Ok, I want to share a tip about something I’ve been thinking about. A tip I wish someone could share with me when I was a lot younger. I wish that someone told me this long before I went to my first school-day. And would have reminded me of this tip my whole life. Every day I went to school to do some assignments, I should have someone beside my shoulder whispering in my ear – “The grades don’t matter!”.
Yes, that’s my tip. The grades do not matter and I really mean it.
So how did I come to this conclusion? And what the €%@# does this have anything with art to do? Well I’ll explain myself.
First off, I don’t write here as often as I want to do. Often I really want to write about something but before I get started I already dismissed myself thinking it’s not good enough to write about if somebody reads it. And here is my biggest problem in my life.
I don’t know how many times in my life I want to create an artwork but usually just stand thinking about it instead of just doing it. I mean, if I take my blog writing as an example. Why do I even care if it’s not good enough? It’s my thoughts! And they are good enough for me to think about them. They aren’t special but nevertheless I spend time to think about them either way! So it has to be of importance to me, otherwise I would be bored about my own thoughts and just ignore them. And for the secondly, quite frankly I don’t have any readers except my boyfriend so why should I be bothered about readers that don’t exist? And if I get any readers in the future, why do I base my blogs on the opinion of others? The whole idea of this blog is that it supposed to be my view and my thoughts about art!
So to explain a little bit closer. My biggest problem is that I do care what others think about me and my artwork. And I’m convinced that I’m NOT the only one in the world with this problem, therefore I want to share my tip. But it’s not that easy as it sounds. Because the problem is much deeper than that. Or at least the impact of the problem is a lot bigger than it sounds by just one sentence. As matter in fact, the impact of the problem disturbs my whole artist career. And a small part of it, it disturbs my blog-writing.
So about the grades. I’m the type of girl who always had high grades. I was very successful in the school because I put a lot of effort in my schoolwork. Some times I was really bored with school and i really hated some teachers, but either way I been always determined that I wouldn’t give up or quit. I was never shy and I love to learn new things. I was probably the type of person who was called a nerd but never bullied of it. In fact, in my class we where 90% nerds. Of course we got “the cool kids” and they hated us others but we where the majority so we never got bothered by them. And in the nerd group, I wasn’t the best but I got the results what I and my parents wanted. I was focused to get my grades to the point that I had freedom to choose whatever college or opportunity that needed good grades. And I’m really blessed by this, because I can’t deny that my good grades have taken me this far. But what is my point by this?
Well, If you know me (which you don’t but I’ll explain) you would understand that I’m the type of person who gets the job done if you ask me. And I’ll do my best, whatever the reason is. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like the subject or not, I will find something interesting in it. Or I will do the job by force just to prove to myself that I’m not a quitter! Even if it takes a long time. Of course I’ve been given up some few assignments that I wasn’t able to finish in time due to the deadline because hey, I’m a human… Not a robot. But I promise you that I beat myself up badly by my failure. And by experience I’ll tell you, that my type of person (and I know there is a lot of these of persons out there) doesn’t need grades to do a good job, we’ll do it anyway. Either way, I had grades. And I know this doesn’t apply on every person out there who is like me. But for me, the grades become a challenge. Especially between my nerd friends. Who got the best grades? And the competition was on.
This competition had a much grater impact on my life that I gradually become “the nice girl syndrome”. Now, don’t misunderstand me! Grades only did not affect me to get to this state, I had a lot of other things in my life that pushed me to become who I was and am today! But we are going to focus only the impact of the grades in my life. And the grades had an important impact to my life shaping who I am today.
So the grades basically taught me that if I do the job good enough, I will get a reward from it. A reward from my parents, teachers will like me more, my friends will respect and like me and so on. Therefore I changed my focus. From “do the hard work and learn from it despite the results”, to “don’t care how you do it just get the best results”. But even if my focus changed I never cheated! Never in my life did I cheat on a test or an assignment, but yes, I got effective. Because I understand what a teacher want to hear. I know how a novel should sound or (here is the important one) how a picture should look like to get the high grades. So now, when I was younger, I got it. I combined my passion of painting and my searching for higher grades. And the result was 12 years in school, training of perfect realistic paintings. My grades got me to the point of skill-level that the teacher couldn’t give me any other grades than the highest. And that was even when I didn’t do the assignments I was supposed to do.
So fast forward to today. Today I’ve got big problems. Because the whole time in school I used a pin point focus to get every one around me to think highest, biggest and the best about me. I was surrounded by people who decided my future by my grades. And the grades decided where I would educate myself in my future.
Today, I’m lonely.
I don’t have any people to please anymore. I can’t get any higher grades. After my graduation I don’t have any teachers to decide my fate any more. Or wait, Now I lie. I do have teachers to please. As matter in fact, I want to educate myself in a Fine Arts academy. But I got denied, again. My problem? My former teacher that I know in the school says that I paint nicely, but not truthfully. And it shows.
So, here I sit. Years after my graduation from highschool. My high grades are useless in applying to a fine arts academy, because the only thing that matters to them is the artwork samples. And boy, haven’t I tried to please them, the jury in the academy with my expertise in realistic paintings?
But I know now. That fine art’s is not about how to paint the best photography alike painting. I have known that for years. But can I wrap my mind around it? No. Can I understand that fine art is maybe more about expressing your feelings than just be a pretty picture? Yes. Can I do it? No… Not yet at least. I’m too focused to paint what the jury want’s to see, than actually paint what I want to show as an artist in the future.
I hate just pretty pictures. I gag when I see “IKEA art”, because I can’t stand pictures that are just nice to look at. It’s nothing wrong with them but I don’t like pictures that’s cliché. But yet, when I do art I fail miserably. I fail so hard that even my own teachers don’t approve me to the schools I apply for.
I focus so much on creating the perfect artwork which makes me unable to “just do it” and see how it turns out. I often think of artworks that I want to do but dismiss them before I start because they are a waste of my time, they are too bad. What would my parent’s say about my artwork? I’m so focused to get high grades, so now, when I don’t have any teachers to get high grades from… I’m in a coma. I simply don’t know what to do, because nothing is worth it.
I wish that someone could have told the younger me, that the grades don’t matter. Because I would get the high grades automatically. If I had focused on the process of working.
By that I mean the working of work. That may sound silly, but it really is what it sounds like. Everyone have heard the common saying that is the path to the goal is the only thing that matters. And I agree… ca 70% of it, but that’s later on. And I want to go much deeper than that saying. What I really mean is that I think you should focus on the act of working. For example if you are walking towards your goal, you can gain much more experience if you take an active decision how you are taking yourself towards your goal. Are you going to run toward your goal? Why? Walk? Jogging? Which way are you going to take? If you are focusing on how you work your work, you learn much more of it rather than just doing it like a zombie. In my mind there is a difference, you can either work toward your goals or you can really work toward your goals. And taking active decisions about how and understanding why you’re working on your path to the goal gives you knowledge for the rest of you life. Of course you have to know your goals to be able to do this (therefore I only believe in ca 70% of the saying above, i.e. the path to the goals are important but not everything), otherwise you will stray around in nowhere with really determined steps. But my point is that if you know your goals, pay attention to the work you do. Because you are going to reach the goals eventually. Hard work pays of, you will get your rewards! Don’t care about that. And if it didn’t pay of? You obviously didn’t reach your goals yet, it’s just a setback in your path. But as I wrote earlier, pay attention to your work and really learn from what you’re doing. I’m ashamed of myself today, that a few years later I can’t remember anything about the subjects in which I had high grades.
And I strongly believe that I would not have such a big problem of working by myself today. Because every job get’s a result, good or bad. It doesn’t matter, because if it’s bad you can always start over. It’s not that hard. A failure is an experience. And I really wish that someone could have refocused my mind what really matters today, when I am actually an adult to stand alone on my independence. Work is what matters, not the result. You’ll get the results no matter what, don’t mind that, or at least do not focus on that.
Then of course there is a possibility that you learn something how it should be done even though you are a “zombie” in school. Yes, I learned how to write an essay so my teachers would approve it. But that’s not my point here. My point is to work for the sake of myself. To gain knowledge of a subject for myself. Not because a teacher asked me to write an essay about e.g. WW2. I can write an essay about WW2 to my teacher, but somehow I have known idea how to write an essay about a subject I decided to myself for myself.
But I do understand that not everyone thinks like me. Not everyone takes school like the competition of their lives. Someone need the grades. And the grades are there to check up on your education, to see if you lack any knowledge about something so you can correct it early before it’s too late. And it’s a good thing. But for me? It messed up my whole life. Because now, I have to do something new (paint for myself, for myself and no one other) and rehabilitate myself from a 12 year focus.
So, If you are a reader, who still is in school or a person with a “nice girl syndrome” or anyone who feels the same struggles as me in work-life, my tip is don’t focus on the grades. Work for yourself, and only for yourself, regardless of the subject. I believe you gain much more in life by learning from the work you do for yourself, instead of working for someone else or someone who is expecting something from you. What do I mean? Well, If your boss tells you to hammer a nail in to the wall. Learn how to hammer nails in to the walls. Do it for yourself, so you can hammer nails in to the wall for the rest of your life and use the knowledge to accomplish a temporary assignment from your boss. Do not just hammer a nail because your boss says so. To hammer a nail to the wall is a simple task to do. In fact it is so simple you can do without really putting an effort to it and you’ll probably not gain any experience by that. In the end you really won’t know anything about how to hammer nails with the right hammer, in the right spot on the wall or use the correct nail for the purpose.
Therefore, I really wished somebody had said to the younger me – “Grades don’t matter!” .
P.S. They who don’t know what the “Nice girl syndrome” is. Here is a good blog post to describe what it’s like: http://beingraluca.com/the-nice-girl-syndrome/ D.S.