Have you ever made a lifelong ultimatum? Some best friends vow to marry if they are still single by a certain age. Others promise to give up smoking crack cocaine when their kid is born. I promised to leave the corporate world at 40 to become a full-time artist.
Here I am. Two months shy of my 29th birthday, and I am leaving my job in advertising as Business Director. But why? How did I come to this? Is this the stupidest thing one can do in a downward trending economy (though, seemingly at a plateau and on the road to recovery)?
For years I have preached, “follow your passion. If you do what you love, you may take a pay cut up front, but in the long run, you will be happier and will probably earn more.” It was this idea, that propelled me from my job as a recruiter to my now, former job in advertising. I saw an opportunity, and I seized it.
Over the past two years I have lived in Stockholm, traveled to London, Vancouver, San Francisco, Florida and Los Angeles. We’ve had an audience with the best of the best, from consumer brand titans Porsche and Electronic Arts, to actress Cameron Diaz. Today, the agency I am leaving is booming and growing.
But again, something crept into my mind and could not be ignored. There were many moments of consequence, planting the seeds of change. A hockey friend and fellow artist, upon hearing my “paint at 40 scheme” simply asked, “well, if you know you want to paint, what are you waiting for?”
During an elbow bending session with an industry peer, after hearing me speak about my art for five minutes, he plainly stated, “well, it’s obvious you must be take some time to be an artist. The corporate world isn’t going anywhere, and a friend of mine who left the agency world to become an artist, returned and was even more successful.”
My close, and longtime friend Paul Ryan has been a steadfast supporter of my work, and he himself has begun to paint. Where would I be without my incredibly supportive, wonderful, beautiful and 100% unique girlfriend and companion Erin? She gave me a personal card on my first and last day of work – amazing woman. I’m fortunate to have an extensive network of caring and loving friends, and of course my family, whom I love with everything I have.
I cannot see into the future, if I could, I would copy the renderings of a simple invention like the paperclip, go back in time to present day and “invent” this relatively mundane consumer good and live in spoiled rich anonymity. Alas, this cannot happen. But what I can do about my life is what I do on a day-to-day basis.
So for now, I am going to paint. Every day. Around the city, in my studio, on vacation. Will my “career” go anywhere? How long will this last? I have no idea. Art, like anything in life, is subject to luck, fortune, the cosmos, fate, chance and mathematical odds. Will I be hanging in the Guggenheim, or will I be sweeping the floors of the MOMA? Could I end up back in advertising by the time my relatively meager savings runs out?
I am not going to worry about tomorrow. I am focused on today. Living the moment. I thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am, and for everyone that will be there for me in the future. You live, and you die. I will go knowing I tried to be a professional artist living in New York City.