Ever since I could remember, I have wanted to be an artist. At nine years old, I was enrolled in my grandfather’s free martial arts program, where I learned karate and competed in tournaments with my play cousins and other kids around the neighborhood.
It boosted our self-esteem by channeling our energy and teaching valuable skills we could take into the real world. We also learned to operate as a team, which instilled a greater sense of culture and pride. We were one united family that consisted of many strong Black families with integrity and faith. What a time!
There was an appreciation for everyone’s unique and special gifts, and we created safe spaces to share those gifts with the next generation. I remember being in church at twelve years old, watching in awe as our worship leaders praised the Lord. These were some of New York’s finest award-winning musicians, dancers, tech professionals, and storytellers, but on Sunday, we were servants, and art was our ministry.
I loved walking into a dance rehearsal led by Black ballerinas who carried themselves with so much grace. They taught us discipline and technique and encouraged us to express ourselves freely. I made solid friendships and gained performance experience at a young age, and although I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, I knew that art was home.
But at seventeen, the pressure was on to find a good school and major in something meaningful to get a good-paying job. As supportive as my parents were of my creativity, I knew deep down they didn’t believe art was enough to build a sustainable life. Somewhere along the line, I started feeling it too.
I thought there was only one track to success, so I quickly abandoned my dreams of being a star and headed off to a small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere on a quest to figure out what I would do with my life.
I got there on a mission to have my cake and eat it too. I wanted to make my parents proud by finishing school and getting a job. I also wanted to feed my passions. This started a duplicitous war of identity between what I wanted to do vs. what I felt I was supposed to do.
I majored in communications because it felt like a happy medium. I could take theater classes and learn about the boring crap that could help me secure the bag. Still, almost ten years after graduating, I regret not taking full advantage of all the opportunities offered to me to create a reality encompassing all parts of me.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have fought for my artistic expression and believed in myself enough to nurture my gifts. But I played it safe and resented everyone else for it. Jealous of the people who dared to dream and lead with their creativity.
I’ve spent what feels like a lifetime trying to return to my artistic roots, determined to use all the experiences God has given me and all the lessons I’ve learned to create the life I’ve always dreamed of. I needed my childhood just as much as college and the corporate world. All things worked together for my good. So as I slowly start to peek my head out from the valleys and shadows of shame and disappointment, I hope to encourage someone else to never run into those shadows to start.
I would love to blame my parents or circumstances for why I’m not at Beyoncé-type levels, but the truth is that I gave up on myself. I had convinced myself that as talented as I might’ve been to my mother or friends, it was unrealistic for me to be a professional artist. I was afraid and internalized the fear of others, allowing it to confine me to a state of comfortability.
Was I genuinely doing everything I could to realize my dreams? Maybe I believed I was at the time, but if I’m being honest, I wasn’t consistent. I didn’t want it bad enough to fight for it like the mentors I idolized.
I’m thankful for Black civil rights superheroes, my parents, and community leaders who fought for my right to create. They showed me a life I could only dream of because I had seen it myself. But I’m learning that you must do the work to be a creative professional.
This work consists of finding the time to prioritize practicing your gifts. Honor your skills by investing in learning them deeply.
We must stop telling ourselves that art isn’t enough when in reality, it’s everything. And I know it’s hard to believe when the bills are piling up, and the community doesn’t seem to receive your work, but please understand that it’s all a part of the game.
The first step is deciding to be an artist despite all odds, knowing there’s no other path for you, and committing to proving yourself right every day by how hard you work at your craft. I wish I could give you a blueprint for finding the motivation to create when you don’t feel up to it. I can tell you that creativity isn’t something you should overthink.
We all have so many stories to tell that can hopefully inspire others to think differently about the world, and whatever mediums we use to share those stories can all be considered artistic expressions. We get tripped up when we compare our talent to others and censor ourselves out of fear of not being liked or accepted.
But you know this already. So how can you stop doubting yourself?
I think it starts by picking up the pen and sharing your thoughts. Start confronting the negativity and pushing past it little by little. Stop telling yourself that your passions are meaningless hobbies and start taking them seriously because until you do, no one else will.
So, let’s do this together and begin appreciating your life and art for the new opportunities it brings each day to get you closer to your dreams. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but lacked the faith to pursue? How can you start taking the necessary steps to reclaim your time and go after what you want? Until next time.
With love, Raven
PS: I’d love to talk more and to help support you and encourage you along your journey. Schedule your free starter meeting below.