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How Julie P. Taught Me to Be A Better Me

When I was little, people told me that I should be an artist, an illustrator, or a cartoonist when I grew up. I heard this all the time (probably because I was ALWAYS DRAWING something) and besides, it wasn’t a far-fetched idea. Didn’t all of us imagine we would grow up to do something “fun” …that we’d make a living doing something we love? I grew up in the early 70’s when kids dreamt of becoming an astronaut, airline pilot, or even president. Boy, times have changed…

Anyway, I spent my formative years drawing, sketching and coloring on whatever paper I could find. During the school year, I’d draw pictures of couples (John + Anna, John + Donna, John + Somebody New…), and at the end of the school year, I’d “doodle” in people’s yearbooks.

I left my mark EVERYWHERE, and became well-known for my cartoons.

And then I started junior high, (which ran from 7th to 9th grade.) This was the first time art became more than just something I could do after lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was an actual “elective” that I could take, and I got to do it EVERY DAY! This was heaven for me, and I loved the idea of it all. Of course, we explored entirely new media — things like pen and ink, watercolors and clay. Unfortunately, I soon figured out that I had two problems:

  1. I wasn’t very good at many of the new media, and
  2. there was a girl named Julie P. who WAS.

Trust me, she was an incredibly gifted artist. Which only meant one thing: C-O-M-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N.

Okay, so there was someone BETTER than I was at art.  Actually, she was SO much better, she was voted “Most Artistic” in the 9th grade popularity poll.

I came in second.

You know what they say, you don’t win the silver, you lose the gold. So, I did what any honest, self-discriminating person would do: I quit dreaming of becoming an artist. After all, everyone *else* was better, so why should I pursue a career at it?

Right about now, I can hear some of you saying, “What? Why did she quit art? Why would she do that? Why didn’t she learn from Julie P. (and any of the other artists who were better?) It’s true…that would have been the smart thing, I’ll give you that, but in those days, I had zero self-confidence and a fragile ego, so admitting that someone was BETTER at something carried a very high price tag. Unfortunately, that price tag turned out to be my entire creative self, because over the course of the next 8 years (until about the age of 20), I continued to run into people who were better.

I got turned down for VAPA (Visual & Performing Arts) program in high school, I got turned down for a scholarship to Art Center, and I got turned down for a promotion in the creative department at the ad agency where I worked. Never mind that I should have taken those rejections as opportunities to become better at my craft. Never mind that I could have asked talented and successful artists for help…Just never mind.

I took those rejections personally, and they became nails in my creative coffin.

Until…one day…I just…stopped drawing.

So, what was the lesson in that creative carnage? Well, it sort of came to me the other day, when I learned (for the umpteenth time) that my success as a post-op is viewed by some with scorn and jealousy. In other words, my success somehow translates into their failure. Are you noting the parallels here? The only real difference is, now, *I* am Julie P. and those people who don’t think they are “good enough” are ME! Unfortunately, this isn’t about crayons and paper — this is about life. This is about health, happiness and healing.

Of course, I can’t blame others for looking at me with derision – it’s a practiced art form for some of us; we compare ourselves to others, usually, unfavorably. I spent YEARS believing I didn’t measure up; I put myself on the losing end of the comparison.

WELL, not anymore. I no longer compare myself to others who are living a successful Bariatric After Life™ because I realize that we all have different gifts…talents…strengths…we are all different people who can bring a great deal of wisdom to the world, if we just BELIEVE IN OURSELVES.

Alright, I don’t expect to be voted “Most Fabulous” anytime soon (because, last time I checked, there were no Bariatric Yearbooks — LOL), but that’s okay. I know that I must share my talents with others and, wherever I come up short, must look to those who are MORE SUCCESSFUL to learn how THEY have succeeded!

So what if it took me forty years to figure it all out…I may be a SLOW learner, but I’m a GOOD learner, and this lesson has been well- learned: I didn’t ask Julie P. for tips on how to become a better artist, but that won’t stop me from asking others how to become a better ME.

Do you see yourself in this lesson? Have you judged yourself poorly against others who might have shed more weight after surgery, or been more physically active? Have you decided you are a failure because you don’t wear a certain size, haven’t run a 5K, or you struggle with bingeing?

If there’s one message I can give you, it’s this: LEARN FROM OTHERS.

Don’t quit because they succeed.
Succeed because they don’t quit!

2 comments

1 Nikkie { 08.12.11 at 8:38 pm }

Oh Cari…had I only known all this at the time. I guess I just didn't realize the whole story as to why you gave up on your art. You're STILL a good artist, darn it! This is a wonderful life lesson and I'm glad to see you have grown from these experiences. I hope "Julie P" reads this!! Love U! XOXO

2 bariatricafterlife { 08.12.11 at 9:18 pm }

No worries, mom. That is what life is all about. You win some; you learn some 😉

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