A short attention span is generally seen as a negative. In my case, I called it curiosity. I wanted to know everything, see everything, do everything. I couldn’t do this very well sitting on a hard seat in a classroom. I needed to move and jive and experiment and do things with my hands. Inattention wasn’t my problem. I paid attention to everything in my environment, but I could not focus on the teacher or the instruction at hand. Distraction could have been my middle name.
No surprise, academics was not my strong suit, but I found success in other areas. I had many competing interests and was always on the lookout for new…umm…distractions.
One time, midway in my military career, I went shopping at a hobby store and saw a
seascape painting. I can paint that! I looked at art books and saw a tutorial on how to paint scenery. I bought the book and a beginner paint set with brushes, oil paints, and canvases then headed back to the dorm to try out my new hobby.
I tried to paint the seascape but got frustrated. The oil paints took too long to dry, and I was impatient to have my finished result. My tendency towards perfectionism kicked in and brought on frustration. My painting looked a bit messy from rushing with the slow-drying oil paints.
Obsessed with conquering this new desire to paint, I headed back to the art store and bought faster-drying acrylic paint. This worked better for me, but I hadn’t finished my first painting when I started looking at other things to paint. I hyper-focused on the idea of painting, but I wasn’t hyper focused on finishing the paintings. Sounds like my life history: starts projects but doesn’t finish them.
I painted one seascape painting that looked pretty good. A few of my friends saw it and said, “Wow, you have talent.” One guy offered me five buck for the painting.
This floored me. I realized I could make a buck here and there by selling my paintings. I did a sunset harbor scene that a lot of people really liked. Most of my paintings took an hour or two to complete, sometimes a bit longer to allow time for drying. I calculated how much money I could make if I kept painting.
I got bored with seascapes and landscapes and wanted to paint other scenes. I painted the Eiffel tower, airplanes, flowers, and lighthouses. I even did a portrait of a girl that I liked. That painting surprised a lot of people, even her. I was precise on details. I got the crookedness in her teeth almost perfectly. This annoyed her.
After a while, reality dawned. Painting was fun, and people complimented me on my results. But I was no Picasso (even though I copied one of his paintings–“Peace and Joy”).
Painting would have to remain a hobby. I realized I had to put some of this same energy and enthusiasm into my work assignments (x-ray technology) in the military. After all, the training I received in the military would give me a means of earning income in civilian life.
Art would have to remain a hobby, one interesting distraction among many.
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