As a natural introvert, I’ve never liked calling attention to myself, but to make it in the world as an adult, I’ve had to overcome some of my most comfortable insecurities. There was the fear of public speaking, the fear of confrontations, a hint of social anxiety and an irrational fear of treadmills to be grappled with (I always thought I’d be the person who flew off the back in the middle of a crowded gym.)
I’ve always thrived behind the scenes, behind the lens, behind the words I write for other people. That is, until I made the uncomfortable discovery that things which were becoming important to me required a little more boldness and a little less hiding behind things. I found myself attracted to leadership, which demands the willingness to sometimes seem ridiculous, to communicate visions people aren’t ready to accept and to be more vocal and visible than I used to think I was capable of being. If I wanted to grow into a better leader, I needed to take some risks, make some dumb mistakes and stop retreating to my comfort zone.
A year and a half ago, I took a risk few people saw coming. I went back to school, not for the MFA I was expected to get but for the MBA I actually wanted. I was truly grateful for the people in my life who supported my growth and encouraged me throughout the process of applying, getting accepted and learning how to manage the rigors of fulltime work and school. From the rest, I endured the endless “what about your art” questions, and the jokes about “selling out,” “working for the man,” and “moving to Wall Street,” and I pretended they didn’t hurt. I knew a month into the program that I’d made the right decision, and that was enough to keep me going. Seven months away from graduation and what I anticipate to be one of the proudest moments of my life, I no longer feel the need to explain myself.
I don’t mind that I’m not sure how to answer the “what will you do with your degree” question, any more than I could six years ago when it applied to my BFA. I just know that I could not have predicted then how much I’ve learned, or how many different ways I’ve applied those skills or how glad I am that I bucked the wishes of my high school guidance counselors and went to art school. If I remain as open to trying new things after this degree as I did following the first one, it will have been worth it.
I have a lot of ideas – some of which are completely and utterly foolish. I hope I put everything I have into every single one of them, and I hope I fall flat on my face at least a few times. I hope to have more stories to tell my children about things that worked and things that didn’t, and about how I picked myself up bruised but slightly wiser. I hope to things that make my Dad say “this will build character,” a remark I used to roll my eyes at but now aspire to. In the meantime, I’m happy to be enjoying the process.