How I Followed My Bliss Foolishly Amid Risk to Achieve My Art Dreams and Avoided the Bliss Detours Along the Way. What’s Your Next Bliss Choice?

As the new year is approaching I find myself reflecting on this year and the ones before. I find myself preparing for a new year, another year of following my bliss. 

A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a floral still life of pink roses in a copper vase by Kelli Folsom.

There’s a quote by Epictetus that I’ve always loved. It says:

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

I’ve made foolish and stupid decisions (by the opinions of others) for 13 years to follow my bliss and do it my way as Sinatra sang. (One of my favorite songs by the way). 

I’m not a rebel by any means. I was an A+ student in school and always wanted to fit in and be liked. It so happens that it was hard for me to fit in. I could get along with anyone, but didn’t belong to any one group. Anyways, that’s beside the point. 

I’m not a rebel, but it’s almost as if I can’t do anything else now but follow my bliss. Be careful with the first decision to follow your bliss because you almost can’t go back. One blissful step leads to the next and to the next until 13 years later you’re so blissed out you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. 

13 years ago when I separated from my ex-husband he said I was the type of person that would never be happy. (A lot of men have said a lot of dumb things to me over the years.) At the time I thought he could be right. After all, I had been very unhappy for the eight years we were together. Depressed, lonely, unfulfilled, and without a purpose for my future. And although I was making this choice to change my life and go to art school I didn’t know if it would make me happy. 

But it was my first step to follow my bliss (a word not even in my vocabulary at the time). I’d discover Joseph Campbell a year later and fall in love with his philosophy and writing. Somehow though I knew that I was making the right choice for myself even amidst the uncertainty and naysaying of my ex and others. 

I’ve foolishly followed my bliss countless times since then. And guess what? I’m happy! I’m blissfully happy! So what’s bliss anyway? There’s this idea that bliss is like skipping around, whistling, flowers in your hair, not a care in the world state of being. Hey, that’s great too. But I see bliss as that internal knowing. That the choice you’re about to make is the right one for you even if it’s scary or risky. 

There can be a lot of interruptions or detours to our bliss even after we’re on the path. 

Like: 

Good opportunities 

Society expectations

The rules of the game

Mansplainers

Security and stability 

Our own fears and insecurities

To name a few. Here are some detours I avoided to follow my bliss: 

Got the divorce anyway

Lived out of someone’s garage with a microwave and mini-fridge and space heater so I could afford to go to art school

Lost a teaching gig because I didn’t want to be an overpriced babysitter to a kid who wanted to make fart noises all day just to get a little money

Lost a teaching gig because an art association refused to pay me and yet still wanted me to show up and teach

Said no to a museum job because I really just wanted to paint – even though I needed money

Sold paintings galore in a Christmas student art show amidst “salesy” criticisms from other students

Refused to stop painting “antiquated” still life’s for teachers approval at art school

Left gallery representation to sell my own work online

Stopped participating in a “prestigious” western show because it was a total drag full of negativity

Following your bliss doesn’t mean there won’t be hard work, hard days. There’s plenty. It doesn’t mean there won’t be disappointments, criticisms, rejections. There’s plenty. 

It does mean though that there will be rewards, fulfillment, satisfaction, and achievement. It also means impacting far more people than you ever could by NOT following your bliss, your inner knowing, your true path. People will always give you their opinion. Most of them care about you and don’t want you to get hurt. Others don’t want their ideologies challenged and they don’t want to get hurt by your success.

So be foolish and look stupid to others if it means that you’re following your bliss. Don’t be stupid for no reason, that’s just stupid. (*although, hey it happens.)

I can tell you after 13 years of following my bliss foolishly, even stupidly, that I can’t believe what I’ve been able to achieve. And yes I’m very happy now. 

2021 is fast approaching. What’s the next choice you need to make to follow your bliss?

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A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a floral still life of red Christmas roses by Kelli Folsom
A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a floral still life of yellow roses by Kelli Folsom.

Love in Light, Kelli

3 thoughts on “How I Followed My Bliss Foolishly Amid Risk to Achieve My Art Dreams and Avoided the Bliss Detours Along the Way. What’s Your Next Bliss Choice?

  1. Gosh Charles I’m so sorry to hear about this awful encounter. But I’m so happy you’re pursuing your art dream now and it’s a pleasure to watch you grow as an artist. Happy Painting and Happy New Year!

  2. Kelli,
    Thank .you for sharing your journey. For some, following ones bliss, comes easily, for others’ not so much. My situation was not so much different than yours, but for me, it was a matter of being “responsible”. I was born at a time when it was a mans responsibility to get married, have kids, and live the happy life. As millions can attest, it wasn’t all that neat, and many, not so happy.
    When I was doing my undergraduate work, for the first two years, I was studying to be a physical education instructor……I wanted to coach baseball…..my very first love. Also, at that time I had a full time job as a photo engraver…..6PM-2AM….yuck. One evening my boss asked me if I would design a business card for one of our clients. To make a long story short, I designed one and it was accepted by the client. I decided to take a couple of art classes and enjoyed it thoroughly, I always loved to draw as a child….as most artists. My public school art experience was meager at best. I took an art class in high school, but was accused, by the teacher, of killing her rabbit…….which didn’t exist….go figure. Obviously, I went to the office to drop the class. I started to tell the secretary why, and she said…..”don’t bother, I know you killed her rabbit”…..laughing as she said it. Anyway, I decided to change my major from physical education to art. Much to the dismay of my father, but since I was paying for my own college work, it didn’t bother me. My junior year I got married, and had to make a decision…..continue my BFA or change to an education degree. That ole “be responsible, be responsible” voice started clanging in my head. To shorten this story, I ended up teaching for 31 years, having a very successful career, and getting my Masters Degree during that time. I really enjoyed teaching, However, my personal work really suffered. Trying to teach and be a practicing artist wasn’t easy……causing resentment and a whole lot of woe-fullness. Even to shorten this story even more, I have been single now, since 2003. Bought a house, and spent the first 5 yrs. fixing it up the way I wanted. In 2010 I finally got around to doing my art full time, totally changing my work…..at the age of 63. Am I where I want to be? Of course not. Am I going to be deterred? Of course not. It really feels good now to spend time in my studio, instead of feeling that time is of the essence, and end up rushing my work.
    There are still things I want to accomplish, even possible moving to another State. Bliss is a personal thing…..one person’s bliss is another person’s bane. I remember my undergraduate painting professor telling me after I got married……”being an artist, and being married is not a good mix, unless you’re married to another artist, or to someone who really really supports you”. But of course she is also the same person who told me I would never be a painter.
    I’ve rambled enough…….bliss is always one step ahead….the way it should be.

    Thanks again for sharing,
    Charles

  3. Kelli, you are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your personal story. Thank you for giving so much of yourself when you teach. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

    ~~~Maria Reed~~~

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