Just this week, I posed for my last life drawing group.
I keep telling myself that it’s not really the last time I’ll ever pose for a drawing, painting, or sculpture. I’ll still be working with a few private artists for commissions and workshops. But photographic modeling has been so successful for me that I can no longer dedicate the time to the life drawing groups I’ve been working with for the past six years.
In some ways, I know I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the feeling of stepping up on the modeling stand, right before I shed my robe for the first pose. I’ll miss the sounds of a roomful of artists dragging charcoal across paper, the hard surface of the stand beneath me, and the inconsistent warmth from the old buzzing heater in the middle of the room. But I’ll mainly miss the people. I’ve made friends with so many artists, been accepted into a community, and met some of the most interesting characters. The hardest part of leaving life drawing has been saying goodbye to them all.
Not that this is anything new for me: I’ve always been terrible at saying goodbye. It’s so bad that I go to ridiculous extremes to avoid it whenever possible. I’m the person that tries to slip out at the end of dinner engagements and parties without saying anything. I’m atrocious with breakups (to all of my exes, I’m so sorry). I skipped my own college graduation so I wouldn’t have to say anything to my classmates. If I’m cornered and forced into a proper farewell, I’m the one likely to get overly-emotional and teary-eyed.
This is not the first time I’ve had a significant change in profession either. Before I started working as a model, I was actually a professional pianist. For a year and a half, I accompanied choirs, played in churches, and taught lessons. But then modeling became more and more important, and I eventually moved to posing full-time.
I didn’t want to say goodbye to any of my music contacts when I switched professions; I just faded away, and hoped no one would notice. I quit booking gigs and calling people back. It was terribly unprofessional, but I was so hell-bent on avoiding saying goodbye that I couldn’t bring myself to actually do the right thing. I felt bad about it for years, but I didn’t know how to get over it.
I think I’m finally understanding why I am so scared of saying goodbye. It’s because I’m afraid of disappointing people. It has taken me years of breakups, life changes, and avoidance to figure it out. It turns out I would rather just ignore the whole thing entirely than see that I had hurt someone by saying I was leaving.
I was afraid of quitting life drawing because I’ve been terrified of disappointing all my artists. But I knew I couldn’t just slip out the back door like I did with piano (and breakups and college and so many other things). First, I’m still more than a little ashamed of how I've acted in the past. But more importantly, the artists I work with are my friends. They deserved to know. So I gathered up my courage, and I told them.
The responses I got from my artists weren’t what I had expected at all. They weren’t disappointed; they were happy for me! They told me how proud they were of my accomplishments and ability to travel. They sent me notes thanking me for all of my hard work and saying they appreciated my art.
It made me realize that saying goodbye wasn’t so bad after all; it was sad, certainly, and emotional. But it wasn’t the crisis I had built it up to be. I had been worrying about disappointing people too much, and instead had disappointed myself with my poor actions. It made me wish that I had done my previous goodbyes differently.
Now that I’ve realized my fears about farewells are groundless, I’m looking forward to what will come next, and it feels so much better. I know that when the next things end, I’ll approach them differently than I previously would have. I’ll stop worrying about disappointing people, and I’ll make sure to properly say goodbye.