I follow a climber named Jeremy Collins on Instagram (@jercollins_com). Along with being a climber, he’s also a filmmaker, an artist, and a business owner. Basically, he is an awesome dude who’s living the dream. His latest endeavor is a collaboration with a brand new wine company named Liberated Wine as a “brand ambassador seeking to live a liberated life.” They made a short film about an art installation he did in Sedona as he tells the story of how he became Liberated. Check out Jeremy’s Liberated story here.
As he shared his short film on Instagram, he asked his followers to share their own Liberated story with him for a chance to win a little swag bag. I don’t have an amazing story to tell, so I didn’t participate, but it did get me thinking about the rut I had been in for almost a decade and how I liberated myself.
After a brief career as an artist—from birth to age 9—I decided that I wasn’t an artist and I should pursue something more concrete. Like science. I was good at science. I enjoyed learning about how things worked and what all the little parts and pieces of things looked like. I daydreamed about being an archeologist; toothbrush and dental pic in hand, slowly making my way through the dirt to the Wooly Mammoth or the ancient city buried below. I put all thought of art out of my head, because I wasn’t the artistic one in the family. There can only be one, maybe two, but never three in a family and I was odd one out.
I worked in the plasma business for several years after a failed stint in college, before the Universe told me I’d had enough. I decided then that I would rather just work with plants, so I started working in nurseries and went to school for an associates degree in Horticulture. I do love plants, but I knew that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do for a living. I had never finished my bachelor’s degree, so I thought “What the heck!” and went back, changing my major for the fourth time, this time to Environmental Studies. I thought I was going to learn how to be an Eco Warrior and save the earth. But it turned out to be super science-y, but at that point, I just wanted to get the degree no matter what it was in, so I put my head down and forged ahead. I did well and it wasn’t so bad, except for the disaster that is me and Chemistry, but I passed it and that’s all that matters. Never in a million years did I expect to—nor have any desire to—work in chemistry and guess where I ended up? In an environmental lab doing chemistry. Shit.
And that’s where I stayed for eight long, torturous years. I was getting older and I felt as if I couldn’t keep changing direction. It paid well. It had good benefits. Wasn’t that what people say one should want? And I tried to stick with it. I’m pretty stubborn that way, but something was creeping up on me. Something I couldn’t ignore. My little nine year old creative self was sick and tired of me messing around with all the logic and data and rules upon rules. I tried to inject art into my work. I put up photographs so I could escape into them. The owner didn’t approve. I tried writing while I was waiting for the chemistry to do its thing, but I was chastised for it. I tried reading. That was a big no-no. We couldn’t even listen to podcasts or look stuff up on the internet. The lab was all about the science and I wasn’t. They decided that “it just wasn’t working out.”
I decided after getting fired that I was going to try something totally out of my comfort zone. I’m pretty opinionated about the design and usability of websites and social media and feel that companies don’t put as much effort into it as they should, so I thought I’d give web design a shot. One of the first classes that I would need to take was a vector class. I didn’t even know what vector was and I was shocked to learn it was drawing on the computer. I hadn’t drawn anything much since fourth grade and now I was taking a class that required sketchbooks and coming up with designs. What had I gotten myself into?
I was a bit resistant for a while. My teacher was very hands off. “If you don’t know how to do something, look it up on YouTube.” I was frustrated. I felt like I sucked. I felt like I needed more guidance and coddling. I felt like I was going to fail. But as frustrated as I was, I was equally excited about the projects. I loved coming up with ideas. I loved seeing what worked and what didn’t. I even loved the feedback, because I had no ego in the game. I was brand new and anything I did was better than I’d done before. I allowed myself to be new. I allowed myself to be a beginner and not be great, but not be so bad either. I was liberated. No longer did I think that my only option was doing what I despised. I had found something that made my heart sing. I was creating and nobody told me I sucked or made fun of me or told me I couldn’t do it. For so long, I had done things that were so wrong for me and now I was doing something that felt right. And with a little more practice, I might just end up being pretty good.