THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
When my mother divorced, I was relieved that I could shed that false identity. And in this incarnation, I could connect with a closer version to my true self. Sometimes though in life, we do carry around false identities. When you realize that it’s not that you can’t believe that you’re an artist and you just step into that, but the identity you had was the false one. The artist identity is your true identity.
It’s the Inspiration Place Podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world inside a podcast for artists by an artist, where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.
Well, hello, this is Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration and host of the Inspiration Place Podcast. Guess what? You’re listening to episode number 200. Holy cow. And of course I am so grateful that you’re here. This is a milestone episode, and like most milestone birthdays, it calls for a party complete with goodies, prizes and party favors. So I want to invite you, and here is how you get your free ticket. To get your exclusive invite to the podcast 200th coaching party, all you have to do is leave a review. And guess what? You can leave that review absolutely anywhere. We’re not going to discriminate against you if you’re not on Apple or iTunes. So whatever podcast app you listen to, totally cool.
Now to make it really juicy, in addition to the party, everybody who leaves a review gets invited to the party, but to make it really juicy, we’re also giving away $400 in Amazon gift cards, and there’s going to be 20 chances to win. Okay. So are you excited? Here are the details. All right, go leave a review on your favorite podcasting app and take a screenshot of it. You’ll need to do that because on your podcasting app, it doesn’t have your email, it doesn’t have your real name. So in order for us to match you up with your review, we’ll need the screenshot to prove that you left it.
So head on over to schulmanart.com/200, there you’ll find these rules, not heck of a lot of rules. And you’ll find a form to enter your name, your email, upload the picture of your review, and you can even leave a question for me for the free coaching. I’ll be doing free coaching during our podcast party celebration. So if you like listening to the show and you want to ask me questions, anything at all, it doesn’t have to be, I said coaching, but it doesn’t have to be about business. It could be about painting, or art, or mindset. Here’s your opportunity. So, yep. Come for the party, stay for the coaching. We’ll also be doing some small breakout rooms, so you can network with other artists. It’s going to be super fun.
Now you must enter by July 15th to be eligible to win a gift card. But no matter when you listen to this, so if you’re listening to this and it’s August or next year, whatever, don’t worry. If you submit your review, we’ll still send you the recording of the coaching party, because we really appreciate every review. So yes, whether you’re listening to this one month from now, a year from now, just leave a review, head on over to schulmanart.com/200 and you’ll get the coaching party as my gift to you. Absolutely free. All right. So remember, leave a review on your favorite podcast app, take a screenshot, head over into schulmanart.com/200, and to be eligible for a cash prize and join me live, please enter by July 15th. Good luck.
All right. So today we’re talking all about radical reinvention. Now, if you’ve been a long time podcast listener, you’ve heard me talk about how I sold my home of 25 years and moved to New York city. Yeah, a huge change to say the least. And although that was a huge reinvention, I am now officially in New York city, I’m not going to talk about that today. What I want to share with you are the 25 or so years that came before I lived for 25 years in the suburbs because yes, I’m that old. I have lived many lives. I’m not talking about past lives, but all the lives I have lived from the time I was born until this moment. And honestly, I know that at any time, I can begin a new life that I can pivot, that radical reinvention is always available to me, to all of us at any moment.
I have been in no particular order a financial analyst, a substitute math teacher, a camp counselor, a Pilates instructor, a portrait painter, an art class teacher, fine artist, artist, business coach, and an author. I’ve been called Miriam Gross, Miriam Pfeiffer, Miriam Gross again, all before the age of 14. No, I was not a child bride. And now I’m Miriam Schulman. And there are other labels that have defined me. Daughter, sister, stepdaughter, granddaughter, mother, wife, sister-in-law, employee, boss. Now when I was growing up, I wasn’t so fortunate to live in the same place as I have most of my adult life. In fact, by the time I reached high school, I had changed school districts seven times. It’s one of the reasons I need my husband promise that once we put our roots down, our children’s life would be different. And why we raised kids in the same town, in the same house.
And I’m very grateful I was able to do that. When I was five years old, my father passed away and my mother who hadn’t yet finished college at that time was left to raise me and my younger sister. And it wasn’t easy. We lived in a very small apartment in Miami, Florida, and this was many years before the south beach diet or before south beach was cool. And the crime in our neighborhood was very high. So high, in fact during this very short time that we lived there and in my memory as a young child, my mother’s used car was stolen, and the apartment was broken into twice. I still remember coming home to find the drawers tossed. And for a long time, I had trouble sleeping, as I was convinced that each shadow that passed by my curtained window was a burglar looking to break in.
Shortly after that, my mother met her second husband while actually taking me for allergy testing. So we moved from Miami to Atlanta where my stepfather, who I was informed I should call daddy could get a better job. This was the first of many reinventions, not one by choice. Although my stepfather never adopted us, my mother had us change our last names from Gross to a decidedly more acceptable, less ethnic, name one that matched my mother’s married name. And since I had been teased so bitterly with the last name of Gross, you can imagine, I went along with it. Not that I had much of a choice by the way at age eight. I still remember sitting in that hot Atlantic classroom with my thigh sticking to the wooden desk, clutching a snotty Kleenex because the thick pollen in the Georgian air didn’t agree with those allergies I mentioned earlier.
And I was also allergic to the German shepherd that my stepfather insisted on getting, even though he knew I was allergic to pets. Anyway, changing my last name did not help with the teasing. My mother dressed my sister and I in matching poly flinder dresses. And even by 1977 standards, that’s not exactly what the cool girls were wearing, trust me in fourth grade. I remember pulling at the stray threads of my hem, hating those dresses. Even still, I have to tell you, fourth grade, wasn’t a total loss. My teacher dubbed me class artist. Although honestly, I mean, you look at me now, you say, oh yeah, yes, she recognized talent, but I really have no idea why she decided I had any special talent. I don’t remember drawing anything up until that point. And in fact, as class artist, my job was to glue toothpicks on a pumpkin for our themed jack-o’-lantern
And the toothpick design was already decided by the teacher. It’s not even like I designed it. I just glued the toothpicks where she told me to. However, something magical happened. This sparked the first time in my life that I had been called an artist, or had even thought of myself that way. So like Harry Potter being named a wizard for the first time, artist was a label that caught me off guard and yet it made perfect sense. This new identity explained my unique ability to look at ordinary things and see something that others didn’t even if at times my overactive imagination frightened me. The truth was from that moment on, I began to see myself differently. That’s what made the difference. The simple truth was my teacher declared I was an artist, and I chose to believe her. Eventually this belief drove me to answer the call.
Perhaps you felt that call as well. To declare one self an artist isn’t easy, but believing in yourself is a critical part of the belief triad, especially if you want to sell your art. What’s the belief triad? All right, my friend, I recorded a full episode on the belief triad. It’s something I made up. So it’s not something you should know. I recorded a full episode on the belief triad. So if you want to, and you haven’t listened to it, go listen. It’s episode 147 and you can get there by going to schulmanart.com/147. I’ll be sure to link to it in the show notes for you as well. Okay, now back to the fourth grade. I had some interesting ideas on how to fit in better with the other girls. So besides the dresses, I also stood out because of my Semitic looks.
I looked around me and I saw mostly Southern blondes with wispy eyebrows, and I wanted to look more like that. So one morning, while I was getting ready for school, I made my thick brows look more wispy with the pair of scissors. I can promise you this was not a good look. I looked a little bit more like a lizard, and it took well over three months, and lots of eyebrow pencil before I had anything that resembled normal brows. And even as they grew back, I switched from picking dress hems to picking at my new brow growth. That repetitive nature of picking was something that I found very soothing. In fact, I still find repetitive things very soothing, but now instead of pulling out my eyebrows, well, except for the parts, all women like to tweak their eyebrows.
Now, instead of doing that, I try to channel that nervous energy into my painting, into knitting into well, right now my current obsession is refinishing furniture. So the repetitive nature of painting, and also stripping. But I have to admit, I still won’t go anywhere without my tweezers. All right. Back then, back again to the fourth grade a year later. So now in fifth grade, my baby brother was born and my mother and stepfather, remember I was told to call him, daddy decided to move us from our two bedroom rental to a bigger home. And although the house wasn’t too far away from the rental, it couldn’t have been more than a few miles, it was in a different school district.
So just as I ended fifth grade and was settling in with fuller brows, it was time to move. Sixth grade. All right, this move was a bit of a relief. As I know it gave me an opportunity to start over a new life, a reinvention. And then there were no internet trails in those days to follow me around, so I saw it as a change to begin a new school without being the new weird girl. So sixth grade began as my next reinvention. On the first day, a girl with strawberry blonde hair glasses and freckles who very closely resembled Jimmy Carter’s daughter. I don’t know if you guys remember, if you’re old enough to remember Amy Carter, she approached me and she asked me for my IQ.
Now I didn’t know what my IQ was. I wasn’t sure what number I should make up to impress her, but before I can make up an answer, she told me hers was in the 150s and the highest in the class. But she could tell I was smart and so I could sit with her at lunch. So I guess this Amy Carter doppelganger had sized me up and decided I was sufficiently nerdy enough to fit in with her friends, so much for reinvention. But fourth, fifth, no, this is sixth grade, there were four of us. And that was super fun to be part of a foursome of nerdy girls. We wrote poetry plays, we built marionettes, we drew horses, we recorded radio shows with our tape recorders, similar to what I’m doing right now with this microphone and my H5 Handy Zoom Recorder. And we were also always picked the last for soccer during recess.
But because we so fully embraced our inner weirdos, we didn’t care. As a foursome, we could be proudly weird together. Now I want you to know that the word weird is derived from the Scottish word weird, and you may have remembered the weird sisters from Macbeth. The word weird meant destiny, and only took on a negative connotation as people became suspicious of the supernatural. So instead of vilifying anything that makes you different or stand out, embrace that inner weirdo. That’s your destiny. Now, yeah, you guessed it, I did a whole podcast episode on this too, and you can find that one over at schulmanart.com/113. And we’ll link to that one in the episode show notes.
Now, unfortunately at the end of seventh grade, just as we were preparing to move on to high school, my mom told me that when I came back from summer camp that year, it would be to a new house, in a new state. By then my mother and my stepfather, and sometime around that year and the year after I would stop calling him daddy, they were fighting pretty bitterly. And I knew that their end was near whether we moved or not. I begged my mother not to move, but who listens to a 12 year old? My stepfather had been fired twice since we moved to Atlanta, and he was going up north to work for his father. So we moved, we moved to a remote town in rural Southern New Jersey.
I actually was the only Jewish girl in that school, except for, of course my sister. And this time, I didn’t want to make new friends. My heart had been broken too many times from every move when I had to say goodbye to my friends. So in this new incarnation of myself, I didn’t want to get close to anybody only to have to say goodbye perhaps a year later. So in order to avoid getting close with anyone, I switched lunch tables every few weeks. Interestingly enough, the strategy actually made me more friends instead of less. But you should know that girls who are quote unquote “popular”, don’t really have that many close friends. And this is not a Cinderella story. I was still sufficiently nerdy, not to be confused with the cool girls.
Anyway, a year later, my mother told me that she was in fact divorcing and yes, we would be moving again, so we did. A new life. So we moved to Northern New Jersey to Teaneck to my mother’s hometown. We moved into my grandparents’ home, my mother’s childhood home. My mother didn’t have a job to support us then. And my mother was actually convinced by my grandparents to send me to private school. I’m not quite sure why this was considered in the budget instead of the local public school. I think she paid for it using social security payments, or maybe my grandparents lent her the money, I’m not really sure. When I changed schools this time, I dropped my stepfather’s last name, which was never my legal last name anyway.
However, this is very confusing, for the last four years I had been writing Miriam Pfeiffer on all my school papers, and now suddenly I was asked to write Miriam Gross. And of course you might guess I forgot a few times. I accidentally wrote my mother’s married name on a few of my school papers. And at least the teachers were kind enough to be discreet about that. Now in this school, I was not the only Jewish girl, but I was one of the few poor ones, and it’s kind of hard to pretend. So at the end of the year, I told my mother to please save her money, I was not going back to that school. This was probably the first move of my own choice. I’d be going to the local public high school instead. Now, every time we moved, I had the opportunity to ask myself who am I? It wasn’t even an opportunity. I was forced to ask myself, who am I? Who do I want to be?
When my mother was married, I had worn a false identity. One that never really fit me anyway. We were definitely asked to assimilate, not only in the schools, but also at home. I called those years, the pork chop years. That’s not something by the way the Jewish people normally eat, but that’s what we ate when my mother was married to my stepfather. When my mother divorced, I was relieved that I could shed that false identity. And in this incarnation, I could connect with a closer version to my true self. Sometimes though in life, we do carry around false identities. When you realize that it’s not that you can’t believe that you’re an artist and you just step into that, but the identity you had was the false one. The artist identity is your true identity. Now I stayed in that high school for three years, which sounds like a short time, but it was the longest stretch.
And I graduated with the same group of girls that I started with. And you know what, because I was finally myself with those group of girls, I was not pretending to be Christian, I was not pretending to be rich, I’m still friends with all those girls, because I was the most myself during that time. So I’m still friends with my high school friends all these years later, 30 something years later, maybe more. I could be poor, I could be Jewish, I could be nerdy, I could be artsy. And you know what? The last name Gross didn’t bother me anymore. However, I also learned you don’t need to move to reinvent yourself. Every September affords a new opportunity for reinvention, whether you’re in school, or your kids are in school. That’s summertime, that’s a time for butterflies to be born out of caterpillars.
It’s time for beetles to turn into dragon flies. Now dragon flies are another symbol of life after death, because the life of the beetle is completely different from that same insect’s life as a soaring, dragon fly, and I invite you to completely change and become that truest version of yourself that you’ve always meant to be. There are so many times when you can radically reinvent yourself. Some of these are by choice, some are not. Death, marriage, divorce, moving, losing 30 pounds. Actually, by the way, I did that the summer I worked as an arts and craft counselor at a weight loss camp, but that’s a whole nother story. You can change jobs. You can start a business, you can write a book.
The last one, by the way, is an example of creating a huge goal, a huge goal, and not just only creating a huge goal and a big vision of yourself, but actually sticking with it no matter what, no matter how much of an emotional rollercoaster it is. And if you do, I promise you may not recognize the person you can become. When you’re a child, these reinventions are sometimes thrust upon you. As an adult, some are by choice, but know this, you can choose to radically reinvent yourself and you do not have to wait for some arbitrary date like January 1st to begin. You can start at any time.
So ask yourself in the best version of yourself, who do you want to become? Who is that person? What are they doing? What have they done to get you to that point? Go into the future and ask that idealized person, that idealized version of yourself, how did you get here? A few years ago, I asked myself that question and the universe told me to write a book. A year ago my husband asked himself that question, and the universe told him to move to New York city, and luckily that was with me and that reinvention suited me fine as well. So my friend, what does your future self have to say? If your reinvention includes making more money as an artist, I would love to help you with that, and you can join me for free for the 200th podcast coaching party.
Remember all you need to do to get your free ticket is leave a review on your favorite podcast app. Just say what you like about the show. Take a screenshot and head on over to schulmanart.com/200. Everyone who submits a review will be invited, and we’re giving away $400 in Amazon gift cards. So to be eligible for the cash prize, you must enter by July 15th, there are 20 chances to win and yes, I said it, everyone who enters is invited to the party. If you’re listening after that date, no worries will still send you the coaching party recording. So leave a review and enter at schulmanart.com/200. All right, my passion maker, thank you so much for being with me here today. I’ll see you at the same time, same place next week. Stay inspired.
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