If there’s anything that I know for sure, it is that I know very little of anything.
I’m sure you can identify with this feeling of uncertainty. We all have had self-doubt, setbacks, failures, and people either telling us that we can’t make it, or that even if we did become successful at what we’re aiming to do, that it probably still isn’t a great idea.
Being someone whose gotten the privilege to keep a blog like this on Wayne State’s website, I feel a responsibility to you as a reader to write posts that are relevant to you. But this letter is coming out of four failed attempts to write anything worth taking a look at.
Isn’t it like clockwork, to be trying to write about creativity and then to hit a wall?
It’s a temptation to take this platform and to focus on the empowering, transformational, and fascinating things about studying art, and to make it clear that everything is going to work out fine for you. However, the truth is that most situations in life rarely work out in the way we think they will. (Which isn’t meant to be read with a negative connotation. This can be good, bad, and everything in-between). Although studying art is empowering, transformational, and fascinating… it is also an endless uphill climb.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling as if you need to prove something, whether you are in or out of the studio. The truth is, sometimes we do have something to prove, and sometimes we don’t. The older that I’ve become (currently I’m 20) the less I feel like any kind of authority, or that I have certainty about anything. For example, the task of writing about creativity is something that’s difficult, because exercising creativity in life is something I’m still personally figuring out.
After two years of art school, I’m experiencing the most confusion I’ve ever felt during my college experience. The reason I’m disclosing this with you is because at this point it’s important. It’s important to be reminded that we all go through periods of time where we’re confused, frustrated, or straight up struggling. There is truth in the saying that things don’t get easier, you get stronger.
If you inquire the people around you, you’ll notice that most of them are still in the process of figuring out what they do, think, and what they believe in, no matter what their age may be. It’s a continual process that has no linear path or order.
So, today instead of trying to give you a piece of my own wisdom, below are some quotes from people much wiser. These have helped me with dealing with uncertainty, so hopefully they will also be helpful to you:
“The first product of self knowledge is humility.”
“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts! And never hope more than you work.”
-Rita Mae Brown
“Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever brings you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”
“No matter how big your house is, or how new your car is, and how big your bank account is, our grave will be the same size. Stay humble.”
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destinies.” – C.S. Lewis
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
There you go. Keep on moving forward. To those of you who are reading this, thank you for taking the time out of your day. I wish you the best in what you’re doing, and that you stay passionate.
This blog began as my thoughts about taking your work to the next level. (Not that I have the necessary answer to doing that… it was more of a reflection on the concept).
As someone whose studying art, I’m always working hard. Taking whatever you’re doing and pushing it forward becomes so important. As an art student (and as a person) growth has become a top priority, if not THE top priority.
When you’re learning to give everything you can to your work, validation can become a very touchy area in life. Of course, you don’t want to be dependent on other’s opinions of what you’re doing or who you are, nor do you want to be too swayed by it, but sometimes when you put so much into something… not getting that validation or reception can be very disheartening.
It’s tricky balance to find, isn’t it?
What do you do when the validation isn’t there? What do you do when your work isn’t received like you hoped?
This is my guess: there is no perfect answer to either of these questions. I have a feeling that we all just get through it the best we can and try to keep moving. When you give yourself wholeheartedly to something, and it doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, of course it’s going to be painful. When you are working diligently on what you do, and someone tells you that you aren’t there yet, of course it’s going to be frustrating.
Maybe the important thing is that it’s awful because you care. The pain shows up because your efforts were authentic.
So maybe the success of our work doesn’t lie in the judgement in our audience, or even the actual outcome of the work itself. Maybe the success of what we do lies in the process. Personally, I find that when I look at it in that way, I’m much less afraid to fail. But that doesn’t mean that the days won’t come where I’ll wish that things were different. There will still be times where I’ll wish that maybe I could have that feeling of security that comes from the positive validation. But when you know that the motivation for your hard work doesn’t lie in the hands of others, it will be much easier to get up after those hard falls, and you will get back up. You will dust off your knees, stretch your legs, and keep on going as hard as you can to pursue your dreams.
When first starting out in the art program at Wayne State, I was very intimidated by other people’s talent. Over time it’s become apparent that this is a very normal experience that many people go through. You see how talented the people around you are, and wonder how you could ever measure up. The beauty in this is that these doubts have the power to put you into perspective. When we’re surrounded by talented people (who are sometimes much, much better at us at what we do) it’s a call to work harder and to push that threshold. The danger of these doubts is that if they become too strong, they can take you to a place where you feel like a phony. It can seem like a reality that you weren’t meant to do what you want to be doing, or that you’re wrong for the job. If you’re going through this, remember that it’s normal. But of course, it’s important to be able to balance our perspective, and that’s why my topic today is on the importance of mentors.
Not only as a student, but just as a human being I believe that having mentors in our lives is extremely important. They’re people you can go to when you need help, guidance, and reassurance. A lot of the time, whatever struggles we’re going through as students, someone else has been through too. In life, if we’re going through something difficult, the likelihood is also that we aren’t alone in going through it. But without knowing people and having mentors in our lives to talk about these things with, we can fall under the illusion that we’re alone in our struggles. Sometimes a good mentor is the difference between growth and stagnation. When things get difficult, and you’re riddled with doubt, they can even be the calming voice that reminds you to trust yourself, and to trust what’s ahead.
So to anyone reading this, my advice to you is to always be seeking out mentors. You can never have too many. Ask people questions, ask their opinions, ask how they do what they do. People respond to genuine curiosity. The guy or girl with tremendous talent that you sit next to in class can be one of your greatest mentors if they’re willing to share and you can be open to what they’ll tell you.
Remember: embrace your mentors and teachers in life. You won’t regret it.
I’ll admit it, I think Wayne State is an unusual place. It’s a large, diverse university that sometimes feels like a very small college, and it’s in the heart of Detroit- which gives the campus a unique pulse.
Coming to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, rocked my world. It took everything I thought I knew, my plans, the person I thought I was suppose to be, and threw all of that caution to the wind, which was the most challenging, and important thing that has ever happened to me. I’m incredibly grateful for it.
The first time I stepped on Wayne State’s campus, I was 17 years old coming on a college tour. It was a beautiful March day. I will never forget it because it changed the entire course of my life. Before I stepped on campus, I had no plans on coming to the university. Once I stepped off, I had no plans on going anywhere else. During the tour, the wonderful art advisors Ryan Standfest and Michele Porter walked a group of us around the campus, hitting “The Castle” (Old Main), which I thought was the most beautiful place in the world. We walked through the different departments such as photography, fashion merchandising, interior design, graphic design, photography, and the drawing and painting studios. Their passion and stories left me feeling excited and inspired. Eventually that day inspired me to take a huge risk, moving to Detroit to study art, at an institution where I knew no one. It’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made.
Despite what most people will tell you, the first semester of one’s freshman year of college can be a pretty heavy time. People don’t tend to talk about this openly. In our culture, college is considered this glamorous, coming of age time (which in certain situations, it definitely is), and I don’t think people like to acknowledge that it’s also filled with struggle, big questions, and that there are a lot of important decisions a person has to make that can totally affect their future, and person they’re going to become. There’s a lot going on, and the pressure is real. Yes, there are parties, there’s pleasure, and there are a lot of beautiful people that you’ll meet, but there are also nights where you don’t know if you’ll make the grade, there’s struggle, and there’s loneliness. My first semester at Wayne State was rewarding, along with being incredibly scary and challenging. Up to date, it stays the heaviest and most important five months of my life. What is so special about it to me is all of the people that came into my life and taught me things that have not only healed past wounds, but also were building blocks in the foundation of the person I was meant to become.
Here is the cliffs note version of some important lessons I’ve learned at Wayne State:
During my first semester at Wayne, I was facing a lot of issues and demons from my past. At many points in our lives, we have to stop and face issues that are staring us in the face, and won’t go away until we deal with them. One of the most important things I’ve ever learned was sitting across from a counselor. We had been talking about an individual who had caused a lot of pain in my life, and she responded by saying “I empathize with him because no one had ever taught him any better.” That sentence was a catalyst for me. It enabled me to accept my past, and forgive multiple people in my life. At the end of the day, forgiveness is for yourself. It is the best way to free yourself from your past. This is a lesson I learned at Wayne State University that dynamically changed my life.
Honesty is the best time-saver. Although the truth is hard to face, we do ourselves a huge favor by facing it head on. After a critique in one of my classes, I went to my professor with a lot of questions and a lot of confusion. By the end of our conversation, he gave me one of the greatest and also trickiest pieces of advices I’ve ever received: He said simply, “find your truth”. Now, I have no magic formula for doing this. I still don’t know how to do it myself. But I will say that a lesson Wayne State has nailed into my brain is when you’re truly honest with the people around you, and with yourself, things start to come together in ways you couldn’t have imagined better in your head.
This lesson goes hand in hand with being honest. I could tell you story after story about the professors, and peers of mine at WSU that have shown up in amazing ways, and we wouldn’t have made the connection if both of us weren’t open and honest about our lives, struggles, and dreams. Be open to the people in your world, you never know what someone can teach you. Sometimes life has incredible gifts in store for you, all you have to be is open to them.
4. The importance of asking for help
This is something I could go on about for days. DAYS. Asking for help is really important, and for the average bear, it’s pretty hard to do. It’s difficult to admit that you can’t do everything on your own. But, as humans we are stronger when we allow others to serve us. Asking for help is an act of courage, and incredibly rewarding. My experiences at WSU have taught me to absolutely ask for help, insight, and ask for it a lot. Whether it’s a guy at the gym who can help you adjust a machine, or a mentor who can help you find direction, asking for help is what connects us, and enables us to grow.
5. “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”
These are some wise words that I learned in the counseling center of Wayne State. If you google this quote, there are a couple of different people who are said to have said it first. Whoever it is, they were pretty smart. What this personally means to me, is that even though struggles are put in front of us, we chose how we react to them. We have a choice to suffer or to be empowered. There are so many stories and reminders of this that I’ve heard while living in Detroit. There are experiences that people go through that are unimaginable for most of us, and yet they come out the other end resilient.
6. Put in the hard work
This is a lesson that is cliche, and really valuable. If you want something, put in the hard work. Talent is something we have no control over, and something work ethic can exceed any day. Don’t depend on talent, work for what you want. I’ve lived by this motto during my time studying art at Wayne State, and it has helped to make my experience very fulfilling.
7. Ask questions
This is so much more important than most people realize. If you want to know something, ask. Curiosity is a virtue. There have been so many situations I’ve been in with incredible professors offering up their time to do open Q&A’s with their students, and I’ve been the only person asking questions. Remember that there are many untapped resources around you, there are lots of highly-intelligent, effective people. Ask them questions, get curious, and you will learn as much, if not more than you would from a textbook.
These are all lessons of mine that have been learned, and cemented in the past year I’ve spent at Wayne State University. I’d like to take a moment to honor all of the individuals that have taught them to me. There have been a lot of amazing people who have come into my life in the past year that I have been very lucky to learn from. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to study at this University with such a wonderful staff, and student body. There are many more reasons that I chose, and I still continue to choose Wayne State, but these ones seemed right to write about on this platform. Wayne State University has been an incredible place to grow.
Thank you to everyone who has supported my decision to attend the university, and have also made the effort to check up on me during my journey here. Thank you to all of the advisors, teachers, and mentors I’ve had here, I could not be the person I am now without you. And finally, thank you to all of my friends here, your support and love had been incredible, and invaluable.