By Betty Slade
I looked at the fresh faces, so young, so hopeful, their futures ahead of them. In their photos, the class of 2021 showed their fun personalities, full of creativity and life. A written line under each image told of their hopes and dreams — enjoying a gap year, working and saving money, entering college in full steam, and others choosing to breathe before moving on to a bigger world in front of them.
After a year of crazies thrown at them, resilient, they seemed to have weathered well. Looking through the class pictures, my Sweet Al commented, “The world will offer them everything. It depends on what they choose.”
It must feel daunting to some. For others, it means freedom and growing up. I remember when I graduated, feeling like I was wearing my mother’s high heels and looking ridiculous. I was stepping into a world too big for me. Then came the time it seemed to be a world too small and my shoes pinched my toes.
I said to Al, “From my experience, it will take a lifetime for them to know themselves and how they are put together. Some will have to choose it all. They’ll have to try on every shoe in the store to see if it fits and if they like the color.”
A quote from the class of 2021, Mark Twain writes: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
My Sweet Al asked if I was satisfied with my life and what I’ve done.
I told him, “I didn’t get to wear stilettos with red soles, but I did do all I wanted. I picked a career of the heart, not of financial gain. No complaints.”
Now I wonder, why did I have to do it all? I don’t know if I chose art, or art chose me, but I had to try it. Anyone with a creative bent knows how it is in the world of art. An abstract world full of beautiful colors, over-the-top designs, new fads and ideas all beckoning to be chosen — no boundaries, no absolutes, no track to run on and no one but yourself to tell you if it’s right or wrong.
Sometimes I ran toward trouble, big trouble. Other times, my choices brought me to my knees. By God’s grace, I climbed out of the hole I fell into and kept walking.
I learned don’t discount the people you leave behind, the ones who love you and have your back. You will need them one day.
When I decided to go the way of the wholesale market, my family worked nonstop beside me. I went to the wholesale show in Dallas; afterward, there were orders to be filled. My family had my back, came alongside and delivered me.
If you are like me, your family, friends and those who love you will be drug along your path. They will kick and scream, but they won’t leave you when you have to try on every shoe in the store.
In 1980, I sold investment art for a chain of galleries. Three years into a successful selling job, I learned I had been selling fraudulent art when the police came into the gallery and confiscated all of it. Facing prison and gigantic attorney fees, I became a target and later a star witness. A year preparing for trial, the gavel came down and 40 national galleries fell to the ground. I retired my salesmen shoes and returned to painting my own art.
Soon after, my signed and numbered prints sailed around the globe for 10 years on the Princess cruise liners. In several foreign countries, my art has traveled further than I have. I opened a signature retail gallery in Albuquerque, walked and bowed to the whims of interior decorators as they adorned homes and businesses’ walls with my art.
After 45 years of painting — watercolors, oils, acrylic, chalk — I came to an end of my days of painting. Writing was breathing down my neck and I couldn’t run from it. I had to choose. I hung up my painting shoes and began a career of comfortably sitting at my computer in my house shoes.
Never leaving the path of the creative, I took on different expressions. I have always honored the creative gift inside, whether creating, producing or selling.
A new door opened and I walked into a world of words and deadlines. Why did I have to write? Why did it take a lifetime to discover the craft of writing? I don’t know, but it was the next step into my future. I’ve walked the full circle and come to a place where I have come home to the true me.
To the graduates from the class of 2021, take it from me: If you’re 18 or 80, there are a lot of unexpected twists and U-turns. Side roads, off ramps and freeways, they’ll all seem necessary to get you to where you are supposed to be going. Stay true to yourself and that glorious gift in you.
Final brushstroke: All my yesterday adventures have become my today’s words, and how I express who I am and what I know today. Stilettos didn’t seem too high yesterday, but today, 1-inch heels trip me up. I’m glad I did what I did; I tried on every size and every color in the store. No regrets.
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