by today's Urban Chameleon contributor
Back in my days as a gainfully employed graphic designer at the ad agency, I enjoyed the fruits of my meaningless labor just as any other cosmopolitan 20 something woman would - by buying shoes. Ferragamo loafers, Mui Mui pumps, Coach boots. Not too extravagant, just fabulous enough for my tax bracket.
The shoes were nice. But the job. The job! It was killing my creative soul. My dreams of being the 21st century Black female Jackson Pollock, were slipping out between my well manicured French tip fingers nails. At home, my canvases remained bare while certain carmakers, snack companies and corn syrup manufacturers were reaping the benefits of my art school education.
It was time I fed my spirit. I quit my job. Traveled to New Zealand and came back renewed, optimistic - creative energy restored. My artwork poured out of me. Oils, pastels...I even experimented with mixed media. For the first time since graduating college, I was proud of the work I was producing. And galleries seemed pleased, too as I was booking group shows all about town.
I remember the day I opened my first solo show at that gallery in Dumbo. I felt like I was reaching new heights in my art career...if only the buyers would recognize this greatness. There was even a write-up about me in the New York Times! But I hadn't sold a single piece and my savings account was dwindling. Albeit seemingly successful, I saw myself falling under the category of starving artist. But miss thing can't starve. I'm already slim- I'd wilt away! Not to mention, I only eat organic!
One night while enjoying yet another delicious bowl of rice and beans, I decided it was time for me to swallow my pride and make that next step: I decided to apply for food stamps. Walking into the office was deep. Mostly mothers with young children - one woman walked in with a baby strapped to her front, and on her back was an oxygen tank that was hooked up to baby's nose! She really really needs food stamps I thought. I should just go get a job! I started gathering the latest bead art I was working on, preparing to leave that odd waiting room, when they called my number. It was arduous, humiliating and scary, but I bit the bullet and applied. The torn agony melted away when my card came in the mail. I hoped on the train to Whole Foods!
But first, I decided to make a stop at Coach to get a new box for my boots. The original shoebox got destroyed during my move from the East Village to Harlem and miss thing keeps her shoes intact. I got the box, then walked on down to whole foods, shopping with glee! Pecorino cheese - ener-G egg replacer - Vermont maple syrup, Moroccan mint pepper the works. There I was at the checkout counter, my big Coach box in a big Coach bag, my organic groceries and a smile. The sister at the checkout counter told me my total and I whipped out my brand spankin' new Food Stamp Benefit card. Sister girl paused, looked me in my eye - looked at the Coach bag, looked at my food - looked at my card, then raised her eyebrows and continued to bag my gourmet vegetarian kilbasa.
As I ascended the escalator out of Whole Foods, excuses ran through my head - it's just an empty box! I bought the boots back when I had money. If she saw my bank account, she wouldn't be so judgmental.
On the train ride home, I decided to dismiss the excuses. I am doing the best I can with my God given talents. People are moved by my work (if only they'd move to their wallets and make a damn purchase!). I need not make any excuses for my fabulousness. Yes, I eat organic, yes I wear designer shoes and yes, I am on the food stamps.
Get with it. And maybe I'll invite you over for dinner.
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