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  • Writer's pictureBel Mills

Were You Mis-sorted?

Updated: Jul 27, 2023




Because I’m an artist with a degree in sociology who also loves the Harry Potter book series, I have an interesting theory about my life.


I think I got mis-sorted.


Maybe you did, too?


For those unfamiliar with the sorting ceremony at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it is a pivotal moment in the life of every new student whereby—through the mysterious power of a magical hat, the path of their young lives is suddenly--and irrevocably—locked into place. You see, the moment the hat is set on their heads, it quickly takes stock of their talents and inclinations, sorting them into one of four school houses: Ravenclaw, for the clever; Hufflepuff, for the loyal; Slytherin, for the cunning; and Gryffindor, for the brave.


Their reputations, their self-image (not to mention their social lives and their living arrangements) are tidily predetermined before they’ve cast a single spell.


Sound familiar?


I think many creative people—myself included—were subjected to a similar sorting hat when we were young. It was used to determine whether we’d be encouraged to pursue a career in art or design. The sorting hat was a question: Can you draw?


I could not. At least not very well. Also, I was quite a good student. So naturally, I was sorted into the advanced academic track, told to take AP classes, and sent on my way. I chose a suitably academic major in college, and my creative inclinations were relegated to “hobbies.”


Can you relate? Maybe you’ve spent years on a certain path, only to wonder if, somewhere along the way, a mistake was made? Were your creative gifts overlooked because you couldn’t draw?





After all, there are many ways a talent for visual artistry can show up: an eye for composition, a genius for combining colors, a knack for creating balance and harmony. In a child, these gifts might look like an obsession with bedroom décor, a fastidious concern with clothing colors, or even an exceedingly careful attention to barbie’s hairstyle. These are the traits I can, retrospectively, recognize in myself, but there are so many activities that betray an interest in color, pattern, line and texture. And most aren’t necessarily encouraged by parents, or considered markers of a budding artistic talent.


So, after being mis-sorted, what followed for me was a succession of career attempts that looked promising, but couldn’t stick. My mother said I should pursue medicine, but I couldn’t manage high-level math. I loved sociology enough to enter a PhD program, but felt my life force draining the closer I got to becoming a professor. I somewhat enjoyed writing stories for a newspaper, but only when it didn’t feel like an endless, Sisyphean chore.


How did I find my way back to my artistic roots? I wish I could say it came to me in a flash, and I suddenly realized I was an artist and needed to pursue it. In reality, it was far less purposeful. I decided to stay home with our newborn twins, and after several years, I discovered I was a clean slate. There was no career I could go back to and pick up where I’d left off. There were no doting parents evaluating every choice I made. I could decide to sort myself. So I went back to the university, but this time I only took book arts classes.






Your circumstances may not be like mine. Not everyone has a spouse who supports their interests unconditionally, or whose income can support the family. But this story is less about circumstances than about decision. It’s about recognizing you were steered away from a certain path, and deciding what you want to do about it now.


So, were you mis-sorted? And if so, what are you doing about it?


Because as you probably know, it’s never too late to heed the creative call you heard as a child. Even if you only find time in the evenings or early mornings, that artistic path is still there, waiting for you to wander back onto it. After all, for artists, there is really only one question that matters, one question that stirs our souls and entices us to leave our beds each morning. And it’s not “Can you draw?”


The question is: What am I going to make today?


Now, make time in your day for the answer .





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18 Comments


blacktwigcottage
Oct 01, 2023

Thank you for writing this! This is me and I love seeing it written out loud!

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The House of Jane
The House of Jane
Jul 01, 2023

I relate so well to what you said happened to you. I was on the path to become a successful photographer because I did have talent and I didn't pursue for many reason but mainly because I thought I wouldn't make any money and chose the career paths where I did make money. I was a personal mess at the time so the path I did chose probably saved my life; however, I should have at least tried to see where I would have gotten. Now I'm 58 and I always wonder what could have been. My save in grace is the path I took brought me to where I am today and I wouldn't give up my 3 boys…

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Bel Mills
Bel Mills
Jul 01, 2023
Replying to

Hi Jane! I’m so glad my story resonated with your experiences. Have you taken up photography again? It sounds like your career choices were the right ones at the time you made them, but maybe now is the time to begin a new chapter? It’s not too late.

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Tina Barbour
Tina Barbour
Jun 23, 2023

I can so relate with this! I couldn’t draw and was therefore never encouraged to take art classes or try art. My brother could draw and my mother took painting lessons, but I was the good student and the writer. A few years ago, I decided to trying acrylic painting. Now I’m working on drawing, paper crafts, and textile art. I enjoy writing and still do it, but I feel like after all the years I have spent writing for jobs and on my own, I am tired of trying to express myself that way. I want to make art, make things with my hands.

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Bel Mills
Bel Mills
Jun 25, 2023
Replying to

What a gift to finally be able to express your creativity in a way that inspires you! So glad, Tina!

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Maria Baldwin
Maria Baldwin
Jun 22, 2023

I can relate! I've wandered in and out of art practice all my life and have a few degrees. Currently a therapist.

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Bel Mills
Bel Mills
Jun 25, 2023
Replying to

Hope you are finding time to make art today, Maria!

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Kay Perret
Kay Perret
Jun 22, 2023

Nope, can't draw. And I was told by my 7th grade art teacher that I wasn't an artist. So I stopped trying. Good academically so I got my degree in psychology. Then worked a corporate job for 20 years. And THEN made my living for 18 years as a decorative painter in my own business. Yippee!


I love your story and the sorting hat reference. I think a lot of us got stuck in that. 🧡

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Bel Mills
Bel Mills
Jun 25, 2023
Replying to

Wow, what a journey, Kay! I’m so glad you found your way back to your artistic side and even made a career out of it! Yippee indeed 😄

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