I have been creative and artistic all of my life. I won penmanship competitions in grade school; made hand-drawn cards instead of turning to Hallmark; gifted countless hand-made creations for birthdays, anniversaries and the like; taught myself calligraphy while on crutches at sleepaway camp because I had nothing else to do; and drew intricate designs in my notebooks while teachers lectured and colleagues negotiated contract deal terms in order to focus my mind better on the specifics being shared….You get the idea.
And just as there was this ever-present creative, artistic side to me, there was also this other part of me characterized by a profound curiosity about the world and an insatiable appetite and love for learning. I delved deep into my studies at school and dedicated and disciplined myself to achieving the extremely high (often times, unreasonable) goals I set for myself. Having these two diametrically different parts of me constantly duking it out for supremacy has not always made life easy for me. Nonetheless, whether it be my family, teachers, friends or the unwritten societal rules of the time, it was always very clear to me which side needed to be victorious.
Growing up, I was always encouraged to pursue a professional career that would provide me with the security of a degree that I could always fall back on and would enable me to support myself so that I would never be dependent on anyone else. That meant becoming a doctor or a lawyer, or venturing into finance, which definitely wasn’t for me.
Thus, my journey to earning a professional degree began. Despite a keen and genuine interest in science and medicine throughout my early schooling, I had a rather a tumultuous relationship with physics and chemistry, particularly organic chemistry, during college. So much so that I finally concluded that the medical profession was just not in my future.
This threw me into a bit of a post-university life crisis during which I was encouraged to find a job. I was fortunate to secure an opportunity as a corporate legal assistant at a prestigious law firm in New York City where I spent two sleep-deprived years working my tushy off, putting in countless overtime which was where I could earn the most money. After my stint as a legal assistant, I took the LSAT and attended law school. From there, it was three years of law school punctuated by various internships and summer positions and then the dreaded Bar Exam. After law school, I was extremely fortunate to spend five years as an Associate being trained by incredibly gifted attorneys at one of the top law firms in the country and then several more years practicing law in-house at various companies. While on maternity leave from my last in-house position, I was taken by surprise when that company filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of the financial crisis.
While it was certainly a challenging time for me, it also provided me with an opportunity I may not have otherwise had (or given myself) as the allure of the golden handcuffs can be quite great. I now had the time to devote my full attention to my newborn son, to recharge my own batteries because I felt very burned out and to become reacquainted with the creative, artistic side of myself. I slowly fell back into my old patterns - doodling on every scrap piece of paper and filling up artist pads with designs and drawings. I transformed our dining room into my creative studio/office space, I purchased a new set of professional artists markers and began to envision creating a brand with my artwork. There was nothing to stop me…except perhaps, myself. Like many others, I doubted myself and questioned whether being an artist was “enough” and whether the arts was a smart career choice. But here I am. elibea exists; my website has launched; and I’ve sold artwork to people who are not just my family and friends, but to those I don’t even know.
Oh and please, do not misunderstand me (especially all of my incredible friends, mentors and colleagues who are in the legal profession), it’s not that being an attorney was ever wrong, but what I’m doing now with elibea just feels more right!