about artists and new age stress

I’m sick to my head thinking about all of the opportunities that a white, middle-class, North American girl has in her life. I know that’s self-indulgent and I’m sure it invokes some sort of -ism, but choices are hard. I talked to my parents tonight about this movie (It’s Kind of a Funny Story) starring Zach Galifianakis (from The Hangover) and it’s like – in the Soviet Union you had “security.” You didn’t worry about economic instability when you were 16. You’re still brainwashed in school here, though: “You can be anything you want to be. Go to university and everything will fall in front of your feet.”  You have to work for things still, but not only that, you probably have to make the bricks before you find out what a yellow brick road ever looks like. I think some young people think this is difficult, but you have to work for things in life – I guess it was just never as stressful as it is now.

I also have a hard time coming to agreement with myself about the fantasy of “be what you wanna be” versus the pragmatic “find a job and do good things on the side” that my dad so strongly advocates for. I’m not a writer by blood – certainly not – I’m a writer by passion. My parents are engineers-cum-technicians, as are their parents, so the artsy-fartsy-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-payday mentality that I tried on in highschool didn’t fly with my dad. I mean, yes, it’s not realistic. But there are still “artists” – be they painters, writers, singers or dancers. These people can still make a living doing what they love, can’t they?

I’m not sure. I even know that asking that question is pointless because all the big, flashing lights point to no. You can’t be an artist anymore without working as an artist in some form.

Paya and I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario yesterday to bounce around some thoughts, and we saw this exhibition by David Blackwood, who created these stunning prints about Newfoundland. I read about the process of making a print (an ‘etching’) and it’s incredibly long-winded: first, you have to coat a metal piece with wax, then scratch out your picture, then dip the metal shield in acid, then scrape off all the wax, fill it all in with proper colours, wipe off the colours, add details, put a paper on top and put it through an incredibly intense press. Then colour correction starts, and all of this happens AFTER the countless sketches it takes to get the picture to the etching stage.

Who has time for that these days, especially after holding down a job? You’re too tired for this shit, even if you’re motivated. You’re tired. You’re worried. You’re stressed.

I’m not depressed or anything – just thoughtful, I guess. And I hate being blonde. It doesn’t suit me, and I don’t know why I was so drawn to the “summer-y” feeling of blond hair; it’s kind of bullshit. I just see roots. Maybe that says something about me but our downstairs bathroom smells like shit all of the time because my senile grandfather doesn’t know how to flush properly and he pees everywhere and how the fuck am I supposed to be a writer when I hate everything I write that isn’t written with complete and utter spontaneity? When I actually try to convey feelings or points, I constantly read over my work and think, well, an orangutan probably could have written this.

And even when I read about jobs (all I think about are jobs jobs jobs) that might be fascinating for me to do, like copywriting or editing (even when it sounds like me), I’m not at all able to convince myself that I’ll ever teach myself all the necessary skills to become good at these jobs. When I used to draw in highschool my most despised part of my drawings were the details. I can’t do it. I do art in broad strokes. I do scenes in my writing – I can’t imagine writing anything longer than a page or two without it seeming trite and obvious. I sketch. I don’t pin points.

In my writing – which is both my “useless” craft (ie. not pragmatic), my craft that I’m not sure will ever mean anything to anyone, and also something I’m sure is more important to people now than it ever was – I don’t use punctuation. I have a hard time explaining punctuation to my tutorees because I use it instinctively and yet I want to be an English teacher.

You know what I want? I want to write. I want to drink wine and write like those fucking authors did “back in the day.” I want to mingle with a society of artists in Paris and fuck and see bullfights and go to war. I want to visit insane asylums because they seem more sane.

I want to be the Old Woman and the Sea in a world with CNN, Obama/sama, American Idol, housing crises, economic downturn, environmental disaster and universities that only teach disillusionment.

But how does a girl go about becoming that?

A.

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