Above all, I feel that this time spent working on my graduate degree has been a real journey of self discovery. For example, I've never felt so much like rebelling in my life. Ever. I remember my French teacher in high school telling me about a paper that my then boyfriend had written for her in her English class. She told me how, rather than responding to the writing prompt that she had given the class, he had gone off an written a wonderful essay on some completely different subject and what a fabulous writer he was. Needless to say, I was appalled that he had gone off subject and not followed THE RULES. Now that I'm older and struggling with this need to toe the line while breaking away from what's expected of me; now that I sometimes feel like I'm drowning in trying to keep up with what's expected of me, with following THE RULES; now I can appreciate this desire to do you own thing, but it's taken me a long time to get here.
In many ways, this graduate school journey is about following THE RULES, but breaking them at the same time. Where do I get off thinking it's OK to go back to school, for an art degree of all (completely worthless) things? What do I hope to gain by doing this and do I really think I'm going to be making a living wage right out of school?
I guess that's where THE RULES come in. Artists certainly can't expect to think that we don't have to toe the line from time to time. While we're expected to be creative, no one wants to work with someone flaky, either. If you sign an agreement with a gallery to have a show of ceramic work, you can't deliver some giant flight of fancy made of Styrofoam that the gallery can't possibly sell. Similarly, if you contract to teach a class, you can't decide partway through that your latest idea that you're working on in your studio is more important than your class and just stop showing up.
I guess being an artist is all about that conflict between doing your own thing and following THE RULES and learning how to balance the two is probably the most important thing that an art student can learn.