March 12, 2019

Remember this when you’re Freaked Out about Starting Something New.


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“Question: Do you know how old I’ll be by the time I learn to play the piano? Answer: The same age you will be if you don’t.” ~ Julia Cameron


We’ve all heard that it’s never too late to start something new.

This could apply to a relationship, hobby, or career path.

There are tons of exciting, thrilling, and adventurous aspects of life that we’d all like to explore, right? Yet, we often resist, overcomplicate, or judge something to the extent that starting a new chapter in our life loses its appeal.

I learned a lesson about this recently, and thankfully, I was able to work through my resistance.

I am currently getting my butt kicked by a few of the new activities I am participating in. The one I want to talk about here is The Artist’s Way course, created by Julia Cameron.

The course is offered as a spiritual path to higher creativity. Although I’m not one for spirituality on most days, I find that Cameron’s lessons are universal and opening me up in a practical way.

Cameron’s process has stirred up far more of my repressed artist than I can believe. I knew before I jumped into the course that I had a newfound love for creative writing, but the effort I was putting into it had become half-hearted in the months leading up to the course. I knew what I wanted to be doing, but I didn’t know why. Without that, I was having a hard time getting my ass in gear and doing the work I had committed to do.

Then something came up about a month ago that surprised the heck out of me. Part of the course is to engage in Artist’s Dates, where the student takes themselves on a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition. I had done a few by this point, and they were nice, but nothing had really wowed me yet.

On this cold, grey Sunday afternoon, I decided to stop in at a local photography gallery for what’s called an Artist Gallery Conversation. This small studio in the center of town was something that I’d passed countless times and never paid a bit of attention to.

Why now? Well, I was curious.

I will admit that photography never struck me as much of an art form. What’s so artistic about pointing a camera and taking pictures of what’s already there? It’s not creative like painting, making music, or sculpting—right? (Spoken like a true skeptic with no hands-on experience.)

Still, I decided to check it out. I was committed to opening myself up to new possibilities by exploring aspects of my life that were blocked and repressed by a lifetime of conditioning.  

I arrived just before the presentation began and opened the door. I was feeling all sorts of jittery as I stepped inside the small room that was already packed with people. I looked around and no one paid me much attention at first. I’d say the average age in the room was 60 years old, and I’m being reserved on my estimate.

I had to repress the urge to turn around and get the hell out of there. Here I was, a man of 38 with a thick beard in my casual weekend attire. I am guessing that the owner of the studio probably thought I was there to plow the parking lot or something. Nevertheless, he greeted me warmly and offered me some wine—a welcoming gesture that helped to settle my apprehension.

I sat back against the wall and did my best to settle in to what I assumed would be a total waste of time.

The elderly lady seated in front of me turned to ask if I was there to see Paris or the photography. I knew that the theme of the presentation was titled “Paris. Its Mystique: The Extraordinary in The Ordinary,” but her question caught me off guard. I replied that the real Paris must be incredible, but I’d settle for photos for the time being. We talked a bit more for a few minutes while the presenter finished setting up.

I can’t even begin to explain how inspired and mesmerized I was over the next hour. The colorful images displayed on the wide screen showed me a side of art that I’d never witnessed before. Frankly, I’d seldom slowed down long enough to integrate this kind of art into my awareness.

As I continued to sit there, I realized that I was no longer there to see Paris—I was there to see the art of photography.

I hung around for a little bit after the presentation, exploring the gallery and soaking up bits and pieces of conversations. A piece of paper taped to a box of prints caught my attention. When I read it, I knew that I had arrived in an environment that encourages artists to send stories out to the world and celebrate humanity in all its forms:

When I walked out of the studio, I couldn’t deny that something new had opened inside of me. I realized that this was a new hobby I wanted to explore—as soon as I got a camera.

Yet, something interesting happened over the course of the month. I began to have doubts.

“Music and writing are the only creative things that I feel capable of doing. I will suck at photography.”
“Who the heck do I think I am to try to start something completely new at this stage in my life?”
“I’m almost 40 and being busy is a gross understatement for me. Why would I want to make my life even more complicated?”
“I have better things to spend my money on than a $600 camera kit that I might not even use.”

But here’s what else happened: I started to find myself seeing scenes that I wished I could photograph with something more than an iPhone.

The deer stepping through fresh, powdery snow on the edge of the woods. Her white tail raised high behind her, enticing the young stag to follow.
The sunset peeking over the horizon of the rolling mountain range and casting orange and red streaks into the morning sky.
The full, silver moon creeping behind wispy mysterious clouds.
A panhandler with clean hands and trimmed nails begging for change.

Something was different in the way I saw everyday things. Colors sprang to my attention and I began to see layers and depth in any image that I looked at. So, after a surprise bonus from work, I was able to buy my first professional camera.

Most of us know it’s never too late to start. The key is not just knowing it, but doing it.

I look forward to getting some of my own photography on my blog and Instagram feed. Yes, I know it will be amateur at best—and I’m okay with that.

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