Eons ago when I was still in art school I can remember choosing Illustration as my BFA focus. I didn't put a terrible amount of thought into it, but do recall thinking it was probably the most 'marketable' choice. Basically all I really wanted to do was create art. The future and paying bills really didn't yet register as a priority.
Later and nearing graduation I began considering grad school. I took my GREs. I sent out applications to 'far away' places like Berkeley, Tucson, and Seattle. At the time I was taking a large number of Gender Studies classes and was an adjunct professor of a Women's Studies class. The idea of 'selling' my art was fine but creating art for 'commercial' purposes began to feel like prostitution. It felt like it made me less of an artist. My young, righteous self couldn't go into that murky territory.
So I didn't pursue my illustration career. I actually stopped creating art for many years. Perhaps those were dark times but I prefer to think that I was focusing my energy elsewhere. This is when I found my talent for hands-on, non-profit, human service work. There was value in the effort of helping others better their lives - even better to pour yourself into bringing attention to the disenfranchised and discriminated against. I was surrounded by amazing people who 'got it'. We didn't earn the big bucks, nor would we ever, but we were working for a different purpose.
I remember very clearly a conversation with some good 'human service' friends. I was talking about college. Everyone seemed shocked that I painted. They asked why they had never seen my work and how long it had been since I had exhibited. I was at a loss. I admitted it had been years (years!) since I painted anything other than walls.
It wasn't overnight, but I started to create art again. I bought sketchbooks and dusted off my old portfolios. I became comfortable in the studio and it all came back like someone opened the blinds letting the fresh air and sunlight through. I realized that I could be an artist AND create meaningful work for other people. I just had to be deliberate about the jobs I accepted and those I solicited for. I finally understood that if you create art that means something to you it will resonate with others because it sings your very unique song. It is authentic because I made it. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that.