Perhaps you have you been told, “Go for it,” or “Just do it,” or “Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.”
Nancy Beth Shuler was in her mid-50s when, in the summer of 2015, she submitted her resignation at Edison State Community College, attended her farewell party and accepted an artist fellowship at La Machina di San Cresci in Tuscany. After days of painting images of olive gardens and grape fields, she returned home to Miami County to display her work at the Mayflower Art Center.
During the fall of that same year, she became a full-time student at Wright State University on a three-year honors transfer scholarship of $7,500 and immersed herself in printmaking, sculpture, drawing, painting, and art history.
By 2016, her art portfolio had won her two art merit scholarships, and she had been nominated to the National Society for Leadership and Success. Support teams in that group helped her with the “dream plan” she had designed. The plan was to take her family to the Grand Tetons, and in the fall of 2016, she received the Little Leaders scholarship to help her implement that plan.
Shortly after the 2017 spring senior thesis show, Shuler learned she had received the College Yeck Fellowship at the Dayton Art Institute and a $1,000 stipend to create a body of work and teach art to high school students that fall and the following spring.
This year brought another milestone when Shuler graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA and a minor in art history and won first place in the Art Gala Painting Competition at Wright State University. She continued to complete her WSU Arts Management Certification by interning at the Dayton Society of Artists and in July took the dream trip to the Grand Tetons. Shuler is currently serving as the interim gallery director at the Dayton Society of Artists.
Does it all sound easy?
Shuler says, “I saw a window of opportunity to move into an art career.”
Much, however, stood in her way, required her to step outside her comfort zone as an employee at Edison, where her paintings hung on the walls at the Emerson Center and South Hall, admired by all who viewed them.
Obstacles? Her husband experienced health issues with large medical bills and could only work intermittently. In addition, personal issues in the extended family with divorce and deaths were painful, and preparing healthy food on a very limited budget was a challenge.
Shuler spent at least 40 hours completing paperwork to prove the medical crisis impinged upon their household, and this allowed her to qualify for additional assistance. With little money and driving an old car, Shuler was struck from behind and spent eight months as a patient in chiropractors’ offices. The insurance company of the man who crashed into her vehicle finally paid for car repairs and her medical expenses, and her husband started his own company.
Shuler terms her life “an adventure” from riding the shuttle buses from the university parking lots to taking classes with very young students. She reports, “I’m utilizing the new tools I’ve learned as an artist, but I have to put in hours of work to get the caliber I seek.”
Shuler’s story inspires me, and I realize that few could handle the obstacles that life has placed in her way. I, however, hope that if you are reading this and want to change your life – whether you are in your mid-50s as she was, or mid-40s or whatever — that you design a plan and proceed with caution and determination, knowing that there will be challenges/obstacles and that no one but you has the power to change your life.
Is it too late? No.
Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teachescommunication and American literature. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.