Not Every Origin Story is a Fairy Tale

Not Every Origin Story is a Fairy Tale

Posted by Robyn Wall on

Read time: 12 min

When did I first discover art?


I think it’s common for non-creatives to think that artists have it easy in the sense that most of us have known that we wanted to create things our entire lives. You know, everyone always says, “I’ve been an artist my entire life” and there is nothing new about that aspect of my story. I have been creating ever since I could hold a crayon.

But the path hasn’t always been so straightforward. Much more of a . . . . like if my creativity was fleeing from a serial killer named Resistance. You know, zigzagging and panting for breath and falling down, breaking a nail (ugh).

Growing up an artist

I mention on my About page that creativity is in my blood and that my magic mind comes from my family and it super does.

There are so many creative people on my dads’ side of the family.

I’ll start with the top of the tree. My Great Grandmother was very creative in her days. I remember this one painting that I used to stare at constantly every time we visited and was shocked and inspired to learn that my Granny was the artist of the piece. 

It is one of the great sadness’s of my life that I did not ask her more about her creativity. Her life in general, really.

My dad could draw exceptionally well when he was younger and his older brother was constantly pursuing creative ventures like painting, writing, acting, and singing. Growing up and seeing them create and explore art gave me the grandiose dreams of being an artist, even if they weren’t doing it for a living. As a child I didn’t fully understand the concept of “doing it for a living”. Seeing these two men in my life, drawing and painting, it made me feel as though my dreams could come true.

Then there was my older cousin, who liked to draw comics. I used to always admire their work and their distinct style. I loved that they always seemed to draw and create. At least that is my memory of us growing up and visiting our grandparents.

So, my creativity has always felt like something I inherited just as much as it feels like something I cultivated.


Fucking High School


While, yes, I grew up drawing my entire childhood, even through high school, it wasn’t all magic and rainbows and crap.

Shit was hard. (It still is). People were mean. Students didn’t get my art. Other artists created much more quickly than I could. I envied some of the more unique pieces and that their creators had already developed their own style.

I even remember one art teacher in high school saying to me “I wouldn’t like that if it wasn’t purple. You’re lucky that’s my favorite color.”

You’re thinking; well, that’s just how it is. If you can’t take the criticism, then you shouldn’t be an artist.

And you’re right.

Here’s the thing though art teachers should provide CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Not just saying “that would suck if it weren’t purple.” Maybe that’s not how they meant it, but that is how it felt. Ten years later I still think about that comment and wonder if my path would have been different if that teacher had supported me, encouraged me, offered suggestions to improve that pieces’ composition or whatever.

Senior year of high school you’re supposed to look at colleges and review different majors and decide on a career path. At seventeen!

We won’t get into what I think about all that right now though.

What we will get into are the feelings I had about it then. I was overwhelmed with all the options. And I remember feeling disappointed that I had to choose one thing. One subject, one medium, one career I would go to school for, study in, and eventually be hired to do. For (as I understood it then) THE REST OF MY LIFE.




“Inconceivable!” (If you know what this quote is from then we are friends)

I’ve always been multi-passionate. I have always loved many mediums and different types of creative expression.

I grew up in a low-income household, drawing and painting, because that’s what I was exposed to. And, sure, I loved it. But what kind of successful careers are there around that? Can you pay the bills being a fine artist? An Illustrator? I had no proof that I could make a successful career out of those things. And I wanted to be able to support myself. To be able to live on my own, comfortably, without help.

So being JUST an artist was out.

I fell in love with fashion design when Project Runway came out. I remember sitting in front of the TV when I was ten or eleven and sketching designs along with the challenges in my sketchbook. But I had no experience. I knew very little about sewing and nothing about making patterns or creating a garment from scratch. And again, what kind of successful career can you have from being a fashion designer? I knew I would be fucking lucky to just get into a fashion design program with the minuscule amount of knowledge and experience I had.

What’s next then?

Well graphic design, of course. It was the logical choice in 2011. The internet and social media have made graphic designers invaluable. And I did like it. To an extent. I liked the creative aspects of it. I liked the potential it held for having a creative career where I would make money. But I didn’t love it. Not then. (I’m not totally sure I do now). 




Haha. Just kidding.

I didn’t actually end up going to college after I graduated high school.

Which was probably the best thing that could have happened regarding my education and career because, like so many people, I would have chosen a path at that early age that I would end up regretting later on. I would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars or racked up student debt and wouldn’t have even been happy in the career I had chosen.

Now, I don’t know that for sure. No one can know for sure that the turn in the road they missed was for the best.

It’s just a gut feeling I have when I think about it. I am better off for not having gone to college right after high school.

Let me backtrack a little here.

After high school I moved from Michigan to Florida (where my mother lives) with a guy. Such a dumb decision, to be honest. Maybe not the move, but definitely the guy.

I won’t get into all the details here, but he affected my life in ways that . . . I did not understand at the time. Ways that altered who I was and what I would become. He chipped away pieces of me. Over time. I stopped doing things I once loved. I stopped creating. I stopped reading. Slowly but surely, the people I was closest to fell away or were shut out. Until all I had left was him. I didn’t even have my art anymore. I was a shell.

My Florida adventure only lasted eight months, and I was back in Michigan. I felt like I was drowning in Florida and if I returned to a place I was comfortable, then the pieces of myself I was missing would return as well.

But of course, it wasn’t my location that stripped away everything that I was. It was the guy.

I wish I could say that I left that guy when I left Florida.

I spent two more years being whittled down to the smallest, most insignificant version of myself.


Becoming Me Again


It would be lovely to say that as soon as I left him, I simply returned to myself. Like breaking a curse. This is not some fluffy Disney Princess story though.   

Something quite extraordinary happened when I was finally free of him. I could see what my dreams were. At the same moment that I left, I realized exactly where I was meant to be.

A creative entrepreneur, making magic from a small cottage in the French countryside.


I was transported there and began my journey.

If this WERE a Disney movie, that would be how it went. And wouldn’t that story be romantic?

Reality was much more of a struggle.

It was two years before I made any moves toward manifesting my dream life. I had a lot of healing to do from the trauma. I had a lot of collecting and sorting through the pieces of me that were missing.


At this point, it had been five years since I graduated from high school. I was considering pursuing a higher education. But a little piece of me still had his imprinted voice saying, “you won’t be able to do it, you’ll surely fail”.  

Investing in a higher education is an expensive decision. And I was worried that the voice was right. So instead of just taking the leap, I found a bunch of free online classes to try out. My theory was that these classes would make me ascertain if I had the determination and organization to receive a higher education.

I fucking crushed those online courses. Of course I did! I have amazing organizational skills and an intrinsic desire for improvement. I can't believe that I ever doubted any of that. But years of emotional and psychological abuse will do that to a person.

The point of this is to say, it’s okay if you start small. To dip your toe into the pool of magic instead of just walking right in.


College for Real This Time


Knowing that I was capable of going back to school and beginning the journey toward the Business of Being an Artist, I began the 3+1 Business Management program at a nearby community college. This is a program designed for students to complete the first three years of a degree at community college where they are considerably cheaper, and then transfer to a four-year university for the last year. It is a brilliant design.

I also integrated creative classes with my business management courses. This helped keep me excited throughout the semester and forced me back into my creative realm.

Why major in business management?

People say it all the time, “you don’t need a business degree to start a business”.

I can’t even count how many people said that to me when I would tell them what my plans were.

They aren’t wrong. You don’t need a business degree to start a business. In fact, all the most useful information I have learned has come from personal experience or research, not from my classes.

Back to the why.

There are a couple of reasons. It was the perfect starting point for me. We have all the information we need to start a business at our fingertips, but I had no fucking idea where to start. So, taking the classes was a great guide.

And I may dream big, have all kinds of ideas about what I want my future to be, but I also really LOVE plans. I think that is a big part of what makes me a realist. I have known since the beginning of this magical journey that I could fail. I’m not talking about the failures that help me learn and grow. I mean failure on a huge, unable to recover level. So, I wanted to pursue business management as a backup plan.

An If All Else Fails sort of thing.

Some people thrive off the pressure of taking the plunge. Having everything rely on their success. And I applaud those people. I wish I was that brave.


Slow Start


I thought that taking the next step with my education meant that I would also take the next step in developing my business. But between working full time and taking twelve credits a semester, I had zero motivation to start building.

That is until the fall semester of 2019 when I signed up for the Entrepreneurial courses.

Like most good things in my life, I discovered them completely by accident the summer before. I was walking down the hall after one of my classes (yes; I am that nerd who takes summer courses too) and there was a classroom full of students making a bunch of noise. I paused to see what was happening.

The professor was holding some sort of contest to see which group could throw a paper airplane the furthest. And there was something about the energy and the atmosphere of this class, the character of the instructor. I was enchanted. Which is saying something because things like paper airplanes and loud noisy classrooms are not really my thing. I stuck around until the class was dismissed to ask one student what class it was.


While my other classes were teaching me about limited liability companies versus corporations and the process of business litigation (things that felt utterly useless to me), the entrepreneurship courses began laying out the map for how to start a business. I learned how to form an LLC and what kinds of things investors would look for in a business. I made a detailed business plan and created my elevator pitch. Those courses taught me how to elevate and leverage my innovative thinking.

Skills and knowledge that have become invaluable to me. 


The Real Push


At the beginning of the year, I felt like I was finally going places. I had several amazing opportunities lined up that were going to help me advance my business.

My school hosts a Pitch competition every year which I learned about through my entrepreneurship courses. For those of you that don’t know, this is essentially a contest where small business owners pitch their idea to a room full of “investors”. The specifics aren’t really necessary here, but the idea is to present your business quickly and concisely with enough charisma to win over the judges. Despite my severe stage fright, I was so excited.

By joining the Phi Theta Kappa Honor society my second year of college, I was invited to attend the International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP) Delegation on Business & Entrepreneurship in Australia.  



A once in a lifetime opportunity. I was floating. For two or three months. It felt as though I had never been this high up in the clouds before.


I’m sure you can all predict what comes next.

It’s what devastated so many of us…. The pandemic shut everything down. They canceled the Pitch competition. They postponed the ISLP trip i n d e f i n i t e l y.

And even more shocking was losing my job. The fear and anxiety that settled over humanity. Watching the sheer stupidity unfold before me.

I was paralyzed. For months. I think we all were. No one knew how long this would really last. And we all hoped it would be over in a couple months.

There was nothing really to do besides paint (since everyone else already bought all the flour and yeast from the stores). And as I got deeper and deeper into my practice, I became more and more certain that I needed to make some of my own magic for my business.

I brain stormed names and did hundreds of sketches of logos. I read books and articles online about building a brand. I researched domains and website hosting. I was doing all the boss bitch things and feeling fucking good about it.

I filed for an LLC in late November. I remember feeling so excited. My application got approved, and that was it. I officially had a business!

So, while the world was burning around us, there was nothing really better to do than weave the threads of my business together. Month after month. Thread after thread. I. Made. Magic.

Which means you can too!  


Wrapping It All Together

Resistance is one hell of a determined opponent.

Going from being a toddler and dreaming of making art for a living to spending almost five years never picking up a brush. I thought for a long time that Resistance had gotten to me. That I would never create again.

But of course, if Resistance wins, then it only becomes more and more bold. It thinks it can kill other pieces of you too. Convince you to give up other pieces of yourself that you love.

I overcame Resistance. I turned around and faced it. I said, “you will not win, I will not let you”. And then I got to work breaking every barrier it had built between me and my creativity. Picking up the pieces and using them to my advantage. The years I spent in an abusive relationship fuel some of my most passionate pieces. The doubt and confusion I faced in high school led me to be more resilient. The gap in my education allowed me to see what I truly wanted.

And yes, sometimes I wish I had not gone through those things. Because while they made me who I am today, I believe I would still be making magic with my creations as I have always seen the world à Travers de Jolis Yeux.

All of this is simply to say that you can waver, you can fall, you can submit to Resistance for a time. We all do occasionally. But you have to keep going. I believe you can make magic! 

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