Investing in Memories

Today is the last week in an almost 40-something (39) woman’s six journal of her “time out”. After quitting her emotionally tumultuous, big time job, she is taking some time off for to take stock. As part of her process she is writing about her journey and reflecting on what she is experiencing now and how it’s different from her 20s. Today she shares her thoughts based on something she started investing in her 20s that brings her joy today.


The mini-retirement continues, and I’ve just spent some time visiting college friends in Tampa and Chicago. At a fabulous lunch hosted by one friend, I asked them for potential topics for my last blog post for 40:20 and Wendy suggested I write about “what’s worth investing in” when you’re in your 20s, so that you’ll appreciate it once you hit 40.  I like the idea but feel it’s a too-big topic – could range from clothes to furniture to mutual funds (no fun). I’m an expert on exactly nothing, but the one thing I started doing in my 20s that people tend to notice in my apartment and ask me about is buying artwork.


My grandmother bought me my first piece of artwork when I graduated from undergrad. A friend of mine was an art major and the senior show was in the school’s gallery for graduation, so Virginia and I took a walk before the ceremony, and I showed her the two paintings I liked. Matt (the artist) also happened to be in the gallery and despite her confusion about the painting – “Well, I don’t know what it is supposed to be, but if you like it…” she bought it for me. She pulled out 5 $100 bills on the spot and handed it over to Matt, completing his first sale. I adore that painting, but as much as I love the colors and the aesthetic of the piece, I love the memory of that day.


Another small abstract painting called “Yankee Stadium” was the first piece I bought when I moved to New York. It came from a small gallery on Houston Street and cost $200 and every time I look at it, it reminds me of how I felt when I made the move from Chicago to NYC. The painting is a collection of tiny colorful specks of people in the stands, each speck distinct but also part of a much larger mosaic. Since that purchase, I’ve bought more pieces, some much more expensive, but it retains a distinct appeal from a time in my life.


Over the years I’ve probably bought 15-20 pieces including paintings, photography, sketches and even a bronze sculpture. I am by no means a real or serious collector – I simply buy what I like and what I can afford at the time. What I’ve learned is that buying and owning artwork provides a joy that I never would have predicted when I was 20. On the one hand, there’s the intrinsic value of the piece itself but there’s so much more to the near-visceral remembrance on the time and place when I first saw each piece, where I was in my growing up, what walls they’ve lived on in various apartments…it’s as if the art tells not only the story of itself but the story of me – and it’s incredibly powerful and comforting.


I don’t know what inspired me to ask my grandmother for Matt’s painting for my graduation gift, but I’m so glad I did…and my advice to any 20-something would be to explore art and consider investing in a small piece sooner than later to start your own collection.  If you’re in New York, check out The Affordable Art Fair, which just happens to be coming up this month!


Thank you. Sorry to see the end of this six week journey. Perhaps we can get one more  follow-up to hear how her trip to Paris goes:)

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