Blowing out the candles on her 40th birthday cake, the glow and flicker sending her back to a time when she was blowing out the candles on her going away cake. She had just finished High School as an honors student and was headed off to college; she was ready to conquer the world. In college she excelled in academics, she seemed to have a knack for all things art and a gifted mind that could do just about anything, but math, she hated math…
After college she worked fulltime, met a clinically minded man who loved art, fell in love and settled into the married life. She never made much money but enjoyed her work as it allowed her to express herself artistically. Years passed and her job faded away but she landed another that was also in the world of art. Well, it was at first anyway. As time went on the artistic side was reduced more and more and the administrative part of the job, the part she hated became more and more pronounced. How she missed her youthful times where art flowed freely to be shared with the world. Now the art stood stagnant in her heart and in her mind. The days at worked dragged on, the art idea journal collected dust.
Still happy in her marriage, anxiety and frustration dominated her professional life. She started to feel trapped, thinking of the more youthful times, her trip to Paris, her bravery in photography where she would invade hate groups alone and armed only with a camera and capture the faces of intolerance and hate; the darkroom exposing not just the photo paper but also the danger. Frustration can lead to failure or it can be used for progress; for making real and lasting changes. With encouragement she started her art once more, it was different from before: it had matured with her. Slowly she grew a following but it was not enough to allow her to leave her current job. What to do, what to do?
Speaking about her frustration with her husband and others, she started to explore ideas. She loved the idea of the work that her husband did but she did not think she was cut out for meeting the demands of his day to day case load. Conversations lead to thought, thought lead to exploration and more conversations until she was speaking of the therapeutic value she found in not just the product of her art but in the production of her art. It was then that she discovered the world of art therapy. Was it a dream? Could it be real? Was she destined to continue working in the same dull job forever or could she go back to grad school and become licensed as a counselor and specialize in art therapy?
Exploring the therapeutic value of her art process she started opening her studio to the public on selected times. She did not charge, this was an exploration for herself as well. She started seeing the progress the group made, not just artistically but in building a community, exploring their issues and moving forward. Imagine what could be done if therapy had been provided as well as art?
Changing careers is more than ok. It can be scary but age need not be a major consideration in many cases so long as you can physically handle the work. With experience can come wisdom and insights that cannot be taught in the classroom, combine the classroom with the wisdom and so much can be done.
The lights are dimmed; a large cake with candles is being brought out. She has opened her therapeutic art program. She feels so alive. She is mixing her love of art with her love of serving others. Above the door to the studio is a small handmade plaque that reads Avec un mélange (with a fusion). Real success is not counted in dollars but in one’s ability to meld what they love with what they do…
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).