If you’ve ever heard, “Yes, but that’s not a real job,” then you know where this post is coming from. You may have been nine when you heard it and said you wanted to be in the circus or 12 like I was and said you wanted to write novels or even 18 and said you wanted to race motorcycles. It doesn’t matter what “it” is, people will have an opinion on your passion turning a profit. YOU may not even believe it’s a real job! Today our mermaid made the bold choice to become an artist despite the “odds of success.” She’s also an example of a second and mid-life career, which I’m a huge proponent of. I believe we’re on this earth to constantly grow and evolve and that means you will end up doing many fantastic things in your one life. I love her tenacity and am thrilled to share her mermaid tale with you. Welcome Jan Hellwege to our sea and if you’re in O-K-C, go visit her in the Paseo.
ML: Tell us about the moment you made the deep dive for your dream.
JH: It was always a dream of mine, to be a fine artist but I didn’t think that was a real job. My stepfather offered to help me go to my hometown college and take secretarial classes…blaah! So I did the only creative thing I knew at the time and that was to get a Cosmetology license and become a hairdresser. I worked for a year out of high school, then married my high school boyfriend and became a Navy wife. We started a family a few years later. The year was 1980 and my three daughters were in preschool, grade school and Jr. High. I had been a stay-at-home mom for about fifteen years when a friend talked me into taking a college class with her. I was not sure I could focus at the college level, after so many years of watching Mr. Rogers and reading Dr. Seuss books. But after realizing my brain could still function, I enrolled in some other classes including an art class. The art teacher was so supportive and encouraged me to carry on. That was a turning point. With no money in our budget for college, I had garage sales to buy books and pay tuition for the first couple of years. Art classes proved to be a good fit for me. I thought “At last, I have found my people!”
Halfway through college, divorce happened. The challenge elevated. With no alimony and unreliable, minimal child support, I obviously had to get a job. I knew life would be harder for a longer period of time if I quit than if I just kept going. I needed a job with benefits and a retirement plan. So, I pulled out my old Cosmetology licence from 1964, which I had thankfully kept up-to-date. I got a job in a walk-in salon which allowed me to work around my class schedule. I cleaned houses on my days off and managed a cosmetic counter in a department store for one summer.
ML: I love this on so many levels. Mermaids know it takes a helluva lot of hard work to reach our goals and that means working like Cinderella before the ball. And even better, you didn’t STOP going to college just because you needed a job. Yes to keeping your dream alive while doing what it to get there. You mentioned your divorce and the extra financial pressure that put on your family and your dreams. How did/do you overcome adversity?
JH: Those were very hard years for me and my girls; emotionally, physically and financially. Some days, I was not sure if I could make ends meet but I learned to rely on my faith in God to provide for us a home, food, clothing, gas for the car and you name it. He never let me down, which is a whole, other story in itself. I was able to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Art with the help of academic scholarships, grants and loans and was hired by a utility company as their Graphic Artist. The challenge of learning was far from over. Between the time I got my degree and the time I got the job, the entire graphics arts industry went digital. I didn’t know anything about computers. My first day on the job, I was on a plane to Atlanta for computer graphics training. (I felt like the wife in the movie “Mr. Mom” when she reached over to cut up her boss’s steak). I had one month to learn computer graphics before a grand opening of the company’s economic development department. But after many tears and frustration, I did it! The first one through the door on the big day was the Governor, followed by TV cameras, newspaper reporters and almost every politician in the state of Oklahoma, all wanting to see what I could do with this new state-of-the-art equipment.
It all worked out for the good. I ended up in the corporate communications department designing the company magazine, logos, brochures and etc. I retired after twenty-three years with the company. Now, after putting my fine art on hold for all those years, I get to paint in my wonderful studio almost every day! My art is sold at the Contemporary Art Gallery on Paseo, Oklahoma City. Through it all, I learned that God will be with you through the worst times – no matter how confused you are or how insecure you feel and that you can live your dream.
ML: Ah, timing is everything, sometimes. I love that you circled back to your first love in fine art and that you found a niche in painting animals, too. What are your favorite tool(s) for enlightened living (presence, intention, action)?
JH: Write down your goals, put the paper away and get it out in one year. You will be surprised at what you have achieved. Yoga, tennis, kick boxing, ballroom dancing and travelling abroad are some of the goals I set when I turned fifty. I did them all and more and I’m still making lists even at age seventy.
ML: Gratitude is the key to happiness, I think. What always brings a smile to your face?
JH: The pride I felt in earning that Art Degree under adverse circumstances does not even compare to the pride I feel in having raised four, strong, beautiful and intelligent daughters in the midst of such uncertainty. I strive to reflect love, peace and happiness in my work. As a lover of nature and an advocate for pet adoption, twenty percent of my commissioned pet portraits goes to a animal rescue. It’s my way of giving back.
Connect with Jan and see her beautiful artwork here:
Contemporary Art Gallery
2928 Paseo St.
Oklahoma City, OK
To living in the deep,
P.S. If you like the mermaid series and stories about Everyday Adventure, be sure and subscribe so it will come to you each week in your in box! And thanks for sharing the love. xo