Prior to embarking on my Moving On journey in September 2019, I had abandoned all my creative dreams, ideas, goals and ambitions. For the past 25 years I kept them well hidden under a lock and key of self doubt and fear of not being able to make a living through my writing and artistic endeavors. At 23, I graduated with a Degree in Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design.
My final exhibition work was inspired by a book of short stories that I wrote and included a range of large suspended photographs of x-rayed images, and a triptych metal frame containing text and images sandwiched between sheets of Perspex. The graduate show was reviewed in the Arts section of the Sunday Times.
The art critic stated that I was an artist ‘who bit the bullet’. I was not familiar with that saying and had trouble looking up its meaning. These were the days before internet search. My tutor told me that ‘to bite the bullet’ was to be brave and courageous and to take on and overcome challenging and difficult situations. After graduating from Art College, I found myself cast out into the real world of survival and trying to find a job.
I was living the cliché life like many of my contemporaries, living on the dole, in a damp bedsit in Dublin signing up to do soul destroying FAS courses and feeling I had no worth. Many of my fellow talented art students who were full of creative energy and positivity about their future artistic careers, became disillusioned and defeated, abandoned their dreams too.
What did my years of studying art matter? Where was I going? After being belittled by employment officers, at meetings to justify my attempts to seek work, I had had enough and I refused to feel like a failure. I just couldn’t take feeling worthlessness anymore. I decided to take off and chance a new life in London where I embarked on a career in advertising, sales and marketing.
London was a cultural melting pot, fast and exciting. I had to work with nasty cut throat people, dog eat dog and all that, but I soon toughened up to survive. I did make some wonderful life-long friends and had a great social life going out, clubbing, visiting galleries, opera, theatre, musical shows and travelling around the world.
Looking back, I realised I never wanted to feel useless again like the way I was made feel back in the dole office in Dublin. I put all my energy into working and earning decent money, but unfortunately my creative being had perished and I resigned to the fact I would never write or create again. When a film and TV producer showed interest in my writings, it was suggested that I get a literary agent.
After reading my work, the agent contacted me saying he liked my work and wanted to meet to discuss my ideas for writing a book, however, I was overwhelmed and believed I wasn’t capable so I never arranged to meet.
Back to today, I am blessed to be home in Kerry with my lucky husband Paul. I am fortunate to have the luxury to afford, for once, not having to work and to be at home to raise my children. Last summer, I started to investigate part time job opportunities. However, through some Divine intervention- well actually it was my friend Caitriona- I heard about Moving On. She was starting the ‘Moving On’ course and put me in contact with Lisa Fingleton.
When I spoke with Lisa, she was so good at listening and had a great energy about her, that I found myself talking for the first time in ages (well more like confessing) about my writing and creative ambitions. I hadn’t opened up to people for a long time about being an undercover creative.
Imagine that I had felt such shame and embarrassment about going to Art College and writing that I never spoke about it. To see what strength and resilience I had built up through the years. I have now turned my ‘River of Life’, into my ever flowing, pollution free ‘River of Belief’. The computer course was a great help to update my IT skills along with the CV writing advice which are helpful to the projects that I am currently working on. I am happy to say, that yes, I am a writer and an artist and I am currently writing my next book of short stories. I am bubbling and alive with loads of ideas for my ongoing writing and arts projects. I was invited to read a selection of my stories, along with a slide show exhibition of images, at the Dingle May ‘Feile Na Bealtaine’ at the Dingle Library this coming May.
With the latest global events, the festival has been cancelled. However, the Dingle library has offered me a number of evenings to recite my writings and slide show when they re-open. I want to guide, help and mentor artists to successfully promote and monetise their work. I am also investigating projects that are community led that preserve and document the stories and memories of local people, places and events. I feel sad at how much we have lost as a society when we do not nourish our artistic community but instead place more emphasis and worth on commercial and material achievements. I feel that if I had had the support as an art graduate my life would have been more creatively rewarding, however here I am now and I am ready to ‘bite the bullet’.
I am so grateful to Lisa Fingleton who has been so understanding and instinctual in knowing how best to support me in achieving my goals, Lisa O Flaherty for all her practical help support and advice, Dee Keogh and her superb ‘Steps’ programme - how lucky I am to have participated in her course, for her experience, stories, generosity, time and knowledge and for teaching me how to mine my own gold, to stop the story and start my own!
Sheila Martin for your help and input, Gosia for your beautiful energy and inspiring stories and affirmations, and to all my ‘Moving On’ pals you are all truly wonderful stars keep dazzling and keep shining.
It was wonderful to meet such amazing, strong, capable and fun-loving women in my group that I could trust and talk to without judgement.