This is a thought I had after a conversation I had yesterday with a friend about my paying a lot of money to finish a BA in Fine Art. I was moaning about having to pay the rather substantial course fees. Her response was: well you don’t have to pay them. She argued that as I was choosing to do the course and as it was not exactly career enhancing anyway, I shouldn’t moan about it. My life wouldn’t change by doing this course. It wasn’t essential to life, so I had no ground for complaint. I think her point was twofold: firstly, that having a BA in Fine Art will have no impact on my earning potential, and secondly, as I was earning money I could afford it anyway.
I was taken back by her response. Until that point, I’d seen only the positives of my part-time art degree.I hadn’t seen it as a luxury or an indulgence. To me, it is necessary even if not economically.
It had all started after watching (predictably, perhaps) Dead Poets Society. I’ve seen that film a few times and each time it has moved me deeply. It happens that the last time I saw that film I was brewing for a change: work had reached an agreeable level, my youngest was soon to start nursery, and I was feeling the need for a new outlet for my energies. Watching that film gave me the courage I needed to visit Shrewsbury College on their forthcoming open day and find out about part-time art courses.
As it happened, on that day, I spoke to a tutor who told me, I quote: ‘We have the exact course for you.’ He was talking about the Foundation Degree in Contemporary Art which is run by Staffordshire University but is located (or was, not anymore) at Shrewsbury College. In my naivete, I thought this course would be a nice distraction. It was part-time. It seemed perfect. It was three-years long. After much discussion at home, I decided to enroll. It was very expensive (£3,600 per year) but I was earning that money on one particular regular work project which runs from January to May alone so I felt I could afford it.
It turned out to be, personally if not professionally, the best decision I could have made. It wasn’t just a nice distraction. It was like a drug. I loved it. It was very challenging but extremely rewarding. I’ve been the happiest doing that course than I’ve been for a long time. I carpe diemed and it proved to be a good, very good.
So as the course was coming to a conclusion it seemed the natural choice to finish it to full BA level. I didn’t really question the wisdom of this. I’ve just started the ‘final year’ which will run over two years and it is going to be very hard and challenging (mostly due to the location – Wolverhampton). And of course it is costing me more money (actually not quite so much per year but still an awful lot). I didn’t question this decision until yesterday when I saw it from the eyes of another. Logically, objectively, practically, it makes no sense.
However, after some thoughts (weird ones) I realise that taking the carpe diem route at that time, in April 2012, was the right thing for me to do. A BA in Fine Art may or may not enhance my career (that is an unknown, I can’t say what I will do in the future – I may want to keep studying). But that could be said of any college course. Another art school graduate let loose on the world may or may not enhance the cultural output of our society. Perhaps I will have an impact somewhere doing something. I hope so. But perhaps I won’t. I can’t say yet. But as I see it, the positives are not monetary but they are more valuable to me than money:
- My children have a happier parent in me
- My children (I hope) are inspired to create themselves
- My children get to visit more art galleries (which they mostly enjoy)
- My husband has a happier wife (or so he tells me)
- I’m encouraging my children that they should ‘seize the day’ and follow their own dreams
- My children have an insight into the world of higher education and what it can offer
- The world is much more colourful to me now and the people in it much more interesting
- I’m pursuing more art activities with my children and the children at their school which I wouldn’t have had the courage to do otherwise
- I’m now a blogger (if it wasn’t for one of the tutors at Shrewsbury College, I wouldn’t have discovered Word Press so I wouldn’t be writing this now)
- And who knows, perhaps a future of art fame awaits me (doubtful but there is always that teeny, tiny possibility)
So I say, everyone should once in their lives seize that damn day even if it seems a bit bonkers, and makes no economic sense, and especially if it is scary. You only have one life and if that opportunity leaps out at you, take it before it fizzles out or that ever-threatening big red bus runs you over.