Fitting In as an Artist

All my life I never really fitted in. “For an artist, to be normal is a disaster.” – Joans Mekas

I wish someone showed this quote to me when I was 13 which would have probably saved me so many years of singing “who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me.”

Or maybe I’m missing the point – the point was for me to experience that or I won’t have any stories or lessons I can share with you today.

I was bullied when I was 12. I really loved to study then 🤓 and it was considered uncool. For so many years, I wondered. Did I study for the grades, for the applause or the merits 🏅🏆?

I look back at my figure skating ⛸️ journey which I rarely posted online and even hid the newspaper that featured them out of embarrassment but it brought me so much joy. Learning makes me feel alive and young. I am amazed that as I age and have more non-negotiable (in my values and principles)… there’s still a wee bit of me that’s malleable and hungry for new discoveries.

I cracked a smile when I found myself gobbling up tutorials and looking up articles the past few days 🤓💡.

Going back to the theme of my life I so badly wanted to fit in. My friends told me I was a very quiet girl in high school. I didn’t notice my mind was so noisy then. When I went to college, I found people who loved learning as much as I did and for the first time in such a long time, I felt normal.

I still tried to look normal: shopping for clothes 🛍️👗 to look as if I had a life but really, we spent our days in the library figuring out mathematical equations 🧮. On weekends, I did ballet and by Sunday night, I’d try to finish the 50 numbers of math problems as my legs were stretched on the dining chairs and my feet sore with a blister or two from dancing on pointe 🩰.


Even in ballet, I didn’t have the typical dancer’s body 💃. (3o lbs and x years later I would have laughed at how I gave this so much thought). I was never stick thin.

When I finally found some time to do part-time freelance work (I did this for 7 years before going full time), I found myself dressed in black 🖤 (a color I didn’t like) because everyone always wore black 👯 at art events. Of course not everyone, it’s just what I saw at the time.

When I presented my work, I always got comments such as “can you make your work less kiddie”. I’ve heard it so many times to the point that I no longer have any reaction. I, instead, find myself surprised when a client (just this past 3-4 years) is looking for something young and vibrant 🌈🎨. Young and vibrant. 😂 I would laugh to myself. I am nearly hitting my 40’s in a few years but the child in me never really grew up.

I finally realized how much time I was wasting when I was at my dad’s bedside. It was a clear message that life was finite and perhaps I could be less apologetic about myself.
Then I finally found a group of people who live the same child-like drawings ✏️ as much as I did. I thought I finally found my tribe – only to discover one day that they loathed my ways: some were anti-social media, some were anti-brand collaborations.

I felt like a hoax 🙁 (over an above) the impostor syndrome I already felt as an artist.

I felt so evil. I gave it so much thought then I realized I tried going back to my “why’s”. I am on social media because as an introvert, I love sharing but didn’t have enough courage to share.

I love working with brands too because after college, I’ve always loved the idea of a marketing team. At that time, brands were talking about their product features, competitive pricing etc but I saw this interesting segment where teams come together to make their brands more human – focusing on the experience and how it fulfils a certain need beyond just buying and selling. I really enjoy working with brands. For a few minutes, I get to pretend I’m part of their team.

I recall being at my first job. Reading about brand profiles that included tv shows and habits if brands were real people and that made me laugh & gave me so much joy.

I remember applying to ad agencies then but not getting accepted as I was too timid to be their frontline and in other FMCG companies even I was being hired. I couldn’t seem to have the courage to leave my current job because everyone felt like family to me already.

I remember being in Australia. My dad had cancer and I asked myself all my life I’ve always wanted to fit in and is this how I’m going to die? Hiding myself? Since then, I made a resolution: I gave away a lot of my clothes. I only have a few colourful ones. I retained more white tops so I didn’t have to worry about what to wear and how to match them.

I refused to have lengthy conversations or even contact people if all they were going to do was talk about other people if the intention was only to bring other people down.

I felt less apologetic if I was the only one wearing a bright yellow dress with an equally vibrant scarf.

But of course, from time to time, certain thoughts would bug me such as, “Why can’t you just focus on one medium at a time? Why is your feed a hodge podge of everything that you do?”

So going back, I found peace in this quote: ” for an artist, to be normal is a disaster.”

Here’s hoping that during this enhanced community quarantine, somewhere in between having internally panicking, having a hard time sleeping, wondering if you’d come face to face with death anytime, soon may you also find peace in yourself and appreciate every aspect of your journey in your life.

Happy non-eventful Thursday!


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Scroll to Top