Your life – this journey, this adventure – starts off a blank canvas. It’s living that turns it into art. So often people lose sight of that. Just as paint-by-number kits don’t teach a kid to be an artist yet produce a product that is a facsimile of art, life can be lived by the numbers.
You ask what other people are doing when it’s time to make a decision. You let other people’s preferences guide you. You don’t make decisions but flow from moment to moment doing what seems easiest. You do what’s normal. You do what’s average. You chase the Jones. You make the Top Ten lists your into guidebook: vacations, outfits, books, wines…
But life is a canvas. Paint. Make it beautiful to you. You’ve got great taste, I promise. And the best news is that it’s not a watercolour – it’s a thick, gloppy oil painting that you can overpaint if you want to. If at 23 or 11 or 46 you decide your art isn’t making you happy, you can change it. Get a palette knife instead of a set of brushes. Make it into a multi-media art piece. Trade it in for sculpture tools.
I’ve just had a conversation with a mom who’s thinking of pulling her boy from school. It’s one of my favourite conversations to have. I get to tell a parent that she can do whatever she thinks will make that child a happy, functioning adult. That the sky is the limit, or maybe the furthest reaches of the galaxy. That she doesn’t have to paint by the numbers, no matter what the system says, no matter what the worrying reports about the state of education say, no matter what anything says but her wisdom as a parent.
My kids don’t look like they’re supposed to, when you peel them back and parse them down to educational data points. It’s hard to say if they’re succeeding or failing to help Canada in the international education rankings. It doesn’t make one iota of difference to me. I don’t care what’s average. Have you looked around at the state of things? Average isn’t a goal I’m going to set. I’m not raising someone I’m hoping can slot into a list of ‘Top Ten Jobs for the Future’ or ‘Top Vacations for the Gap Year’ or even ‘Top Ten Paper Airplanes to Try’.
My kids are emotionally whole. They’re not wearing labels. They’re artists painting their own canvases, learning skills, messing up, repainting, and standing back to get a good look. They’re messy and they’re tidy.
It’s art. It’s unpredictable. That’s life.