I didn’t get into art school. Let’s start there. I applied to grad school for illustration this past winter and being the self-conscious self-taught artist and generally superstitious human that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to share what my heart was so furiously set on. Having witnesses outside of my innermost circle to what could very well be a failure to get my official “You Are An Artist” card from the art world (there is, in fact, no such card) was too much to handle. I waited on edge in private agony and wild hope for months and it was terrible, thanks for asking.
High as I had aimed, I really believed I would get in. But I didn’t. The ups and downs of the application process and the grief that followed can only be conveyed by the stories that flowed out of my pen at the time— The Teensy Tinies as I call them — Gentle Geraldine, Demelza Disappointed, Pippa Perplexed, and Hopscotch Hildegard specifically, but more on those later. It was nonsensical to me at the time — how could the thing I was told I was insufficient in be the thing that made me feel better? But when you can’t stop crying and only one thing can, quite literally, get you up off the floor, you stop asking why.
Not long after my rejection, I was waitlisted for a summer program someplace else — my plan B. Just when I’d started to breathe again, I fell back on my face and back into the rhythms of self doubt and tears. It wasn’t a pretty picture. My identity as an artist and, frankly, as a person of value were getting all muddled up.
That’s when two good friends stepped in. Two friends who’d seen it all — the dream, the crash, the second crash. “We want you to come to Italy.” It wasn’t a question.
As we began to plan our trip, I felt my usual lightness begin to seep back in. I washed my hands of what had morphed into an unhealthy relationship with my art and the words “I am an artist.” My intent was to frolick about with gelato for two weeks, free of the cage I had so unknowingly built for myself. And with that little bit of freedom, that permission to have fun, everything snowballed.
What began as a bleak summer of staring out at my defeat suddenly looked like a little bit of everything that makes me happy. This month, I finally lived my lifelong dream of walking in Anne of Green Gables’ footsteps on Prince Edward Island. I road tripped with my parents there and along the northern coast of Nova Scotia. I’m now finishing up a beautiful week spent visiting my sister in Providence. All of July I’ll be in Europe. Two weeks in Italy, one in Barcelona and maybe a bit of France, a week in Cambridge, and a glossy finish in Edinburgh, my old stomping ground.
Out of all the places that got thrown into the melting pot of my self care, none surprised me more than Cambridge. There I’ll be doing a summer intensive in Children’s Book Illustration. If not for that little bit of lightness as I began to daydream about Italy, I never could have faced my demons and enrolled at the very school whose grad program I couldn’t get into. It’s surprisingly the part I’m most excited about. Nervous, yes, but mostly heart-fluttery.
I’d started with a dream — deliberately made, specific, and well-loved. Life took it up and just as carefully, not to be dramatic, shredded it to pieces. At first it had seemed so unfair, cruel even, and then I realized... it was confetti! Not the original dream, perhaps, but somehow, unbelievably, a dreamy and glittering result all the same. So now, at long last, a belated cheers to my confetti summer, my confetti life — let’s dance.