by Kristine Coblitz
I have a younger cousin who will graduate from high school next year. She’s currently looking into colleges and hopes that her grades are good enough to get her into the school of her choice. She’s an artist with true talent, and sometimes I’m actually blown away by her creativity and imagination.
She has a bright future ahead of her, but she’s learning that starting a career in the arts is not easy. She faces opposition from well-meaning family members who want her to pursue a more practical and money-making field. She feels the pressure of fierce competition with her peers and harsh critiques from teachers. She’s considered giving up a few times and has asked me whether being an artist is worth living through the grief and heartache.
This is where it gets tricky. On one hand, I want to tell her that it is worth it and that going after her true passion is the most important thing in the world. However, on the other hand, I also want to be honest with her and tell her that this struggle with insecurity isn’t going to go away and that the road to being an artist will be fraught with both joy and disappointment.
How much do I tell her without scaring her?
Looking back, the teachers and mentors I’ve respected the most were the ones who were brutally honest with me, so I’ve tried to keep that in mind when talking with my younger cousin. I’m teaching her by example, which I feel is the best thing I can offer her at this critical stage of her creative journey.
I’ve tried to describe the euphoria of a productive writing session. I’ve told her about the many times I had to rewrite the beginning of my first manuscript because my mentor, a veteran writer, repeatedly told me it wasn’t good enough. I’ve told her about the episodes when I broke into tears over my keyboard. And yes, I’ve told her about the depression and anxiety I still face nearly every day.
But mostly, I’ve told her that I wouldn’t trade any of it and that living without regret is possibly the best gift she can give herself in addition to the college degree she is actively seeking.
So now I ask all of you: What advice has changed your life and what words of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation?