Once upon a time, there was an insecure and fearful young woman with high ambitions and daydreams that turned into goals she feared she would never accomplish.
Generally, she felt that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right. And to her, "right" meant "perfect." Obviously, no one is perfect. She is an intelligent woman and did not actually expect perfection from every task she set out to accomplish, but somehow she could never quite reach that level of self-satisfaction she so desperately craved.
Naturally, this led to her strong work ethic turning into self-induced pressure to perform while validation of her value was sought elsewhere. As you may have deduced, this does not set our heroine up for success.
This pressure carried over into her marriage and motherhood where any indication of not measuring up was internalized, leading to an erosion of her self-worth. Combining this dynamic with an emotionally and mentally abusive spouse was nearly the death knell for her.
As her marriage began to crumble, so did her sanity. Eventually, the husband noticed she was all used up and decided to leave. Any marriage ending is traumatic, though when it's a relationship since childhood - a partnership that spans all the formative years and the entirety of one's adult life and includes the addition of four beautiful souls - it's a true collapse of identity and life as it has always been known.
The escape from an abusive marriage should feel like being freed from a cage, but to her, it felt like being thrust into the world naked, alone, and abandoned. One day she would come to realize the inadvertent gift this was to her; however, now she had to find a way to get through each day.
A creative to the core, she turned to art to serve as her distraction. Watching her grandmother paint and playing with children's watercolors had been a favorite pastime when she was little. The comfort of nostalgia meant choosing to learn to paint with watercolors was the obvious choice. After all, she knew almost nothing about painting and this would give her plenty of content to fill her brain with in order to keep the darkness at bay.
What she didn't realize as she sought out on the quest of self-taught watercolor mastery was that the paint was really teaching her self-mastery.
With each new painting, she gleaned a new lesson. The blank canvas was a stark metaphor for where she was in life. Each new technique she began to explore revealed another pearl of wisdom.
The biggest secret to working with watercolors is to understand that the paint follows the path of least resistance and stays within the bounds of where the painter puts the water. To achieve the beautiful effects unique to watercolor, the artist must understand that the painting will never be the way it looks in their head and that you only control the water and initial placement of the paint. From there, it is a moving collaboration between artist and paint. The paint can be directed but not controlled; the artist must be flexible enough to maneuver with the paint to shape the painting into their vision.
Most artists will admit that often their paintings frustrate them, even during the work; sometimes, it's a struggle to see everything come together. It is quite rare that a painting ends up looking the way the artist wanted it to.
The artists that succeed will tell you that it doesn't matter because you keep going and you push through the frustration until you finish the painting. They may rework the painting or start over again and again, but those are the paintings you come back to later and derive the most pride and satisfaction from. If art doesn't push you, there is really no meaning in it and it is just a pretty picture.
No one -- not me, not you, not anyone -- can control what life throws at you. But you can choose how you react to it.
By choosing where you put your energy, you shape your reality. Don't wait to pursue your passions by following what makes you happy. You never know where it will lead, but the final image you create will be a marvelous artwork that reflects who you are when complete.
Sarah Vasquez is a seasoned photographer turned marketing and communications expert in the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle industries. She excels at building and strengthening brands and innovative content campaigns. Sarah's superpowers include understanding audiences and finding innovative ways to resonate with harder-to-reach groups through authentic brand storytelling and effective PR & marketing strategy.