Recently, an opportunity availed itself to me that has caused me to try to figure out how serious I am about my favorite hobby - pottery! Clay is something I've dabbled in sporadically since high school. I've never had any "formal" education in the medium since I chose to drop out of commercial art school after just 4 short weeks, which is a whole 'nother story about choices. But I've always managed to keep ceramics in my life in some form or another, either by taking (or even teaching) a class here and there at various art centers or setting up a makeshift studio on my back porch, or finally a "real" studio, at our last permanent residence before we adopted our current nomadic lifestyle.
I've always felt like I've never been able to give it my full attention. I've always wondered if I could ever become "successful" at it, if I was able to truly focus on it as more than just a sporadic, but enjoyable hobby.
During our winter in Asheville, I became quite interested in salt-firing, but this method of firing requires a rather expensive kiln and some expertise that I don't feel I've acquired yet. But earlier this week, a good friend of mine who also happens to be a knowledgeable potter, and was aware of my interest, e-mailed me about a situation that could enable me to pursue this dream that's been cogitating in my feeble brain.
(The object of my desire.....)
Unfortunately it seems that whenever I find myself on the brink of realizing a dream, a little voice inside my head says, "Be careful what you wish for...." Up until just a few minutes ago, I really couldn't remember where I had ever heard this phrase, or what is the unstated but seemingly dire implication of obtaining that which we have wished for.
So, I googled it.........."be careful what you wish for...." and now I remember!! It was a quote at the beginning of a short story I read, probably in a junior high or high school English class, called The Monkey's Paw. In this story, an old couple is given a "magical" monkey's paw by a friend of the family. According to legend, the owner of the paw will be granted 3 wishes. Typically, the first thing the couple wish for is "riches" in the form of 200 pounds. Unfortunately, the wish is fulfilled by the death of their only son, who is killed by a horrible accident at his place of employment. His parents are given monetary compensation by his employer which of course is equal to the amount that the couple had wished for. A few days later in the midst of their grief, the wife, remembers the monkey's paw and convinces her husband to wish that their son be brought back to life. He reluctantly agrees, and shortly thereafter they hear a knock at the door. Suddenly, the husband realizes that if it truly is their son at the door, brought back to life by the wish, they may not want to see him in the state he's in, considering he was mutilated by the accident and has been dead for several days. The father quickly makes his third wish and when his wife opens the door, there's no one there.
I don't really think that buying this kiln will have such dire consequences, but I have come to realize that when we wish for something, we usually don't take all the facts into consideration when we imagine what the granting of that wish might entail. When I was young, I thought that I would be eternally happy if only I could have a horse. That wish was eventually granted for me, and my horses did bring me much happiness! If I had it to do over again, I would in a heartbeat! But I didn't realize the amount of time, money, and work that horse ownership required. It was more than I anticipated, but I also think that owning a horse helped me to develop a good work ethic, and patience, and many other benefits that I never realized would come with the blood, sweat and tears of the responsibility.
Similarly, I always wanted to own a small farm (this wish probably goes hand-in-hand with the previous wish!) Again, I had no clue that one never truly owns a farm, the farm owns you! But, also, I would do it again in a heartbeat (and apparently I will be soon, if we acquire the 18 acres in New Castle that we've made an offer on!)
So, yesterday and today I've been wrestling with the idea of buying this kiln (and a few other pieces of equipment) that would motivate, actually force me, to truly commit myself to being a potter. As I told a friend of mine, I guess it will make me finally shit or get off the (proverbial) pot!!
And as always seems to be the case, 2 fears stand in my way: the fear of failure and the fear of success!! I'm sure that my fear of failure is understandable and needs no explanation. Will I be able to produce quality work? Will anyone be willing to buy it? The real question is, will I be able to produce INCOME to justify the expense of the equipment?
But how can I be fearful of success?? I think of questions like, will the work consume me? Will I begin to hate the very process that I enjoy right now because I can do it when I want to, not because I HAVE to??
I also worry that I'm a little long in the tooth to be entering the phase of "emerging artist." Fercryinoutloud, I'm 47 years old!! Most days I would describe myself as a "submerging artist!!"
And then there's a 3rd fear that looms, the fear of regret. What if I spend the money on this equipment and months or years from now, find myself regretting it?
I have to say that I think my fear of regret is what has ultimately helped me make my decision. At this point in my life I feel like we can afford to take the financial risk, I feel like I've probably got more time on my hands than I've had available to me at any other time (even with the new grand-baby and the new home) and I feel like the classes I took in North Carolina, and the friends I've made recently will give me the resources I need to pursue this dream! I am truly afraid that if I DON'T take advantage of this opportunity, I'll definitely regret it!!
I have to admit that I've prayed about this a lot and I've been waiting for some kind of "sign from God" to show me what I'm supposed to do. I also have to admit that over the years, I've never really felt like God's reached down and hit me over the head with any obvious signs! It's usually been more a case of going into something with the right attitude. When I can do that, it seems to work out better. And that attitude has got to be something like, OK, let's give this a try and see where God takes me with it. When I've had an attitude of, "I need to do this no matter what the cost to me or my family...." it just has never worked out very well. I usually end up exhausted and disappointed because the cost turns out to be much more than I ever imagined, monetarily, physically, and emotionally!
I also think it's important that Steve backs me up in this endeavor. I've made a lot of decisions that he hasn't been too happy about (and of course he's made some boner decisions that I was against too.) It seems like if we're not on the same page when it comes to major decisions like this, stuff just doesnt work. But, we talked about this extensively and he seems to be very supportive, he told me to "go for it!" I know he has some worries and concerns, just like I do, but knowing that he's backing me up makes me feel like maybe I can pull it off!! Unfortunately, it also means I can't blame him if I fall flat on my face, dammit!!!
Actually, I think my point is somewhat similar to the point of the story I mentioned earlier. My desire to have God show me what to do is a form of wanting to leave my decision to fate. In the story, this point is illustrated in a conversation between two of the characters. The friend of the family who reluctantly gives the magical monkey's paw to the old man, tries to explain to him that having 3 wishes granted may not be as delightful of an occurrence as he would imagine. At one point something is said to the effect that fate rules people's lives, and that those who interfere with it "do so to their sorrow."
I'm hoping that this sweet deal that appears to have fallen into my lap at just the right time is a case of fate (or in my mind, God) ruling my life!! Of course I also believe that He require us to "take a leap of faith" once in awhile. I guess that's what I hope I'm doing!
Only time will tell, but over the years it seems like when I let Him be in control, things seem to go a whole lot smoother!