Through Pain, Relocation and Marriage

Story by Emily U

One day, while browsing on Skillshare, I discovered Rich Armstrong’s 100 Day Challenge course. I felt inspired watching it, wondering if I could do something like this. I’ve tried to do Inktober in the past, drawing prompts every day for October. I’ve tried to do it every year and failed. It ate at my confidence, wondering how can I do a 100-day challenge when I can’t even do a 31-day challenge. I had a lot of self-doubt, depression and anxiety over my past failed projects. During the course, learning more about how flexible I can make this challenge inspired me. I make the rules. I make the goal. I can do whatever I want because it’s within my limits. I can push myself, I set the bar. I am in control. That’s what sold me.

I make the rules. I make the goal. I can do whatever I want because it’s within my limits. I can push myself, I set the bar. I am in control.

I was so scared about opening myself up again as an artist. I have told many people many times the projects I planned on doing. I plan and plan and plan, but never get started. The part that made me commit was taking responsibility. It’s important to take responsibility. So I told everyone. I told all my friends and family. But what could help more than that? I contacted Rich himself on Instagram, told him my insecurities and how I wanted to succeed. He was incredibly supportive, positive and inspiring. Knowing that the creator of something as big as this supported me, who feels invisible, meant a lot. It was enough to make my plan, take the plunge and not look back.

I prepared for any issue... I could at least do something small.

I decided to start on the 1st of October, 2021. Being late September already, I had enough time to make my plan. I created a spreadsheet of ideas, days and notes. I printed it off and kept it in the work-from-home office/art studio. I prepared for any issue. I got a small sketchbook and a pencil case to keep in my purse in case I was travelling and forgot about taking my things with me. I made a “least amount I can do” plan for if I felt super depressed. I could at least do something small. I felt this crazy determination to do this project. It was going to change so much for me, evolving myself not just as an artist but as a human being as well.

Check out the planning!

I went to a beach on Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada, in a small town where my Mom and her family grew up. She passed away in 2016. I asked for her blessing before beginning this new journey. I opened a new account, a new chapter, a new name, a new everything. Music To My Art was born. I make the art that I see when I listen to music. The song has a story to tell, even if there are no lyrics. I want to make visual representations of those songs, so everyone can enjoy them.

When October 1st came around, I was super excited. Life had been insane that entire year and I was hoping on ending on a good note. Life still had challenges thrown my way, but I had no intention of giving up.

Moving Dad

My Dad recovered from cancer surgery and the Doctor gave him the go-ahead for us to help him move to Nova Scotia where he bought a new house with my brother and my brother’s partner. I, unfortunately, had sciatica at this time. Drawing while in an intense amount of pain was difficult. Doing anything was difficult. Despite him lecturing me to take it easy, we managed to get my Dad there. Because I promised I would get him there, if it’s the last thing I did. He had a dream that I promised I’d help fulfil. I’ve been to Nova Scotia many times but unfortunately couldn’t enjoy much of it because of the pain.

Part of the journey

That didn’t stop me from drawing. Even stopping at hotels on our road trip from Ontario to Nova Scotia, I did my drawings. I planned and found a way to get it done. Regardless of how I felt, or what kind of pain I was in, I was going to do this. At that moment, I realised throughout my life, whenever something HAD to be done, it GOT done. This determination, this insane stubbornness, was going to see me through to the end. Even when it felt like my head was going to hit the table, I kept drawing.

Being genuine was more important. I put my ego aside, and did this because I wanted to. Not because I should.

The number of likes I got on my drawings did affect me at first. I remember sipping my tea as I told myself “It's not the likes that matter, it’s the intention of what I’m posting that matters.” Being genuine was more important. I put my ego aside, and did this because I wanted to. Not because I should.

I enjoyed the connections I made on Instagram with other people all over the world who were doing the same challenge as I was. Some weren’t because of the challenge at all, but just art lovers. My confidence grew knowing how strong I am, how capable, how much power I hold in my life.

After feeling powerless for so long in my life, I started to feel I had a handle on it. This showed greatly in the pieces I was doing. However, the days when I felt like I couldn’t even move also showed in the art I created. Days where I felt so low and burned out, I did the bare minimum that I set for myself. I wasn’t going to give up. I couldn’t give up. So many insane things happened in 2021, I couldn’t give up on this. This was MY project. I’ve done so many projects in my life, failed at so many things. Many people, friends and family, were very doubtful that I would succeed. It hurt.

I know it shouldn’t matter what others think of you, but this did. I was trying so hard for a very long time to impress certain people. I’m very good at self-sabotage, failing before I even start. I did think of Rich saying that it’s learning that matters. I thought about what I LEARNED during the times I failed. I learned that I take everything on at once, get overwhelmed and end up tapping out. That's why I was so happy this challenge was tailor-made by myself. I had a bare minimum list for when my depression and/or anxiety took over. If bad days turned into weeks, I had this plan to survive. Not to mention all the other life situations getting in the way PLUS COVID PLUS a terrible job market PLUS a terrible economy PLUS...

It was during these times I had to turn off my brain, my phone and turn on my heart instead. Look inward, remember my intention. There were lots of people to help me during this time. The people that matter. The true friends, the family members who care, my husband, my therapist, my boxing coach, the artists doing the same thing. I spoke to them instead. Some suggested taking a break, to put my health first. We all knew that wasn’t going to happen. I was happy to know how much they cared. I was going to sloth on, take it one day at a time. As long as I do that bare minimum, that’s what mattered the most. As long as I got up, had a shower, took my medications, ate, healed my spine, drew, that’s all that mattered to me. Additional bonuses: take a virtual class; go on Skillshare. I felt so guilty for not doing more, it ate at my self-worth. My mantra became “One day at a time. One day becomes two, then five, then twenty, then fifty, then eighty.”

The Wedding

Day 92 came, my fiancé and I finally got married. We eloped to Niagara Falls, Ontario. Our wedding got cancelled twice because of COVID-19, so we said, “Screw it!” and snuck away in secret and got married on the same night he had proposed a year earlier. It was a cloudy cold morning that turned into a mild sunny afternoon. The timing was perfect. That entire day was perfectly planned in 4 days. Yes, we decided to get married 4 days before we got married. And now we get fireworks every anniversary! Nobody knew but us. Announcing it to friends and family the next day was pretty hilarious. They all approved. We will all party together later when COVID isn’t such a major thing. It was the most beautiful end to a tough year. More importantly, the most loving beginning of the new year.

Niagara Falls from the hotel room

Seeing It Through to The End

I kept to a productivity plan of writing in massive colourful letters what my New Year’s Resolution was going to be. Sticking it on my wall in my face, so I don’t forget.

January 8th, 2022 came quickly. My 100th day was here, I planned on doing a major painting! Alas, doing the challenge had 1 more challenge for me. What I perceived as a 4 or 5-hour painting turned into 7 hours. The big canvas pack I purchased that day happened to be the ones that were not primed, although they said they were on the package. By the time I realised this, there wasn’t enough time to prime the canvas and redo the painting. I was stuck with what I had and kept going. It felt like it was never going to end. My awesome last day turned out to be the most challenging day of the challenge. The celebration I had afterwards was awesome though.

My 100th day

My celebration happened the next day due to the painting taking up most of the day. I played video games, my husband bought dinner and watched a movie. Then I had a bubble bath and then the BEST sleep of my life. I was so insanely proud of myself. Those who supported me were proud too. I set up a project for myself, followed the plan and saw it through to the end. I created a board to see all of my achievements hung on the wall. These visual reminders were positive, even the bad days because I got through them successfully. Even the drawings that looked horrible made me laugh, which was a major thing for me.

I was so insanely proud of myself. Those who supported me were proud too.

I was always insanely hard on myself. Very judgemental, comparing myself to other artists. Being able to laugh at a piece meant that I was growing. I don’t have to take myself so seriously.

I decided to take a month off to rest after this project was done. Unfortunately, I feel like I didn’t get much rest because of how 2022 started, but I remained optimistic.

Now I know what to do to make sure I’m successful. If I fail, then it’s a lesson learned. Keep a plan, look at it often, be aware of the intention behind it and take it one day at a time. If I’m afraid or nervous, that's okay. It means I care deeply about what I’m doing.

I achieved what I set out to do. With my head held high, I breathe a lot easier. Self-doubt became self-confidence. One day became one hundred. I wouldn’t change it for the world.


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