Leaving a Quarter Life Crisis


Back in college, a student two doors down in my dorm was an amazing painter. Somehow he wasn't assigned a roommate, so he turned it into a paint studio. Under the loft of his bed he had his easel with his most current project.

His work was masterful. And every other day I'd peak in to watch the progress. He was trained in the ways of the classics, so he had multiple steps to make it come alive.

First he'd spend hours drawing out in pencil the characters, Leonardo Da Vinci style.

Then he'd be painting the work, except only in neutral colors, so the whole painting was perfect, except it looked like a 1940s photograph. He said that it was a part of the process – to get the contrasting, the vibrancy of life, correct.

Then (what seemed like weeks later) he'd begin oil painting with the true, rich colors. 

the underpainting
making more progress

I personally felt like an artist of sorts with my graphic design and photography classes, but this was astounding to me. The diligence, the perfection, and the time (just to 'dry' before the next coat) ... if there was a scale to measure art, to me, this was the real stuff. 



This memory hit me like a ton of bricks, while laying on my couch in angst in my mid-twenties. I have always been a strong believer in 'envision your life, and then go do it', but I was frustrated in trying to picture my life.

Of course I wanted it to be cool, fresh, fun, vibrant, exciting, just like the people I read about in books, on online videos and on Facebook. I wanted awesome.

Plus, I knew I could make my life exciting, interesting, watch-able to others. But something didn't fit right.

While I was couch-ing, this new thought arrived in my head – one I don't think my millennial brain had ever, in its life, considered:

What if my life is like a masterpiece painting?  
And what if I'm just in the middle of it?

I realized my social-media-centered picture of myself made me feel like awesome had to exist at all times right now in my life. But if that were so, it would be a series of polaroid pictures developing. New trips, clever jobs, little adventures of cool. 

Where as a masterpiece is hard. It takes time to study the human body and eye wrinkles. To sketch the hand and actually. look. like. a. hand. 

And then the tedious use of only neutrals, when the masterpiece is still undercover. Underground! No one should even be looking at it yet! And at the same time, it's perfecting, maturing, coming to life. 

I can live a life of continuous blips of awesome, wondering at all times what my life "looks like" to others, and styling it accordingly . . .


My greatest reward can be when I'm 'all grown up' . . . when I look back and observe how magical, how masterful my life has developed.

Knowing that it was one that took time to study, sketch and purpose itself.

One that didn't mind perfecting the bland stuff before it took on the color.

One that knew that the vibrancy of the color paintings were only the final touches of a much richer undertaking.

No, I think I definitely want to be a masterpiece. I think I'm ready to take on the work, the boring, the waiting, and the perfecting to see something deeply amazing. 

And just so you know, when you drop by my dorm room to spy on it, I'll let you in to observe. Please comment on what you see, but you must know, I'm a masterpiece in the making. And I may not be done yet.