Do What You Wanna Do

In the early 1990s, I first heard classic Australian rock band The Masters Apprentices encouraging me to "do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah". Oh, how I wish that I followed their advice.

Lately, I've been reflecting on my life choices, and I'm beginning to see that I'm f*cking terrible at making the best decisions for myself. I spent 30-years avoiding what I knew I should be doing, only to end up pursuing it, and I'm now totally pissed off with myself.

I Always Knew What I Should Be Doing

Few things truly made me happy when I was a kid. Reading, writing, art, and my cat was my world. And, gratefully, it quickly became apparent that I had a natural aptitude for my passions from the beginning. Throughout primary school and high school, I consumed books much faster than many of my similar age peers and often with a greater appreciation. I also consistently received compliments and top grades for my writing and art. Clearly, the stars had aligned, and I was fortunate to be endowed with the ideal fundamentals to pursue a creative life.

Sitting at my study desk one afternoon with the radio on, the lyrics "do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah" drew my attention away from my reading. Not an easy task, but I was so intrigued I repeated the words out loud as I nodded enthusiastically. The awareness that accompanied these words was life-changing, and I decided on the spot that this would be a tenet for my artistic life.

However, when high school finally came to an end and the option to pursue my passions became available, I promptly decided to ignore what I knew I should be doing and forget all about my newfound personal ideology. Instead, I embarked on a long journey of ill-considered and rash choices that didn't involve my creative strengths.

What Did I Do Instead?

I did apply to attend art college immediately upon graduating from high school. I vividly recall attending an interview at my art college of choice and being offered an early place based on the quality of my sculptural work. However, in a state of shock with the excellent academic grades I received at the end of high school given my limited focus on studying any subjects outside of the creative fields, I impulsively decided to follow the traditional route for high academic achievers. I applied to university even though I had zero desire to attend or plans to pursue a career outside of art.

When faced with the dilemma of choosing between the place offered at the art college or university, my commitment to my passions faulted temporarily. I made the worst decision of my life and chose university. I did discover a new love for academic learning and embarked on a series of intellectually stimulating tertiary qualifications. However, this culminated in several unfilling and psychologically shattering employment positions as I struggled to ignore my creativity and prioritise monetary considerations and acceptance through the pursuit of a 'normal' career above all else, including my health and well-being.

Why Didn't I Pursue My Passions?

Thinking back I can see that several complex reasons led to my decision to pursue university over art college when I was given a choice. Without a doubt, my decision was based on an attempt to please other people. At the time, my parents made it clear that a university degree offered better financial security for my working life than a professional artist. I was also encouraged many times not to "waste such a terrific leaving score on art college" by my teachers, parents and peers. This attitude was again motivated by a perception that the life of a professional artist did not offer good financial prospects. Having grown up in a highly traditional family, the thought of leading a successful creative life was a foreign concept. However, I realise that my decision was based on pursuing the less frightening option in the end.

Hello, I'm an Artist

I am very fortunate that my husband understood the torment I was going through working in industries and positions that were not a good fit. Three years ago, he lovingly told me to quit my job and pursue art full-time. I am pleased to say that I am in my final year of a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and I have never felt more content apart from dealing with the regret of many years spent without my creativity.

My Main Hoot...

When it comes to your means of earning a living, I encourage you to forget what others expect of you, ignore choices based solely on potential income, and follow your passion. Don't let fear stand in your way, or you'll be in for a world of regret just like I'm going through right now. Choose to live your life the way you want. And remember to do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah.

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