How did I become an artist

So, how did I become an artist? I got a call. A phone call.

Imagine a modern data center. It’s basically a warehouse with rows and rows of data cabinets stuffed with servers and network switches. The spiderweb of cables coming from the ceiling and going under the raised floor. The lights are blinking. The loud hum of cooling fans is deafening.

That’s how my kingdom looked like. I was the ruler of that world. That was my world.

It was Friday and I was fighting a battle. One of the main servers went down and the backup server for some reason didn’t kick in. I was focused and determined. I quickly found out what the problem was: failed hard drive. I replaced the drive, run restore and the same time I was applying patches to the backup server so it will come alive.

My phone was buzzing with messages from people in panic because they couldn’t do the job they were doing. And it was Friday. Nobody wants to stay late on Friday night. I assured them they’ll be ok soon.

The battle was almost over. I was rallying my troops and the victory was in sight.

And then I got a phone call.

It was our HR Manager. Another one in distress, I thought to myself. And I promised her that we’ll be back online in minutes. And then I realized she wasn’t alone on the line. My boss and my boss’s boss were there too.

“Oh, man! I’m in trouble now”, the fear was getting over my mind. I feverishly tried to come up with a plausible explanation why the server crashed. But the people on the call were calm, talking about something else I couldn’t understand at first in my mental fog.

They were just talking and talking, mostly between themselves. And then the words “separation agreement” started to appear more and more. “You’ll find it in the separation agreement.” “You’ll need to sign the separation agreement.” “We’ll send you the separation agreement.”

And it finally came to me: I got fired. And not just me. The whole business division got canned. And it’s business functions were shipped to India. It has been decided a long time ago. I just failed to notice the writing on the wall.

And just like that my 16-year career as an IT Manager was over. It was shown to me that I was just a replaceable part, a gear in the big machine. I was replaced with a cheaper part.

I finished fixing the server which nobody cared anymore. Then put my recognition awards for the years in service in the box, left my badge on the desk and went home. I wasn’t upset. I was surprised and disgusted, yes. But I felt relieved. I was finally free.

You see, for several years I had been living a double life. On weekdays I was doing my 9 to 5. But on weekends I had fun showing my prints at the local art festivals all over the town. It wasn’t much about money, I wasn’t very successful. But I loved talking to people and watching how they interact with my prints. And I was lucky to be part of the art community with other artists who helped and inspired me.

In short I took an art business class. But in real life, with real failures and aha moments. When I got fired from my day job it was time for me to graduate.

I spent my savings on a pickup truck and a trailer. I loaded my prints and travelled that summer all over the country doing bigger and more prestigious art shows. It was great. It was the freedom of doing exactly what I wanted. I was my own boss. Between the art shows I camped, hiked and photographed the wildflowers and mountain peaks.

I remember the moment I got my sweet revenge. It was in a coffee shop in Aspen, Colorado. I was sitting outside having my coffee next to some kind of celebrities. I got a phone call. It was my ex-boss and he wanted me to come back to work for him as a consultant. I said: “Thanks, but no thanks. I turned my life around. I am a professional artist now.” There was a long pause on the other side of the line. That silence was one of the most satisfying moments in my life.

I finished my coffee and I said to myself: “Well, I actually did it. I called myself an artist. Out loud. And I meant it.” I realized that you become an artist only after you call yourself an artist. The other people have no say in it.