Recently I have had two (non-blog) comments from two different people that I have been reflecting upon. The first was from someone who was at one of the knit togethers - she said, in essence, that I was very lucky to be able to do what I do because I want to do it. The second comment came from a totally different context, but it is similar in meaning, if not exactly intent. This one was along the lines of "while I have to go to work everyday, you get to do exactly what you want".
Actually I hear the "you're so lucky" comment a fair bit. And I don't disagree. By nearly every standard, I am unbelievably privileged, as are most people who live in the developed world. We have more than adequate food, clean water, warm shelter, access to all the goods and services we need, easy transportation, and (at least in Canada), we have access to health care and more. Most of us reading this blog on a computer are, by that standard alone, privileged enough to fall into this category. But the comments added a second criteria - that I do what I do because it is what I want to do.
As a Buddhist practitioner, I believe in karma (cause and effect), but that can get pretty slippery pretty fast, so I might just skirt that notion altogether for now. I guess what gave me a moment's pause when I heard both those comments was they both imply that what I am up to these days just happened to appear in my inbox, I clicked "yes' and away we go.
I am not denying that "luck" or whatever you want to call it didn't play a part - especially when it comes to receiving grants. There is only so much one can do to make a good proposal and then one is left to hope that whoever is looking at your proposal is in a good mood that day, isn't overly tired or hungry, didn't just fight with their partner, isn't colour blind, or whatever it might be that would make them pass over your idea for someone else's. So, yes, receiving grants is as much about luck at a certain point as it is about clear writing, good images and excellent ideas. And I have the stacks of rejection letters to prove it.
But this idea of "doing what I want", it puzzles me. I won't bore you with a long story about coming up in the world, suffice to say that, since graduating from art school in 1988, I have worked steadily and with nearly singleminded focus at my art - that's 21 years by my quick calculation. I also have two children, so far from "doing exactly what I want", I have adapted how I do what I do to accommodate changing circumstances. When I no longer had the time to be in my studio, I changed my art practice so I could make work that didn't require long periods of solitary reflection. I distinctly remember lying in bed, nursing Lucy, when I had the idea that eventually (three years later) became the project for the High School for Law Enforcement. Inspiration, idea, execution - the steps became very distinct, with the first two happening quickly and the last step taking a long time, because it had to be time that didn't require quiet or being alone.
The thing is, I am not particularly clever or special or lucky for that matter. But the wistfulness of the first comment and the anger of the second imply that perhaps I am. Not so. Not so.
To me, it comes back to what I now label The Best Advice Ever Given: Just point yourself in the direction you want to go and see what happens.
Luck, hard work, distractions, moments of enlightenment - they are all there, waiting for you. But first you have to point yourself in the direction you want to go.