Sunday, June 24, 2012

Borrowed Robes

Dawn, 10 x 13
copyright Jacqueline Bryant Campbell
Possibly the best office job I ever had was working as a grants analyst for the U. S. African Development Foundation. I got to travel, which was great, and my immediate supervisor was a very good boss.  There was a staff meeting in which very nice things were said about him and the work he was doing, and he protested that the speaker was dressing him in "borrowed robes."  That phrase (of Shakespearean origin) has stayed with me these last 20 years.

That is how I felt the first time someone described me as an artist.  I wanted to contradict the person and say, "Oh, no, I'm not an artist!" but that would have been silly since I was standing in front of artwork that I had made.  Did that qualify me to be an artist?  Suppose the art police found out?  I felt as though I was suddenly wearing someone else's clothes, almost like the first time my mother let me borrow one of her fancy dresses and I realized that clothing influences the way people react.

There I was, wearing the newly-bestowed artist robes.  As the evening wore on, I was asked many times, "Are you the artist?"  and was subsequently caught up in conversations about my piece.  I understood then that the only person who thought my artist robes were borrowed was me.

I own these robes now.

Whose robes are you wearing? read to be read at yeahwrite.me

48 comments:

  1. As a "writer" I feel this way too. Am I an writer if I blog and truly enjoy it? Or am I a writer when I reach some sort of success. It's still something I struggle with.

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    1. I think some of this depends on how you define success. Is success writing a really good blog post, or is it monetary, or is it something else entirely? Just so you know, I would call you a writer, no quotation marks.

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  2. Absolutely beautiful - your post, and your artwork. I struggle with this myself. I feel like I am borrowing someone else's robe a lot. Could I really be an artist? A good mother? A runner? etc etc.... As I get older, I am definitely getting more comfortable with the way my own robe fits. :)

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    1. Thank you. The nice thing about getting older is that you get to grow into yourself.

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  3. This artistic ability you've shown me since starting your blog is amazing. Did you know how to do all this while we were in school and you were lecturing me in French on which fork to use at brunch?

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    1. No. I think I had to let go of some stuff (clears throat) to get to where I am now.

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  4. Borrowed robes is a concept I understand. I don't own my own yet, but I'm working on it. Great post.

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    1. Thank you. I think getting to where you own your robes is kind of like a payment plan, but no one tells you how long it is.

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  5. I love that "borrowed robes." What an eloquent way to describe that sensation. I've been blogging for the last three years and it took until I was syndicated to one blog and paid to write for another before I felt comfortable calling myself a writer.

    Congrats on claiming your robes!

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    1. Thank you! I would have called you a writer, but it doesn't much matter what everyone else thinks, does it?

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  6. That's a great phrase - "borrowed robes." Glad you're embracing em now!

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  7. I really love this and relate to it so much. I have struggled with calling myself a writer even though I write words every day and published a book. I wrote about this recently, this robe scenario you so eloquently describe - http://ivyleagueinsecurities.com/2012/05/the-saying-place/

    Check it out if you have a minute. Happy to have found my way here!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your post. I especially like the phrase "the saying place." I'm glad you stopped by.

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  8. I am on the run from the art police too! I love the robe story and can affirm the truth that you are an artist.

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    1. Maybe we can hide from them together. And thank you.

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  9. love the term borrowed robes. as i am slowly dipping into the pool of writing, i so hesitate calling myself a writer. i get this, and this just gave it a term for me.

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    1. I think your writing is wonderful. I hope you become comfortable in your robes, because I thought they fit beautifully.

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  10. "I own these robes now"...I love that line. Good for you!

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  11. I have had much the same experience! As a theatre professional I have always been uncomfortable using labels on myself like actor, director, writer, etc. But I think my most uncomfortable label is "artist." Maybe because in my head and in pop culture "artists" are often seen as unreliable, fanciful people who are eccentric and more than just a little crazy! And while I am probably all of those things, I never wanted people to ASSUME them about me based on a label. And, like you, as I've matured I've learned to embrace my artist nature!

    Great post!

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    1. You are so right about assumptions people make based on the word artist. The funny thing is that instead of "you must be a flake" I get "that is so great." Who knew? I glad you're also taking ownership of your robes.

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  12. I feel I'm borrowing robes in almost every aspect of life! From "blogger" (I'm just piddling around, right?) to "grown up" (I'm still 16 inside, right?). Ha!

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    1. Yes! That whole being a grown-up thing still gets me, especially when I want to laugh at something my teen-age son tells me and then I remember that I'm supposed to be the adult.

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  13. Powerful words. I am finally owning my own confidence now (mostly). So there's that.

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  14. Love this. Own your identity!

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  15. I love that phrase (such an eloquent way to diffuse a compliment!) and I love that in the end you own your robes. It's so hard to do, and keep doing. Good for you!

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  16. Someone who reads my blog referred to me as an author. I couldn't stop laughing.

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    1. Come on now, Joe! Put those robes on. You can do it!

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  17. I love the line about the "artist police"! This is how I feel about writing. I really liked this. Stopping by and reading from Yeah Write. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! Yeah Write is such a wonderful community. The artist police are out there, somewhere, but I think this group is ready to take them on.

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  18. Oh, I love this. Congratulations on your success and personal discovery/acceptance. Very brave, indeed.

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  19. Sew perfect. What a great way to describe that feeling. And so happy to know you feel comfortable owning that label now. :-)

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  20. Wonderful self-revelation. Congrats, Artist.

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  21. makes me think of the metaphor of "hats" that people use - we say we wear this hat or that hat...what matters most, of course, is how we define ourselves.

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