"I want to be a painter," she said, the day I met her. She sat huddled in a chair, her large bag next to her and a stack of books on the table. I didn't understand why'd she brought all that she did with her, but now, after knowing her for several years, it was clear to me the purpose of her stuff: comfort. She clung to the things she carried as if they had the power to keep harm away. Maybe in her head, they did have that power. Who knows.
"If you want to be a painter," I said, "then you shall be a painter." I tried to emphasize the word want so that she knew what I meant: she needed to want it enough to do something about making her dream a reality. She needed to align her actions with her mouth, and pick up the brushes and the paint and the canvas.
Here we are, several years later with little to show for her efforts. And I think it's because those efforts have been slim. "I need to sit down and paint," she says, and then sends me a text as she heads to the bar for drinks with the girls. "I have too much grading to do tonight. The picture that's in my head can wait." And then, that picture never appears. Her brushes collect dust and her paints dry out. I collect more excuses from her than I ever do anything else. If excuses were paintings, she'd be considered very prolific.
Her behavior saddens me. As I look at her across the table, I wonder what goes through her head as she stares at my painting. It's not a wonderful portrait, but I took time to find the exact colors I wanted and I tried to make the creation jump from the page. It's done, I say to myself, and not just an image that lives and jumps inside my head. I reach out a brush to her, watching as the thin wood hangs in the air between us. What will she do? Will she take the brush and dip it into the paint or shake her head no. She mouths a quick, "Thanks, but no," and I use what she does as a reminder of what not to do. I hope her dreams come to fruition eventually, but I really don't know how they will.