We’ve been hearing the phrase “time is a commodity” a lot recently. In the past, when we’ve engaged on this subject with others, we’ve all nodded our heads in agreement. This statement made sense to us in theory, but it was only recently that we absorbed the true value of its meaning.
When we were younger, we didn’t give time a second thought. Well, if anything, we were in a hurry for time to pass, as we were eager to move up to the next grade, go to art school, move to a city, and then what?
After college, we had no idea how to become full-time artists. This wasn’t worked into the curriculum of a fine arts degree. We didn’t know any artists who could be role models.
The path to becoming professional artists was unclear, and the bushwhacking was left to us.
We knew enough to decipher whether or not something was a stepping stone or a whim. We spent the first part of our lives trusting that with time, everything would work out. Having trouble affording the rent on our apartments while paying on our student loans, we took jobs that took us further away from our dreams of becoming a painter and a printmaker. We experienced the frustration of having to choose which bills were more urgent, and which would have to wait until the next month. While riding the bus between multiple jobs, we’d pass artists’ studios in the warehouse districts, and promise ourselves one day our creative lives would start too.
Eventually, we became so disheartened by the directions our lives were going, that we recognized we’d have to launch or it would be too late. We visualized our dream scenarios, where Lori had her studio with paint-splattered floors, surrounded by large canvases stacked against the wall. Lisa envisioned a studio with her own printing press, a wall full of carving tools and wood shavings covering the floor.
The distance between where we were and what we wanted felt insurmountable.
Before we knew it, we felt the expansiveness of our twenties disappear. Gradually, we found new jobs in the realm of creativity. After several years – including one spent earning extra money by eating only powdered soy for a year as twin subjects for cancer research – we quit our day jobs. It would be the last time either one of us would receive a regular paycheck.
With several years of methodical decision making, we found ourselves moving in the direction we always dreamed, and no longer uttering words like, “just trust, some day, keep moving” – words that felt empty but consoled us.
It’s been argued the most valuable thing any of us will ever have in the world is time.
It’s been argued the most valuable thing any of us will ever have in the world is time. How it’s spent can be used a million different ways. And then, those of us who are living with a disease or are ill in some way can only hope for time – more of it, or for it to pass quickly. We both have experienced this kind of urgency of time, where we weren’t sure how much we have left, or if we even wanted to have any more time. Thankfully, life continues so we’re not frozen in place – everything changes. As a result, when we find ourselves in a difficult place, time helps us through, whether it’s emotional or physical.
We mention all of this because a few days ago, Lori was standing at the sink of our studio, washing out the brushes she’d been using to paint that day. It was like muscle memory, as the motion of washing the brushes reminded her of when she was a student, working under the tutelage of her painting professor. She remembered everything about that time – being an insecure art student, falling in love with the smell of paint, and the feeling of working in a studio. When her focus returned to the brushes in her hand, she felt extremely happy with the work she did that day, and said, “I’ve been waiting 20 years for this.”
With that statement, we found ourselves reflecting on the decades of work we put into arriving at this moment. As we looked back, we came to realize we’re finally feeling stable enough to now build on the work of making art, instead of working just to ‘become artists’. We know there will always be great highs of experimentation and opportunity, as well as deep lows of insecurity, fear of not being able to express ourselves, and the constant concern of not making the month’s bills. But at least now, we know we can trust in the change the passing of time brings. We now understand time is something we cannot control. Instead, it’s something for us to be mindful of how it’s spent. To this we say, “it’s about time!”