Until 1969 people were listed as "Mrs. Kenneth Loomis." Then it changed to "Mrs. Kenneth Loomis (Kathleen)." In 1974 it changed again, to "Kathleen Loomis (Mrs. Kenneth)." Finally in 1976 it took the final step to just plain "Kathleen Loomis," where thankfully it has remained.
I was struck with a couple of insights as I looked at those lists. First, how quickly the change happened once it hit the slippery slope. Second, how it was apparently a lot easier to make the change in baby steps rather than all at once. Third, how the same process occurs in so many other aspects of our lives.
For instance, I remember how difficult it was for me to first utter the word "artist" in the same sentence as "I." My change process started ten years ago when I was about to retire and people would ask me what I was going to do with all my new free time. I would reply, "I'm going to make art." I vividly recall the first time I said those words, on an airplane returning from a business trip, to a perfect stranger. This was a low-risk conversation, since the woman didn't know my name or anything about me and therefore couldn't mock me out. I remember thinking, as the word "art" escaped my lips, "wow! the word art has just escaped my lips and the person listening didn't mock me out!!!!!"
So I started saying it again a few times -- "I make art" -- and pretty soon it didn't set off lightning flashes in my brain when I said it. I don't remember how long it took me to get to the next step -- "I am an artist" -- but I think that step was easier than the first.
Last week there was a discussion on the Quiltart list about what people called their studios before they called them studios. Many people wrote that they had, or still have, a hard time using the word "studio" because it seemed somehow presumptuous, more than they deserved, too fancy for the humble stuff they actually did, etc. One of the posters wrote that many years ago she got some good advice that she has never forgotten: "If you can't call it your studio from the git go, then work up to it and start with work space, then workroom, the work studio and the studio."
In how many contexts do we face similar challenges in our lives -- to change our ways of thinking to new places that seem so radical, so different, so scary, that we can't even name them? I must have driven my art friends crazy for five or six years kvetching about how I wanted to try to do collage but didn't know how to go about it. One day one of my dearest friends said to me, "well, I don't understand the problem -- why don't you just do it?" That was fine advice, but it still took me three more years before I could bite the bullet.
Maybe you have a place that you want to go, whether it's semantic (calling yourself an artist) or substantive (doing a new type of art or changing your business model or cutting loose from your day job or whatever). Of course it's scary to contemplate going there, maybe too scary to write it down or even whisper the words to yourself. But if you can articulate one baby step in the right direction, and take it, and note that the world didn't end, it will be a lot easier to take the next baby step. And pretty soon you may be sliding quickly down that slippery slope to your objective.