It’s almost one year since I finished my degree and was sent out into the real world. I feel that I’m still adapting to this, and it doesn’t yet quite feel normal for me. Halfway through my degree I took a year out, but during that time I had the security of knowing that I had my education to go back to, and that was definitely a comfort. The time seems to have flown by, even though I am still in a period of adaptation.
It makes sense that I’m still adjusting – until this point I’ve spent the majority of my life in education, so it’s no wonder it’s a bit strange to have this missing. In quiet moments at work, I often think of what I was doing at university a year ago, and how happy that made me. It’s quite hard when you’ve had the opportunity to devote yourself to the thing you love, and suddenly that’s not what happens anymore. I really miss being a student, and the freedom I felt with that. Working for a living feels so much more restrictive, especially after taking a degree which allowed me to use my time so flexibly.
Being released into the world has made me do more to promote myself and my work, even when it’s sometimes a struggle to fit this in between my day job. I think graduating made me suddenly see myself as a professional person, and made me act more like a professional person.
Although I made some efforts whilst I was still studying, the amount I do has undeniably increased. I was more focussed on my education for most of the time whilst I studied. I took some steps to promote and sell my work whilst I took a year out, and I feel that these efforts taught me lessons that have benefitted me more recently. Being forced into a non-creative environment has really enhanced my desire and compulsion to be involved with art and creative practices. It’s like art is a magnet for me. I’m doing things to push my work and my career forward, despite the time constraints that mean I have less time to concentrate on actually producing work.
As frustrating as recent months have been, in that I no longer have the constant involvement with art I had as a student, it’s reassuring to feel the art world pulling me back. This seems like confirmation that art is what I need to be doing, and that I’m on the right track.
As time goes on, I also become more and more sick of working every day in a non-creative environment. Maybe this has also motivated me to push my career forward as much as I can. Although I feel that I probably could have accomplished more, I do feel proud of the efforts I’ve made since graduating, and the progression I’ve made. This is not just in terms of the exhibitions or publicity I’ve had, it’s also in regards to the work I’ve produced, and the development and progression of my ideas. I feel that in recent months my work has become more conceptual, as well as the other advances I’ve made.
The novelty of my day job has definitely worn off for me, after 10 long months. My dissatisfaction is compounded by remembering that, one year ago, I was taking part in degree shows and frantically finishing my work, doing the things I really want to do as a career. It sometimes seems plain cruel that I was able to devote several years of my life, whilst studying, to the subject matter I love, and now that’s over with.
I’m realistic enough to know that at this point there’s no way I can make a living as an artist, but I would absolutely love to work in an art gallery, and to feel more connected to the art world again. When I visit or take part in exhibitions, or talk about art with people who share my passions and ambitions, I feel much more at home, and I feel more comfortable. I’d love to go back to that environment full-time.
At the time that I graduated and was looking for work, I didn’t see the point in looking for exclusively art-related jobs, as there just isn’t enough for the demand. I’m lucky to have found stable employment so quickly after finishing university, but upon reflection I think this past year might have been easier if I’d had a job related to art. I’d have been in my comfort zone, and I expect I would have enjoyed the past year more.
I now feel that I want to start looking for work in the art industry much more seriously than I did previously. I really think I’d feel more satisfied if all the work I did was orientated around art, not only the practical work I make. I really think this is one of the easiest and most obvious routes to making myself feel happier. The problem is that I want to do this, whilst at the same time looking to taking part in an artist’s residency in autumn. That certainly hinders the job search.
The past year has definitely been a time of change, and a time of confusion and turmoil. I don’t think this is exclusive to me, or to people involved in the same things as me. I think this applies to many people of my age, and at a similar stage of their life as I am. Everyone I speak to seems to feel a bit unsettled and lost.
It seems reasonable to feel kind of confused when you’re just starting out in the real world, and trying to find your place, regardless of your interests, job, or ambitions. The state of the economy puts a lot of people in a difficult position, in that they can’t do the work they’d really love to do, plus a lot of people of my age don’t even know what they want to do yet. I’m very fortunate that I do have a clear idea of what I want, and have done for many years. A lot of people seem to feel very mixed up, and have been struggling since they graduated.
Feeling lost and anxious obviously isn’t pleasant, which is why I’m thinking more of finding employment in the art world, and feeling just as connected as I did a year ago. When I’m not actively producing work, or involved with exhibitions and art, I feel like I’m wasting my time. Being employed in this field would surely ease these feelings. I’d really like a greater sense of fulfilment in my life.
The past year has certainly not been the easiest in my life, and has been a time of change and upheaval. In comparison to the final year of my degree, and the years before that too, it’s miserable. There have been positive and negative aspects, and I still feel that there’s plenty of room for improvement and progression. I feel that my sense of ambition may have intensified in the past year. This is a positive thing, but makes my current working situation all the most frustrating.
I hope to keep my career moving in the direction I want it to, and I hope that, seeing as a day job is a necessity, I can find something that makes me happier than my current job. I think this will greatly improve my circumstances, and will help me to build connections that will add to the progression of my art career.