Friday, July 21, 2006

"Tracy Doesn't Apply Herself"

Individuality, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

Whenever someone compliments me about being able to accomplish so much or about being good at something, I have to struggle to just say thank you. It's hard to get that out of my mouth when all I can hear are my inner voices screaming with laughter.

You see, I have always been a slacker. As a kid I wasn't really given much support or direction about making an effort or finishing something that I had started. My report cards from grade school through high school were always filled with comments like, "if only she would apply herself" or "if Tracy would work harder, her grades would be higher." I coasted through school just getting by, telling myself that grades didn't matter. I did a little bit better in college, mostly because I loved being immersed in art subjects and didn't have to worry about silly little things like math, my long time nemesis. But again, I often gave up a grade, or didn't finish a project, by coming up with some excuse or another, when really the reason was that I just didn't feel like working that hard. At that point I preferred sitting at a bar with friends and a cheap beer. Now that I am older and supposedly wiser, I think that I was afraid to work hard (plus I was and still can be very lazy-I just handle it better now). I still haven't figured out exactly why I was afraid, but I suppose it had something to do with leaving my old and unwanted life behind and moving towards a new, more (hopefully) successful one, and not knowing how to deal with all of the stress involved with that.

When I started working after college, it was the same. I did pretty well, but I always knew that I wasn't really giving anything all of my energy. I had all kinds of excuses as to why I couldn't finish a project or why the mats weren't cut perfectly (bad equipment, of course) or why the concept for the design wasn't very strong (client's fault). But a glimmer of change happened when Doug and I moved to Connecticut and I started my own little company, first selling holograms (an offshoot of Doug's old business) and then segueing into hand painted frames and clocks. I had to answer to myself and somehow that was what I needed. Soon our nephew came to live with us and that glimmer got a bit stronger. I could actually handle taking care of someone else!

But the real turning point for me came when I gave birth to our three children, in planned natural homebirths, with a midwife. That was the most empowering thing I had ever done for myself, and from then on it seemed that I could do everything that I wanted to and I could do it well. I embraced being a full time mother, learning how to cook, take care of the house properly and organizing our schedules. When I decided that I wanted to make really cool Halloween costumes and hand knit sweaters for the kids, I taught myself how to sew and knit. When I had the opportunity to do volunteer work with a non profits arts organization, no one was more surprised than I was, to find out I could be a good leader. When we remodeled a house, I supervised the whole project, top to bottom, and did it again for good measure, when we moved to our current home.

When I hear comments about how much I do and accomplish, I immediately remember the years and years of not pushing myself, of being super lazy, the feeling of how my real life was ahead of me and how I was never actually in it at that moment. And I feel like laughing at how different, yet the same I am. I still feel like life is just ahead of me, but I now have this overwhelming urge to do as much as I can, as well as I can, before it gets here.

PS. I am not suggesting that having children can always turn things around for a person. I think we can all think of instances where expecting that to happen can go terribly wrong, which also explains how we came to adopt our nephew.

PPS. I just have to mention that the painting I have posted is one of my most recent and favorite pieces. It's a grove of trees down the road, near town and I loved the contrast between the small blossoming tree and the other trees behind it. I have already painted another version of it and plan to do another larger one of it, altering some things in it slightly, of course.


KJ said...

We are such totally different people at different times of our lives. This past weekend with family, a d-i-l said I should please sit down and get some rest, and I replied "But this is what I do!" and wondered to myself how that came to be because I had to be the laziest kid ever! KJ... I like the subtle variations in that painting as well.

Bart said...

I love that pink.. it is so strong, draws my attention like a magnet.

Interesting thought about "being afraid of the future". I don't know why I was so uninterested at school. I had no idea what to do with the future - I still don't :-).
Maybe I tried to get attenion by having all those bad marks. Don't know. Think I waisted a lot of years at school anyway.

Bart said...

* attention

Tracy said...

You are so right, Karen, plus you managed to say in a sentence what took me a whole long post to describe:-)

Bart, you know, I never thought I was afraid of the future, I always thought I was looking forward to it, anxious to get away from the past. But the very minute I read the word afraid in your comment, I thought, duh! That is exactly what it was! Sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees and it takes a guy in Denmark to point the way. You are great!

Ed Maskevich said...

First, this is a wonderful painting. The rest of the post, I can only say tell me about it. I think someone told me it's called maturity. My daughters, aged 25 and 22, look at my wife and myself and wonder how we can do everything that we do and like KJ we say this is what we do!.

meno said...

I was the laziest child ever in middle and high school. I realize now it's because i was bored to death.

I think i am still lazy, but i do accomplish lots. But then, i could always do more. Although some days i don't mind if all i've accomplished in a day is to read a good book.

I do love this picture too.

Tracy said...

Hi Ed, Wow, this is what maturity is?! :-)

But what happens to all of those overachievers in high school? Do they keep achieving or do they burn out? I'd ask but I didn't really know any of them...

Menosblog, I used to just sit around and read all day every once in awhile, which I miss, but now if I do that now I get all stiff and my neck hurts and I keep falling asleep. It's always something:-)

Thanks for the compliments about the painting.

Lesly said...

Tracy - this sounds so like me ... 'Lesly could do better', 'could try harder', etc. But marrying out of school, having kids, moving around following work .... those early married years must have made me a bit more determined to achieve something!

I was basically unmotivated as a child. I've thought about it a lot over the years. I think deep down I believed that whatever I did it was never ever going be quite good enough. So what was the point?

But once I realised that I wanted to achieve things to please ME (and it didn't matter if it did not please everyone) then that all changed. I realised that I was intelligent, and that I could and would learn, have a career, teach, write, paint .... anything I wanted, as well as being wife and mother.

I always say to myself that I was definitely half asleep until I was 30!

Maybe there are lots of people like it ..... and maybe they are not so lucky and so never wake up to the real possibilities of who they are?

You paintings get better and better, by the way ... I can see why this is a favorite.

Lisa Hunter said...

Uh oh. I've been blaming my lack of productivity on having two kids, and here you are being so productive with three. Hey, maybe that's it -- maybe I need to have another... :-)

Lisa Call said...

A friend of mine relates this turning point for her as "getting a sense of urgency about my life".

I can't say I can relate as I've always been pretty driven. (I'm one of those overachievers you didn't know in high school).

But really what I wanted to say "yay for homebirths"!

Tracy said...

Hi Lesly, Although I was fairly motivated, I can relate to what you went through too. Especially about waking up at age 30, that's about when it starting working for me as well.

Lisa, Uh, seems to me that you sure get a lot accomplished for anyone let alone someone with two kids. I didn't even realize you had children.

Lisa, Are you as driven now as when you were younger? I have often wondered if that changes when one has that at a younger age. Thanks for the cheer about home birth! It was so awesome and I loved every bit of it!

Lisa Call said...

I think I'm more focused than I used to be, probably just as driven to do as much as I can every day.

For me as I get older I feel I have a clearer sense of direction. While I don't always put all the effort into a worthwhile goal I think I've gotten better at identifying what is truly of value to me.

Yep 2 kids - #2 was born at home and I agree - great experience. I posted some of their creative efforts on my blog late last night.