Perhaps unwisely, I recently told my mother that a good friend of mine, Helen, who is an artist, was planning to visit from San Francisco and that I was planning to buy Helen a plane ticket as a gesture of goodwill. Helen had kindly offered to bring me a number of pieces of her recent photogravure work. Clearly this was not an arrangement that my mother felt comfortable with, but I don’t think it was solely because I was planning to buy the ticket. It was because Helen had cancelled her subscription to the way of life my mother felt comfortable with.
Working for years as a corporate attorney, Helen re-created herself to pursue her passion in fine art. She went outside the boundaries that so many of us are afraid to cross, challenging the status quo, as illustrated in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Bluebeard, in a conversation between the main character, Rabo Karabekian, and his wife.
“I always wanted to be an artist,” I said.
“You never told me that,” she said.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” I said. “Now I do.”
“Too late – and much too risky for a family man. Wake up!” she said. “Why can’t you just be happy with a nice family? Everybody else is.”
Be forewarned, those who do not live neatly packaged lives, who re-create themselves trying on different careers until they find the right fit, may it be an artist or a commodities trader, are at risk of being misunderstood. They risk being judged as rash and directionless. But not taking the risk to find your niche also comes at a price – one, I would argue, far greater than being misunderstood.