For those of you who may not know, I’m an art teacher full time. I love it. I love the kids, I love my co-workers, and most days, I love going to work. That wasn’t always the way I felt, though. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I didn’t want to teach, I just thought that I needed to finish a few life agendas before I settled down to what I was going to spend the rest of my life doing. I wanted to get my Master's Degree in painting. I was good at painting, so I figured I could get into any Master's program I wanted fairly easily. My first try was a bust because I didn’t realize how competitive it was. I tried again, but still didn’t take it seriously enough. Then in 2006-07, I decided that if I was going to try this, I was going to go all in.
Art was bullshit. The entire art world was bullshit and was more about the letters of recommendations you had rather than your talent. Your hard work meant nothing next to someone with a good story. It was all a load of crap, and I felt like I was the only one who noticed it. Like I said, I was in a bad place. Then after a while, I just felt like maybe I was bullshit. Maybe I just wasn’t very good and trying to find excuses for it, falling into my own self pity and blaming others.
Then I watched Art School Confidential.
It’s hard to talk about Art School Confidential spoiler free, so I’m not going to. It also gets very repetitive and boring for me to just talk about the characters, but as I sat there watching it for the first time in 2007, fresh off of my art school heartbreak, two things in this movie spoke to me. The first were the older characters in the movie. John Malkovich plays Professor Sandiford, a “washed up” artist who is still trying to hold on and make a name, who also has some of the greatest lines in the movie. The second is the Art History teacher played by Anjelica Huston, and the last is Jimmy, played by Jim Broadbent. I saw my possible future in all of them and asked who I wanted to be. Did I want to keep going to art school and try to make it, knowing I could wind up as Malkovich, never knowing when to let go? Maybe I wanted to be Jimmy, an underemployed former grad who is angry that it never worked out for him. Or did I want to be Anjelica Huston, a teacher who loved her work and, despite her frustrations with teaching, gave it her best?