An unexpected ending

In my last post, Creative Summer 2018, I was excited to declare myself for the first time as a full-time artist for the summer. What really happened led to an unexpected ending.

It was maybe a week or two into my summer of being creative and enjoying my new schedule while trying to find the right balance of managing my tour operation, do promotions, study, write, draw, etc. when I got a call from a colleague who needed some freelance help again. I helped her out last summer during her maternity time and with two little ones now running around she needed help again managing her work during the busy season of tourism.

It’s hard for me to say no to work I can do that pays when you don’t have that much coming in from your own efforts. I said yes to the work and said we’d give it a try, hoping I’d manage my schedule well enough so that I could still devote time as planned to practicing and producing artwork. Although it wasn’t overly difficult work, it does demand constant attention and being quick with responses. Since moving to my new apartment in the spring I’ve dealt with a very unstable internet connection that I still can’t get to work easily (it’s not under my account nor control).

Also, my apartment is much smaller than the last which made setting up my studio space quite a challenge that was not comfortable to work in at all. There are some features of the apartment that I like better, but overall I see this place as being only a temporary move at a time when I needed it and it fits my current budget better. My teaching contract last year was very small and didn’t pay me until the end of the school year, but it helped me to overcome a big challenge in my immigration conversion and renewal process I’ve been trying to do for the past 4 years. It was worth the change from the private language school lessons that paid monthly but was also barely a livable wage.

By the end of July I learned that I won the bigger contract for the next school year which I had applied for. Finally!!! I can not only afford my basic costs of living without taking on every single odd job I can find, but I could even think about moving into something bigger and more comfortable. I have my heart set on wanting to purchase a home with some sort of rental potential like I’ve done on AirBnB before and not spend money on rent for a property that will never be my own. I found something with land in an ideal location that needed renovating. Although a small space, I thought perhaps it could have worked as my new studio and I could expand from there.

I made an appointment to see the land and the part of the building being sold. It was rustic. The room (just one) had an amazing view of the sea on the Amalfi Coast and technically didn’t seem in that bad of shape. However, it could only be a studio and the bathroom was “antique” – meaning it was barely a closet with a seat that had a hole in it and it was outside the apartment door sort of like an outhouse. The thing that excited me most there was the land already contained the fruit trees like I want, is in a dream location to me, and it even has a little waterfall and stream that originate from the natural springs in the area. Now I know exactly where I want to buy property for the long term. I thought I could start here with just the studio and find a nearby property later where I could live. The real estate agent suggested that I could meet with their financial advisor to see what I might qualify for, so I made an appointment for the next week.

Upon meeting with this advisor, I learned that my contract type, even for Italians, is pretty much impossible to obtain a home loan. I don’t qualify. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of running into obstacles and people telling me I can’t do something, it is not to accept defeat and go away, but to instead ask “how” it can be possible to achieve what it is that I want. His advice was to rent a space for my studio for at least a year and show enough income aside from my teaching contact which will demonstrate that I can afford a mortgage on my own merits from my freelance work.

Without hesitation I asked the real estate agent working with me what he had that would work for me. He had a couple of places in mind and both are locations near my current apartment, but the first one I always thought was a cute shop and the rent they were asking for was cheaper. It had just listed 10 days before. Both spaces needed some work to create a functional set-up, but the one I liked needed more work to deal with a mold problem which is chronic in many of the old buildings in this area.

I already researched how to deal with the mold a bit from the issues of my last apartment (one of the reasons of my needing to move so quickly) and I thought if I will do it the right way, then this investment will be worth the effort for a location in the village’s historic center. I negotiated the rent offer to compensate for some of the money I needed to spend to fix it properly and it was accepted.

What happened next was a flurry of excitement for me. I was on a mission and worked nearly non-stop for the next month and half doing most of the physical labor myself until my opening night just over a week ago. I ran into many challenges and have learned a lot more about life in Italy including how to open a business. Of course, I did most of it wrong and my accountant was quick to point that out, but I’m not letting that deter me. I’ve already started and what I need to do now is just correct what I can and keep moving forward.

It’s the end of my summer and my studio is open. With a huge sigh of relief that I completed the majority of the restoration work, I have less than two weeks left to be a full-time artist until I start teaching again. Each day that I go to the new studio I have a smile on my face and the strangest sense of peace in my heart that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. It’s weird.

I’ll be honest though, I used up all of my paycheck from last year’s teaching contract to pay for the renovation work, deposit, etc. without realizing that I wouldn’t be able to even get a simple personal loan to reimburse what I was spending until my next payment for my next contract (3x what I am asking to borrow), but again, because of the contract type and the fact that I’m not Italian, no bank or lending company here will touch me. This is one of the things my accountant scolded me for, but it doesn’t matter now and what’s done is done. This means I have to work even harder to survive and be successful.

Sometimes, I think when you over-analyze the “how” before you take action, you get stuck in the impossibility of the situation. Making “mistakes” can actually be a blessing if you don’t beat yourself up about it and just keep moving forward. I’m far from being perfect, but I’m determined to not let anything stop me nor anyone tell me I can’t achieve my dreams.

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