Growing up, life wasn’t peachy, to say the least. I had it better off than some, worse than others, but to me, it was more than enough. I’m the oldest of three children and when I was 12, at the peak of vulnerability, my parents divorced. No matter which angle of the kaleidoscope it is viewed from, divorce is ugly. You can’t find a pretty view, there just isn’t any. Everyone is affected and spent, and so was I.
To make a long story short, I had a great support system and with every fiber of my being, went into auto-pilot mode. I did my best to live just like any other girl my age to the point that some of my peers didn’t even know what I was fighting inside. So much so, that neither did I. I was completely numb.
Then I got married. I knew that I had to take care of the numbness because it’s not a great combo – numbness and relationship. So I sought out mental health guidance and it was great. My therapist and I got along superbly and she kept telling me that I “got it”, that I knew the answers and that I just needed to put it into practice. So I went home. I still felt stifled. My occupation wasn’t helping me much either. I felt bored, depressed and sucked out of my own life. Trapped. That’s how I explained it to the therapist, “I’m in a bottle and I can’t open the lid.” Call it anxiety, I don’t know, that’s how I felt.
For as long as I can remember, I loved to paint. I was the artist among my peers and was attracted to art of any kind: dance, music, film… all of it. I can even remember being really young and drawing people’s features in my head as a reflex when I first met them. So, I’d pick up the brush here and there and paint. However, I never wanted to make a career out of it, hearing the term “starving artist” thrown around, but I still loved painting, so I painted a couple paintings to make our walls pretty. I even mentioned to my therapist that I am an artist and she told me to go home and paint.
Then, one Succos, I felt compelled to paint something beautiful for our Succah. So I pushed myself and did it. When guests came to our Succah, all they kept repeating was that the set should be sold. I dismissed each comment one by one, laughing off the ridiculousness of it all.
Naturally, I am very business-oriented. Some of that stems from growing up with a single mom who I watched work so hard. I value hard work and the desire to be successful burns inside me like fire. I decided to post these paintings that I made for my Succah on Social Media for fun and see what happened. Then, one turned into two and I started believing that I had something.
I was working in the Special Ed field at the time. When I came home, I painted. I practiced and practiced. I wanted to learn and do it all. By the end of the year, I knew clearly that this was the direction of my life. I wasn’t ready though to turn my back on the steady income I was getting from my career. It was when I was driving on my way to a mandatory meeting the following year in September that I got a call telling me that I didn’t need to attend the meeting since they didn’t need any more cases filled.
At the time it felt like a major blow and I was upset. However, it was short-lived since I already had a foot in something else. I leaped headfirst into my art, never once looking back. I knew that if I wanted to achieve success through my art I had to work fast. So I did. I painted and painted and painted. I made mistakes, learned from my mistakes and even made some masterpieces from my mistakes. While I was painting, I was also letting myself go. With each painting, I loosened the lid until I felt free. I felt like me, the real me. The one G-d created. I wasn’t aware that I was doing this all at the time, but it needed to happen. I was being pulled to the canvas like bees to honey. It was my drug and making me better, truly healing me.
While I paint, my hands dance. I am an intrinsically happy person. Due to the experience of my early years, seeing how hard people work in life; how much life is valued and how fortunate we are for what we have. I feel inspired by it and want to live, really live and my paintings depict that. We all have the choice to be happy, to wake up and truly live. I put that on canvas every day to inspire people. We all have our own challenges, but to get up and face the world dancing, now that is something and that’s art!
So do I sell paintings? Yes. But what I really am selling is life. I hand it over, a product of my desire to live life to the fullest. Here, hang it on your wall, be inspired by it and go live your life.
To see more of Yaeli’s works email her at Yaelifineart@gmail.com
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