For quite a while now I’ve had an idea brewing in the back of my mind. I have seen many artists using their skills to help protect the environment. Zaria Forman uses her incredible abilities to spotlight climate change and incite discussion among decision makers and the public. PangeaSeed works with artists to bring awareness to the importance of protecting our Oceans through ARTivism. There are countless other amazing examples out there as well.
I want to use my art for something more than just paying my bills. I know there is a way to combine my skills with the compassion of others to help protect the wild places I love, and especially forests. However, since I graduated from my second bachelor’s degree in 2010, changed jobs a few times, and set out on my self-employed adventure, this goal has been forced into the back seat in order for me to make ends meet.
2019 has already been about taking big steps towards self-improvement. My social media detox was the perfect reminder that if I don’t work on changing something, nothing will change.
So I thought about what is my biggest struggle/hurdle and what can I do about it.
My biggest hurdle is paying my student loans each month. It might sound silly and basic. And I guess it is in the grand scheme of things. But for the last 9 years, I have been paying over £500 ($650) per month, so it has been a BIG part of my life and my focus. It’s not something I can ignore (without severe consequences, since my grandma cosigned my loans and they would go after her if I miss payments).
So yes. This basic hurdle is still a hurdle. And for a new self-employed artist it is a big hurdle. I still have roughly £50,000 left to pay off.
I have had this conversation with fellow artists who are in the same situation, about whether it would be worth taking 3-5 years “off” of being a full-time artist to find a higher-paying job just to clear our debt. Well, we all know a handful of artists who did that exact thing. Over ten years ago. And they still have yet to pay off their loans OR get back into art.
Therefore despite living paycheck to paycheck, jumping that hurdle each month (sometimes just barely), we have chosen this path and we will walk it for as long as possible.
It comes down to weighing the options:
A. Work daily to improve art skills and grow my business, happy, doing what I love, but barely scraping by each month - paying off loans at a snails-pace.
B. Work daily doing something I probably don’t care about, contributing to the success of someone else, maybe having time for art at night, maybe not..but making more money and paying the loans off within the next few five years (maybe). That’s a lot of maybes.
Well, it might sound cliche, but considering I don’t know how much time I have on earth, I will take option A.
The journey so far has been quite a ride. If I died tomorrow, I would be happy knowing that I poured every ounce of energy into doing what I love and trying to inspire others to do the same, even if it was difficult to get by each month.
Freedom Trees Campaign
However, in keeping with my 2019 theme of self-improvement, I decided that this hurdle - the relentless dark cloud that hovers over me each month - is not something to be feared but to be embraced. I am so tired of feeling like a victim in this corrupt student loan system (and yes, it is basically a modern form of indentured servitude), therefore I refuse to play that role. I cannot escape the fact that I owe a tremendous amount of money to the lenders for allowing me to attend university when I was younger. There’s no point fighting it.
Therefore I am starting a new campaign - approaching this seemingly insurmountable obstacle by attacking it head on. I will do everything in my power to maintain my full-time artist status, and continue living the dream, but with a new focus.
In my journey to grow as an artist, I will pour my heart and soul into creating a beautiful collection of work that not only inspires people to enjoy nature and love our precious forests, but that will serve to set me free from this burden so that I can give back more.
To an outsider, it will just be another series of work that I create, but to me, it means I am taking a step closer to freedom with each sale. So if you care to know the details, you can read about here.
How it’s going to work:
All sales from my Freedom Tree collection will be applied to my monthly student loan payment.
All income from my Patreons will be applied to my monthly student loan payment.
Anything in excess of my monthly payment will also be added in order to bring down my loan balance faster.
So there it is, laid out plain and simple, for all to see. This little ol’ artist is taking on a daunting task head-on, and sharing the journey. I hope it inspires someone out there to do the same.