Here is why you shouldn’t assume your dreams are unrealistic

To: those who think their passion is an unrealistic career path

From: Keeley Shaw (As told to Lauren Brill)

Do you want to become a better writer? Join our free writing workshop


To those who think their passion is an unrealistic career path, 

Since I was a kid, I have loved creating impactful art for other people. 

Conveying a message through pictures has always come naturally to me. In seventh grade, I started drawing quotes on canvases and selling them to my friends and family. My mom has a whole closet full of random pieces that I have made through the years. But as a child, I never even dreamed of turning my art into a career. I didn’t think it was an option because I thought it was unrealistic.

My parents encouraged me to pursue a path that was more clear – one that would offer me financial stability. When I got to college, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. But ultimately, I decided that I loved kids, so I pursued a career in education. And that is where all of my attention went for the next eight years. I graduated from college and received a master’s degree in special education. 

It was a fallback plan, but I did enjoy it. I started in early childhood education and worked primarily with individuals on the autism spectrum. After I received my master’s, I spent a year leading an after school program for individuals on the spectrum. . During that time, I began writing a children’s book about autism. It was a passion project, and I wanted to see it through. The book never actually mentions the word “autism.” Instead, it explains how you can build a connection with someone entirely different from you. It’s a book about understanding and friendship. I drew all the illustrations for the book, and it was fun for me. It became my outlet.

Keeley published a children’s book.

Once I published my book, I started an Instagram account to promote it. There was no idea or plan when I began posting on Instagram. I just shared art that I enjoyed making. Sometimes I posted quotes. Then, I started to get into the enneagram, a model of the human psyche that breaks people down into nine types. I did a post for each type, and that’s when my following began to take off. 

Enter Your Email to Unseal Premium Content

Log in to The Unsealed or enter your email below and subscribe to our free newsletter to read the rest of Keeley's letter

However, as we got further into the pandemic, I began to go through cycles of depression. Besides the isolation I felt from staying home, I also felt alone in my feelings around politics, social issues and the state of the world. Illustrations became a way that I could express my personal feelings. At first, I was hesitant to post because I didn’t think anyone would care about my struggles with mental health. But as it turned out, my personal feelings resonated with a lot of people. 

There was one post that went wildly viral. It was about friendship, and it got about 100,000 likes. 

I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, what has happened here?” 

Then, more posts went viral, and I started to think, “This is what I am supposed to be doing in my life. “

So, on the side, I started pursuing art as a profession. First, I drew portraits of families. Then, as my Instagram continued to grow, recognizable organizations  began reaching out to me to draw illustrations for them. I couldn’t believe the offers I was getting to sit home and draw on my iPad. In May, I left my job and made art my full-time profession. 

Working for myself gives me a lot of flexibility. This past summer, my sister and I traveled up the northeast coast. We went to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, visiting all these quaint, cute towns. 

One day, I remember sitting on the coast, staring  at the ocean, thinking to myself, “This is my life. This is real. I don’t have to sit at a desk from 9:00 to 5:00 or be committed to anyone else’s schedule.”

If I knew this was possible, I would have pursued art sooner. 

Knowing what I know now, I don’t want you to waste one more minute of your life ignoring your passion. I’m not saying quit your job right now. But start working toward your goal with a clear intent of turning your passion into your full-time position. If you put your whole heart into whatever it is you want to do, you just might be surprised to see what is possible. 

Every day, I get to do just what I have loved since I was a little girl, which is to create impactful art for other people. 

And in doing so, I have created an incredible life for myself. 

You will never know what you can do until you have the courage to try. 

Good luck! 

Keeley Shaw
1 comment
Share this letter

One thought on “Here is why you shouldn’t assume your dreams are unrealistic

  1. Keely THANK YOU!! I felt this 100% in my soul. My deep craft for creating is often hindered by depression and anxiety. I love the fact that you found solace in published a book that is needed!! This line gives Me so much hope “sitting on the coast, staring at the ocean, thinking to myself, “This is my life. This is real. I don’t have to sit at a desk from 9:00 to 5:00 or be committed to anyone else’s schedule.”
    This is how I feel each and everyday. I am meant for creating and having a mind free from an organized schedule.
    How are you these days? What motivates you on a daily? And what advice would you give to an introverted yet extroverted writer?

Leave a Reply

Tell us your story

Write a letter of your own and respond to letters from the Unsealed community.

Write A Letter Now

Find A Pen Pal

Mange push notifications