Here’s what I did during my early twenties, rather than following my sisters footsteps who went to study biology at Wayne State University: I went to an art school – College for Creative Studies.
My plan was going to become a children book illustrator (that what my high school art teacher told me to do), but after being introduced by my friend Katerina to an experimental animation and foreign cinema I went into making short films.
After graduation I would work at 3 different jobs – as a barista at Caribou Coffee, then at lifetime fitness, then I worked for Wayne State University School of Medicine and did some medical illustrations.
I was saving all my money for many years to pay for my student loans ( in fact most art schools costs more money then even a medical school), and in hopes to go off traveling. I wanted to meet people, and to hear their stories.
Artists are told to create films based on what they know, and all I knew was that I didn’t know very much yet, so I went forth in deliberate search of material.
Working at the coffee shop was great, because I had access to dozens of different voices a day. I kept a notebook in my back pockets—filled with customers’ dialogue.
As a barista, I learned that not only does everybody have a story that would stop your heart, but everybody wants to tell you about it.
I submitted my films to dozen film festivals, and I collected rejection letters in return. I kept up with creating films, despite the rejections.
I labored over my work alone in my bedroom— in libraries, in public parks, and in the apartments of various friends. I sent more and more work out. I was rejected, rejected, rejected, rejected. I disliked the rejection letters.
Who wouldn’t? But I took the long view: My intention was to spend my entire life in communion with creating art, period. So I figured my early twenties was too soon to start panicking about time running out.
That being the case, they could reject me all they wanted; I wasn’t going anywhere. Whenever I got those rejection letters, then, I would permit my ego to say aloud to whoever had signed it: “You think you can scare me off? I’ve got another eighty years to wear you down! There are people who haven’t even been born yet who are gonna reject me someday—that’s how long I plan to stick around.”
Then I would put the letter away and get back to work. I decided to play the game of rejection letters as if it were a great cosmic tennis match: Somebody would send me a rejection, and I would knock it right back over the net, sending out another query that same afternoon. My policy was: You hit it to me, I’m going to hit it straight back out into the universe. I had to do it this way, I knew, because nobody was going to put my work out there for me.
I knew that nobody was ever going to knock on my door and say, “We understand that a very talented artist lives here, and we would like to help her advance her career.” No, I would have to announce myself, and so I did announce myself. Repeatedly. I remember having the distinct sense that I might never wear them down—those faceless, nameless guardians of the gate that I was tirelessly besieging. They might never give in to me. They might never let me in. It might never work. It didn’t matter. No way was I going to give up on my work simply because it wasn’t “working.” That wasn’t the point of it. The rewards could not come from the external results—I knew that. The rewards had to come from the joy of puzzling out the work itself, and from the private awareness I held that I had chosen a devotional path and I was being true to it.
If someday I got lucky enough to be paid for my work, that would be great, but in the meantime, money could always come from other places. There are so many ways in this world to make a good enough living, and I tried lots of them, and I always got by well enough. I was happy. I saved my earnings and went on trips and took notes.
My favorite places were the tropics, I loved the ocean, the sun, the culture, and most importantly their stories.
At some point in my twenties, I finally moved to California when I was offered to work at Spectral Motion Studio.
Withing 4 weeks I packed my stuff in my tiny car and moved. Unfortunately when I arrived, I got another rejection letter, the opportunity was no longer available. I was bummed because Mike Elizalde (owner of the studio) was super nice. Of course, I was not going to turn around and go anywhere so I figured that as long as I persist, I will find something else and I in fact did. I contacted dozen of art studios in LA, and after 2 months I got a few gigs and one of them was Tumble Leaf, animated series. I was delighted and felt so lucky.
When I was working for the show, I was studying nutrition at the same time. If you are wondering why, you can learn here.
My sister was already working at the research lab down at Va Medical Hospital for a few years now.
Long story short, I left California to purchase my bigger calling.
Now looking back, each experience I had in my life, led me to where I am today. I am still creative and still use my creative thinking to this day, it is just expressed in a different way.
I take leaps and gambles with my life all the time—or at least I try to. You must be willing to take risks if you want to live a creative existence.
But I remember thinking that learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person. If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work—perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instants are rare. You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living. Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.
My college profession explains it this way: “If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the eighty-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.”
If you truly love having babies, for instance, then you don’t care about the morning sickness. If you truly want to be a minister, you don’t mind listening to other people’s problems. If you truly love performing, you will accept the discomforts and inconveniences of living on the road. If you truly want to see the world, you’ll risk getting pickpocketed on a train. If you truly want to practice your figure skating, you’ll get up before dawn on cold mornings to go to the ice rink and skate. If you truly want to heal from an illness, you must go beyond food cravings, insecurities, disbelief and do what has to be done to heal your body.
Now let me ask you this: “What do you truly want, and what are you willing to do to get it?”
Because of working in the art industry, it led me to rediscover what REAL FULFILLMENT meant. Today I am doing my the most fulfilling creation yet – helping people heal from chronic illnesses. I think it is the greatest gift you can give and also receive. I am more creative then ever, because I get to solve impossible problems such as disease reversal. Being creative does not mean you have to be a painter, filmmaker, animator, it just means you are good at making unimaginable things imaginable.
And I truly love it, despite having to invest 40K each year into mentor-ship, and many hours of study. My sister, Oksana herself has her own story to tell, but that will be till next time ;)
Viktoriya and Oksana Gruzdyn are Nutritionists and Immunotherapy Researchers based in Detroit, MI. They specialize in helping people reverse autoimmune and other chronic illnesses by optimizing their immune function and cellular repair.