The Art of Regret

Last fall, I quit drawing lessons after seven long years of taking them.

I had first started to love drawing and art when I was very young, and though the scribbles done by my six-year-old self certainly were no Van Goghs or Picassos, I loved creating them so much that I asked to be put into drawing class.  Looking back, I definitely improved my skills a lot over the years, and had worked hard to get to the skill level I was at.  I was doing pretty well, all in all, so it made no sense for me to up and quit- yet that is exactly what I did.

 

Flash forward a year, and I’m in high school. I am so busy all the time, with a new assignment or test coming up every second day, that I seldom have time to just sit down and draw, especially without the benefit of private distraction-free classes.  Of course, life and time management are all about priorities, so technically I could make time to paint and draw if I really wanted to.  But I don’t.  I don’t, and I know I should, but I just don’t- and for a reason that I know perfectly well is completely illogical, yet still cannot shake.

 

I don’t draw that often anymore because of the exact same reason that made me quit in the first place: I will never be good enough.

 

When I quit drawing lessons over a year ago, it was out of frustration, self-doubt, and self-loathing.  My teacher had been giving me the same advice for years, yet none of it seemed to be going through into my head.  I was swarmed with mistakes and misjudgements all the time, and I was rarely satisfied with my progress.  Most recently, I had been stuck on one single painting for over two months, and it felt like I was just redoing the same wrong colours and lines over and over again.  Feeling like an absolute amateur and failure, I told myself that I didn’t even deserve to call myself an artist.  I wasn’t getting anywhere with anything, so I thought to myself, why even bother trying?

 

Now, seven years is a lengthy time to be working at something, and to tell the truth, I really wasn’t that bad at art after pouring that much effort and passion into it- I just couldn’t see it at the time.  I told myself that in the whole huge world full of amazing artists, my skill was equal to nothing and my artistic talent was even less; when I looked at my drawings and paintings, all I saw were flaws.  While I should have been priding myself for my hard work and learning, and encouraging myself to improve, I instead was comparing myself to other people and trying to hold myself to impossible standards.

 

I hated myself for not being good enough, and I hated art for being the reason I felt that way.  So, thinking that this would be the decision that would finally give me some peace of mind, I quit.

I had become so fixated on the feeling of being at a dead end that I forgot everything that had gotten me up to that point.  In the face of all these difficult emotions, my love for art was completely trodden out and replaced with fear of it; fear of failing at doing something that I should have been good at, fear of disappointing myself, and fear of creating something that I couldn’t be proud of.  But in reality, what I really was failing to do was seeing how far I had come, and how far I could still go.

 

Looking back on it now, I regret quitting so much for so many reasons.  I know that I took the easy way out, and I lost a valuable skill because of it.  Seven years of drawing lessons, of accumulating technique and knowledge, left to go to waste because I thought there was no point in continuing. I should have known that there will never be such thing as good enough, no amount of hard work that will bring you contentment, unless you allow yourself to feel good enough.

 

Mistakes are bound to happen no matter how much you try to avoid them.  No matter how smart, talented, or practiced you are, you will always experience feelings of inadequacy and insecurity at one point or another.  But in all this, what matters most is that you don’t give in to these feelings.  That you don’t quit, no matter what.  Because negative feelings and worries are things that will pass, but once you quit, you are giving up everything you’ve worked for up to that point, as well as the future of what could have been. And that’s permanent.

I’ve made another decision lately, hopefully one that will end in less regret and more happiness: I’m going to try my best to pick drawing back up.  I’m going to see if I have time to take art class as a course in school next year, because it’s something that I have really missed.  No matter what old doubts, fears, and insecurities coming niggling back, I’m going to try my best to best them and persevere despite them.

Finally, this time, I’ll remember why I want to make art in the first place.  Not because it’s something I have to be the best at- after all, art is so subjective that there’s literally no such thing as ‘the best’- but because it is something I love doing, and regret has taught me that if there’s one thing in life that we should never give up on, it’s the things that we love.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Regret”

  1. I’ve honestly never truly related to something as much as I have to this post. This year, I’ve been struggling with anything and everything I do, just because I’ve accomplished so much last year and now anything less than that is considered a ‘failure’. I feel stuck. With my art, my music, everything. In our society where everyone strives for perfection, I needed someone to go against the normal, to say it’s okay to make mistakes and that there is no such thing as ‘the best’. I’ve finally found that. Thank you for this post, I honestly cannot put into words how much this meant to me.
    (On another note, your writing is a honestly pleasure to read! I hope you continue to write in the future.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh gosh, thank you so much, that means so very much to me. I’m so glad that my writing could be what you needed, and I wish you the very best in your art and your music. Thank you thank you thank you!!

      Like

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