In The Pursuit Of Happiness

In May, I took myself on a little “me retreat” where I ended up taking a painting workshop. I thought it was going to be an instructional class and I was pretty excited about that because I’d always wanted to learn how to paint, but it ended up not being that at all. If you haven’t read any of what I wrote about it (it’s a three-part series) you can just scroll down and see them. They’re my most recent posts.

One thing the instructor told us during that weeklong experience, was not to comment on anyone else’s paintings. This workshop wasn’t about what was being painted or how well, it was about having a way to express yourself, and any input from others could and would affect how you do the whole process. While I was there, I think I did about eight paintings, one of which I shared in my final blog post about the experience. I’ve been excited to continue this journey in finding a thing that I enjoy and to have a creative way to express myself. In that process over the last couple of weeks, I decided to share a couple of photos of those paintings here and on social media. After my three blog posts about finding this creative thing that made me happy, I’ve heard from a bunch of people who were inspired to find their own creative thing and how happy it has made them, so sharing my continuing journey felt like a good idea.

I’ve been on vacation all this week in Hawaii, where my California time zone brain hasn’t adjusted to Hawaii time zone, and so I’ve been wide awake at 5:30am every day. (Yes, that also means I’m dead asleep before 9pm. Life of the party, right here.) But the unexpected bonus of that is having lots of time in the early morning hours to paint something, which I knew would happen so I brought my supplies. Hooray for planning ahead! I’ve taken lots of scenery and greenery photos to reference once I get home, but I decided to paint a hibiscus flower I saw on the property where we’re staying because it’s right here. Painting has never been a thing I’ve felt needs to be perfect, and what I discovered after doing that workshop is I don’t want anyone to give me tips, advice, or instruction on how I should do this, or what I should paint next. This is 100% just for me so how I do it doesn’t matter at all. I’m not doing it to become a professional, and I don’t want to sell anything I’ve made. It’s all just for fun!

I think I worked on that hibiscus flower and its leaves for a total of 5 hours over two mornings and I loved how relaxing it felt to make it. When I finished my flower painting, I posted a picture of it on social media and I immediately regretted doing so. As soon as I posted it, there were comments praising how it looked, suggestions on who I should talk to for painting tips, links to instructional videos I should watch, and a few comments from people just trying to be funny and saying it looked like a monkey or an elephant or whatever. I know all of the comments came from a place of kindness, of support, and just saying something light-hearted to be silly, and nothing more (which is rare because the internet can sometimes bring out some pretty terrible people). But in all that, I was reminded why my workshop instructor said not to comment on anyone’s paintings while we were there all week. Comments, whether it be praise, constructive criticism, or even asking what a thing is in the painting, affects how we will express ourselves. Praise either makes us feel uncomfortable, or proud, or even instill a desire to perfect it so others will like it. Criticism, constructive or even in a joking matter, can make a person feel sad, ashamed, or embarrassed. Suggestions on what someone should do can imply what they are currently doing isn’t good enough, and that can be a real bummer. I received emails from people thanking me for inspiring them to do something creative but also for telling me how brave I was for posting my progress. So many people are afraid to share for the fear of criticism or rejection, which I completely understand. I didn’t even think that any comments would be made when I posted my paintings, which is so dumb on my part, because I did feel very uncomfortable with everything that was said. I didn’t post it for a reaction and it was foolish of me to not consider that when I posted it.

I love that I’m taking this journey for myself and I love that it has inspired others to find their own creative journey in whatever it is that makes them happy. I am even more inspired to continue this and branch out into other creative things because of everyone I’ve heard from and I love that too. But for me, I feel the best way to enjoy this journey is to just keep what I have created to myself. That way I can experience it the way I want without input from anyone. It’s human nature to want to encourage someone, whether we know them personally or not. That can be a wonderful thing, but in some cases, it isn’t necessary in pursuing something that makes us happy.

I am really looking forward to starting my next painting (flowers, sunsets, clouds, who knows!) but more importantly, I am more excited than ever at pursuing a thing that has brought me so much unexpected joy. And for those who shared with me their projects and their plans to pursue an old hobby or start a new one, thank you. You have inspired me so much and I am really grateful for that.

5 thoughts on “In The Pursuit Of Happiness

  1. This is the problem with the internet.
    You do something for yourself and want to share it, but no matter what happens there will be an (often) vocal group of people who try and give you grief for it.
    Its the same thing I feel Wil gets because of his online profile.

    Doing something you want to do is great.

  2. Oh, that we could all find our joy as easily as you found yours (once you set out to do so).

    I don’t think I’ll ever pick up a paintbrush, except maybe on an Esalen retreat. I know I’ll never write anything “more” than my blog posts.

    I sing, I dance, I play Rock Band drums. I took up crochet when the weather was cold. These things do make me happy, in the moment. I’d like to find some joy that will sustain.

    I’m very happy for you. Thank you for sharing the paintings that you DID share.

    1. The thing that I’ve really been aware of lately is something that makes one person happy doesn’t have to be for everyone. It’s awesome that you love to sing and dance and play drums in Rock Band and that may not be the same for someone else and that’s ok. It’s what makes us unique!

  3. How about this comment as my only one:

    I saw your painting, and it made me smile. 🙂

  4. This is both thoughtful and gracious, Anne. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on when to share– I love the spirit of contemplation it shows! I think you’re right that sometimes it’s really OK to keep some things for private enjoyment, private growth. I hope you continue to enjoy your painting and that it gives you exactly what you need.

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