! :D