I wanted to turn right around and walk out as soon as I walked in the door. This is foolish, and so awkward, my brain pleaded. You don’t belong here with these artsy folks. I wished I was wearing a shirt that said "I promise I'm not weird, I have friends, and I don't usually do this. Oh...and I probably won't be any good at this painting thing, so please don't judge me?!"
After checking myself in at registration and reconfirming for a second time that yes, it was "just me," I collected my smock and brushes and was told to choose an easel. I somehow managed to navigate around my fellow participants (all with groups of friends or on romantic dates) who seemed to be having the time of their lives. My brushes were wobbling in my unsteady hand as I positioned myself in the back.
I was quite convinced I was going to fail, that my paint would drip all over the place, that these lovely strangers would be forced into trying to tell me I did a good job when we would all secretly know I did not. (Do not placate me, people; that's just adding insult to this creative injury.)
I immediately and shakily ordered a martini—wine wasn't going to cut it—and prayed for forgiveness for all the sins that had led me to this terrifying situation. Upon reflection, isn't it incredible what the brain can convince itself of? I was, after all, in a safe, nurturing, nonthreatening environment. But for me, the situation was far more difficult than speaking to a room of hundreds of people.
I finally unclenched my jaw enough to see how much others were enjoying themselves throughout the evening. I tried to relax a little and gave myself the same pep talk I would in any unfamiliar situation. "If you can run corporate America, you can do this silly painting thing." I'd almost forgotten I was supposed to be having fun.
The class was ultimately not the massacre I had built it up to be in my head. I found myself enjoying mixing the colors on the palette—it was a no-pressure zone where I got to be fully present and totally attuned with my senses. The act of combining colors to make different hues and shades had a childlike, playful quality to it that was strangely comforting. I also enjoyed the texture of the oil paint, the smells, the feel of the brushes.