I met Heather Parker many years ago, through mutual interests, and she’s long been a muse. I’ve asked Heather to talk about and share her photographs with readers here, because I’ve watched her develop her skills over the years and have always appreciated the pictures she captures of her every day life. I also believe that Heather is creative in one of the most valuable callings: being a mother. Her son has been able to tinker with art supplies, instruments and the outdoors because of Heather’s attention to his artistic side, and he is all the better for this exposure, a little gem of uniqueness. Moms don’t get a lot of credit these days. You’ll met him in one of the pictures below.
I’ve often wondered about actor families that seem to breed actor families, like the children in the Phoenix family, who after escaping the Children of God cult in South America went on to become successful A and B-list actors, or writers who breed writers, such as Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, or even writers that breed musicians, like Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, and his son, James, a musician.
The list goes on and on.
On the other side are the people I know whose parents told them again and again to stifle their art, that it was either devil’s play or uselessly non-lucrative nonsense, to buck up and pursue a career in the legal industry or the sciences, but god forbid they teach or write or make music. These people seemed to face more of an uphill battle, but I have found many of them succeeding in their creative pursuits regardless, because it is just who they are.
Yesterday, I stumbled across a blog entry titled Are We Born to Create? At the end, the author asked for people to talk about their history in the comments. The comment I left made me ponder my own story, and how it is different than the traditional stories you hear.
I wasn’t shunted, rather I was encouraged to pursue creativity at all costs.
I came from artsy kin, one of the few in the town I grew up in. If you were creative, whether in the arts or in music or writing, you ended up befriending the other creatives in your neighborhood, as my parents did through out my childhood.
My mother’s father was an architect and her mother was a homemaker with a propensity for scrapbooking. Her dad constantly pushed her to get her bachelor’s degree (which she did, in English) and then to pursue a Master’s or a graduate degree in order to pursue law or science.
Instead, she married a concert pianist.
My dad is the son of an engineer father who built his own house in the El Cerrito hills, painted, read endless amounts of books and grew exotic plants for fun. He loved the opera and classical music so much he recorded drawers full of tapes that are now sitting by their lonesome.
Growing up, we didn’t have the money the people around us did, due to my parents determination to work for no one but themselves; our neighbors owned houses, we rented. We had the illusion of fitting in from the outside, but looking back I feel an undercurrent of ostracism.
My friend’s parents mostly had blue-collar or working-class jobs, some were single parents who worked in offices.
To make ends meet while pursuing their artistic goals, my dad first fixed cars, then pianos, and eventually my parents started a piano business, because as my dad says, “Cars were too messy.”
Meanwhile, he continued to practice piano late into the night.
They put on concerts and plays around the Bay Area, but turned down the larger gigs in other states to focus on raising a family – something they were taught was a worthy pursuit.
My dad tried to teach me piano as a kid, but a couple of years in, when he insisted I sing for him while playing “Weeping Willow Tree” on the piano, I had a tantrum, refused, and that was the end of that. He taught me long enough that I picked up notes and octaves and timing, along with an appreciation for many of the great classical composers.
I was shuttled to a piano teacher for a bit, but when he refused to teach me “Moonlight Sonata” unless I rehash the basic piano book’s “Jack and Jane go to a Party,” using only single notes on one hand, I almost threw the book in his face. I convinced my parents to stop paying him and proceeded to teach myself the songs I wanted to learn. (To this day, I only know the first part of Moonlight Sonata on the piano).
I eventually picked up a guitar, because I wanted to be different from my dad. Singing came naturally; I was surrounded by beautiful women singers growing up who accompanied my dad on pop songs he wrote in between classical concerts. My parents bartered for a guitar and guitar lessons with an older classic rock aficionado a couple of cities away.
In elementary school I spent my free time writing stories and submitting them for Young Author’s awards. Though I ended up winning two of them, I thought that it was only because I was one of the only kids in my elementary school who really enjoyed the process of writing and actually submitted stories. That, and that my dad did concerts locally, seemed to make me a bit of a freak with my peers.
I constantly refuted authority, having developed an anti-authoritative mind of my own, and never much stayed within any crowd; I was like a lone wolf in the wild west, circling from group to group and gathering intel, mostly just ranging about wide open spaces when I could.
Maybe because of this element of exclusion, I started ditching school in fourth grade. I saved my lunch money and would boldly walk into the local market that rested at the base of the hill where the elementary school was, proclaiming to whoever was on clerk duty that I had the day off for a concert my parents were doing, and that’s why I was buying candy during school hours.
I would then sit in the creek all day throwing rocks, reading books and eating my provisions.
Mostly, creating came naturally and was a way of filling up space.
I came up with a newsletter for my street at one point, and ran up and down the block interviewing neighbors with my hand-held tape recorder. When I delivered it to one grudging kid’s mom on my block she said, “This better not cost any money.”
The only classes I enjoyed in school were wood shop and English, although I did my best to irritate my teachers by making meowing or mooing noises in the back of the classroom. My friends and I drew all over our binders, school book covers, and the notes we passed.
When I turned in a poem about guns and suicide, my 7th grade teacher pulled me aside and said, “You’re an excellent writer. I’ve referred you for advanced placement once you get to high school.” I never went to that high school, but I think back to how my life might have been different had I ended up taking her up on her recommendations.
I spent most of my time in junior high screwing off, listening to music, reading books, writing and trying to spend time with the neighborhood boys. When I wasn’t doing those things, I roamed about the creeks and hills, throwing rocks, trying to burn things and getting into other kinds of the trouble that came with running with the boys, though I hate to say I was a prime instigator.
My mom taught me to write in a journal before I could write, by transcribing my dreams for me first. Until I learned to form words, I drew pictures of horses and cats. Writing was a place for me to go when I was forced to hang around my extended family, go to church or anywhere else I didn’t want to go.
My journals also got me in trouble in my teens, when my mom and dad looked to them for wisdom on my secret life away from them.
I wrote while hitchhiking across the country, but lost my journal somewhere in Ohio when I got shipped back home. The other thirty or so journals I’ve filled sit in my closet, piling higher and higher as the years go on.
My mom got heavily into ballroom dancing and then swing, tango, salsa and two-step when I was a teenager, maybe to take her mind off my antics, maybe because she finally found herself in her thirties, like many women do.
My dad stopped performing so much during what we call his mid-life crisis, and spent his time writing, creating and researching in between working on pianos.
My sister picked up drawing at a young age and whittled her craft until she became quite good at it.
I had a period of time in my early twenties where I didn’t create much at all, aside from some poetry here and there, and the journaling. I tried on a job at a law firm and decided it was nice having money to pay the bills. The niceness of money only lasted two years, until I started taking night classes and decided to finish my degree.
The whole time I stumbled in and out of nine to five jobs my dad would sit staring at me on our visits, asking questions like, “are you really happy?” and launching into existential debates on the nature of corporate jobs, recounting his short attempts at working for other people before throwing in the towel at age 21.
Sometimes I wonder, had being creative not been such a religion in my family, more important than anything else, would I still write? Would I take photographs? Would I create music? I don’t know. It seems like it’s so much a part of who I am and how I process life that I feel I would grow stale and wither away without the release and structure.
I have inherited, or was born with, an idealistic goal of affecting people with what I write and create in the world of words and music – it’s kind of my whole modus operandi for life in general. I also create predominantly to process shit out and get a grip on this crazy world we live in.
I do have quite a few friends who were not encouraged to be creative and were criticized for their endeavors. What’s your story? Were you supported in your pursuits? Were you stilted by judgment?
Have you ever thought that time is not really real?
I picked up a book that came across my path at the library the other day called Creative Time and Space: Making Room For Art by Rice Freeman-Zachary. In the book are a number of exercises and chapters that include ideas on how to use your art (and writing, music, etc.) to sidestep time and become timeless for a while.
The night before I started reading the book, my husband was sharing some things he learned about the planet Venus in his astronomy class. Namely, that the day on Venus is longer than its year and also that it is rotating backwards.
This kind of made me feel weightless for a moment, similar to the time he told me that the sun would eventually burn out (not for a long, long time — but it made me think) and that we are like an itty little anthill in a solar system that is connected to an enormous array of additional solar systems of which we know nothing.
Cue sinking feeling and sense that gravity is cursory.
In Creative Time & Space, Zachary writes, “For creative people, time unfolds differently and the world of imagination often takes precedence over the world of facts and rules and of course, time.”
Have you ever noticed that when you’re in the flow of creating something, time ceases to even be a thought? Everything seems in its right place and the clock ticking isn’t a bane of your existence. It’s similar to what I was talking about a long time ago when I professed that when you are following your path everything feels like you’ve tapped into a cool stream inside.
When I was a teenager, I used to write everywhere, “Time is irrelevant.”
What I meant was not that time doesn’t matter, but that clock time, the time we measure out our lives to in the current industrial productivity based age, doesn’t matter.
When I was roaming around America on borrowed high school time, I ran into people I knew everywhere I went: from Oregon to Florida. Time ceased to matter. Months flew by in what seemed like days.
When I got sent back home to try and finish high school, studying for the boring CHSPE exam and trying to live a structured by-the-clock life, time seemed to drag on forever. Sometimes I would just sit and watch the clock to see if it really was ticking slower than it ever had before.
I think when we reach the place where clock time ceases to matter, where it feels like we’re in some quantum parallel universe, we are in our true home — one we can’t define by societies dictates and standards of production. One that can’t be begged, borrowed or stolen. One that is truly our own. I often find this bounty of time when I am aimlessly exploring in my car, hiking new paths in the foothills near my apartment or tweaking songs on my guitar. I most always find it when I am writing. Where do you find the space of endless time?
I’m trying to convey a message on this blog, which is this–
Stop waiting for permission to be free.
You can follow your passion at your own pace on your own terms. And please, follow your passions if you feel this is the core of you, that if it were torn out or taken away you would wither.
You can grow your dreams slowly, over time, like tilling the soil before setting in the seeds and patting them over with a bit of dirt.
You may not be able to control what size they are, or which takes root. That’s the thing about dreams. They aren’t necessarily static.
And what turns out can be seemingly random. The orchid in the corner you threw water on once in a while might suddenly burst into life making you scratch your head and go, “What the —-?”
And some just won’t take at all. But you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. And you will have to keep trying. You can’t sit on your butt and wait for things to happen.
We’re filled up to the ears from the time we are taught to read and glue our eyes to the tube about the Carnegies and the Rockefellers of the world, the Mozarts and the Elvis Presleys. Well, I’m sorry, but we’re not them. And we won’t ever be them. You can only be you; I can only be me.
The typical American movie goes something along the lines of he was born into (insert blank). He worked his way up. He was discovered. He arrived. Now he’s happy because he has fame, adulation and cash.
Or if you follow the VH1 path, the person was discovered, got into drugs, almost lost it all and then came back to play a reunion show to a sold out crowd.
Well la-de-dah, right?
But we’re all affected by it. Deprogramming yourself is hard. You’re trained from birth to want more than what you have. To feel that if you had that thing over there, everything would be so much better. If I were pretty like her, I would be happy. If I were wealthy like him, I would be happy. If I “make it big,” then I will be happy.
Cease and desist. What the hell do you want? I’m talking to myself, I’m talking to you drifters, wanderers, musicians, writers–whatever you are, be it for you and work on being it right now.
What if you could pick a packed out stadium or one broken life inspired. They’re not really mutually exclusive, but think about it. Which would you choose? What is your motivation?
Have you ever wondered if going to Hollywood (Not that I don’t love me some Hollywood at times, but let’s think of this as a concept, not necessarily a place) and making it big just might not be your answer?
Well then, you’ve come to the right place. The answer then, is to start where you are. With what you have. In this moment.
What motivates you? External things? Internal things? Both? Good! You’re just like the rest of us.
Do you want to “make it big” so that other people will tell you how awesome you are? Will that fill the need to be somebody, be something?
Maybe briefly, but not forever. Look around you. I bet you have a bunch of friends and family (fans) who keep you tuned up when times are tough and tell you you’re good at what you do. Don’t lose them. It’s easy to do. Especially if you do succeed in the American way. It is so easy to lose focus. You need a core group of people to keep you real, not a caravan of sycophants telling you what you want to hear. It’s easy to fall when you’ve got no one telling you the truth.
And tell me, because I often wonder myself, why is 1,000 people better than 1?
Is it the validation? What makes having a million fans more exciting than just a few? The popularity? Do we really always need more to be better? Do we feel like if others don’t admire or appreciate our talents they aren’t real? (Sometimes I do.)
Ah, wait. I remember. It’s the capitalistic model. We have to put bread on the table. We need a roof over our heads. In order to be a success we’ve got to do this for a living.
I don’t think so. But I’m not famous. And I do this to live. Not to make loads of money. (Although I wouldn’t balk if I were to get paid more for the creative things I do do for money.)
I’m just trying to get you to think.
At the end of Into the Wild, Chris McCandless writes in his journal, “Happiness only real when shared.”
Is this true? Or can you be happy when you’re alone and inspired and then in turn decide to share it with others?
I believe we can have happiness alone but we don’t always want happiness alone. We want to share it and we want it shared with us. And that is fine. But I always think it’s a good thing to look at the foundation we’re standing on, make sure it isn’t cracked and parched. I don’t believe you can be whole without making yourself whole first, just like you can’t draw water from an empty well.
My final point is:
Write what you want to read.
Play what you want to hear.
If you can’t write it or play it yourself, collaborate with people who can help you manifest it.
A lot of things you don’t think are possible are possible.
I have lived many different lives already and so have you.
On another quantum plane, I am doing something different. And because I have an imagination, I can grow my own life. It may not turn out to be perfect, it never does, but I will definitely learn from it. And if you’re not learning, you’re not really alive, are you?
Still, I often found myself in my teens and early twenties judging myself for wanting to spend my time in pursuit of writing or music. I worked inside of a law firm for a number of years and thought I had arrived; that this was how being an adult was and that earning money was more important than anything else: because then I could have stuff and be secure.
I was challenging my parents morals. They struggled, lived in feast or famine. Why couldn’t I just work a 9 – 5, like everyone else?
I quit the job because I learned over the years that nothing is really secure, and that stuff is just stuff. I was bored and unhappy. I had health complaints due to the stress and I was only 24.
I decided to go back to college again, and ended up majoring in creative writing. I felt bad about choosing writing as a major. I knew it wasn’t lucrative and I judged myself for wanting to pursue it. Why on earth did I feel that pursuing creativity was a bad thing. Who told me this? Definitely not my parents!
I remember one experience that might have contributed.
In third grade, I was bored with working on plain old handwriting. We had been doing that since kindergarten. In fourth grade, the students were learning to write cursive. So I attempted cursive, because I was ready to move ahead. I gutsily turned in a homework assignment written entirely in cursive.
A few days later, the teacher held my assignment in front of the class. “This is why you should not write cursive until fourth grade,” he said. And he proceeded to point out the flaws in my handwriting.
I was chagrined. Instead of encouraging me for trying something new, he mocked me in front of the class. He didn’t want me to be different, to move ahead. He wanted me to follow the rules and keep writing boring penmanship because that is just what you do in third grade. He also used me as an example in front of the other children, to teach them that trying something ahead of time is not OK.
What would have happened if a teacher pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I love that you want to move ahead. Are you getting bored with the work? Let’s teach you how to write cursive. That might be fun for you!”
I learned from that experience that I was stupid for trying something new, that it wasn’t good to be different, and that my cursive sucked. It took me a lot of resilience and practice to even want to write cursive after that public attack.
I was interviewing a person today who volunteers at a high school coaching teenagers with writing. He feels that if kids know there are options out there, if they can be creative, try different things and explore, with support, they will be able to find fulfilling things to do with their minds. They will be excited instead of bored. They will have purpose instead of only chaos and disillusionment.
Junior high and high school both felt like a holding cell for me. The people I know who did the best in high school at the social cliques are the ones I often see succeeding in stifling corporate and retail environments. But that’s another topic. I’m worried that American schools in general are shaping children to be good at showing up to a future of working non-fulfilling nine to five jobs and not much else.
I feel like kids these days are faced with a lonely time during their adolescent years. They don’t have many creative venues for expressing themselves as school budgets are cut and the arts, music and sports programs are eliminated. Many feel they can’t trust anyone around them and have no one in their corner. Being alone sucks. In the Road to Whatever, Elliot Currie talks about the invisible middle class and how many of these kids don’t have access to the help that a poor or minority student might have. They often act out but couldn’t tell you why. “I have a good family,” they say. But yet, if you look deeper, they feel completely alone. Mom and dad are working. The teachers are tired and underpaid. They come home to an empty house. They’re not screwed up enough for therapy.
When I was in school, I wanted to create. The only people who encouraged me were a few English teachers. Everyone else told me to behave. I acted out because I was bored. I eventually dropped out of high school and tested into college, where I found a stimulating environment and a great exchange of ideas and information I hadn’t found in high school. I was encourage to take liberal arts classes. I excelled in writing and English, yet again. I joined the cross country team.
Creativity has no place in our current public school system. It’s not lucrative from a production standpoint. Didn’t the leisure class in the past come up with all sorts of art and entertainment that the working poor never had the opportunity to brainstorm about? What if we all had access to time and creativity along with enough money to handle our needs?
I love the article Bertrand Russell wrote, In Praise of Being Idle. We have a fear of downtime in our society. But overproduction and cloning the masses to just work, work, work did not lead to the great architecture, music and thought that brought us to this amazing day and age.
What was your experience in school? Were you encouraged to be creative? Or do you remember being reprimanded for your creativity and uniqueness? Do you feel you learned anything useful from the school systems you attended in your childhood and teens? I’d love to hear your experiences.
Today, artistic friends, my question is are there more affordable cities in America where writers, musicians, poets and artists can thrive? Do we always have to pay most of our income to rent and food and work multiple part-time jobs that pay little just so we can have the flexibility to write or play music?
I currently live in the Bay Area. I’ve been here my whole life, aside from the year my parents were attending the University of Texas in Austin after I was born. I love the abundance of hiking trails and the proximity to the ocean. I like that people are interesting and educated and into books, art and music. I love the historic houses. San Francisco will always be my one true home.
What I don’t like is how expensive it’s gotten here, how everything feels tooth and nail, and many people around Berkeley/Oakland/San Francisco drive like assholes, treat each other like crap and don’t even smile.
We moved out of San Francisco for the same reasons. Too competitive, too overcrowded, too expensive. You had to fight to get anywhere or do anything. To live here, you need to be a type A++ personality. Bigger, better, faster, more competitive than everyone else. I love that people are multi-faceted and interested in a million different things. What I wonder about is where they find the time and how they got all of this money. The working class is slowly being pushed out of the Bay Area.
The economy tanking in 2008 didn’t help matters. Since then, I’ve picked up freelance work and part-time gigs, but each time I’ve worked for someone else (albeit once, when my friend worked at the place I applied and told me they were desperate for staff) I’ve had to persist at trying to get the job for up to a year. And this is for COFFEE SHOPS. On top of that, I’m allergic to the oaks and the cedar and the grass and the pollen. As a writer who is figuring out what I want to write about and how to make enough money doing it without getting burnt out, I don’t barely break even and to live here, you need a two-power-couple income, no car and inherited real estate. IMHO.
Because of the rough times of the past few years across the board, we all seem afraid to move. “Last year, the Census Bureau’s national mover rate—which represents the percentage of Americans 1 year and older who moved within the past year—hit its lowest level since 1948, when the bureau began tracking the data.” Wow.
Where could we go? I used my experience here to elaborate on an issue facing many, many people in this day and age. So are there any places left that might afford a better cost of living and ability to spend time on creative pursuits?
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with so far:
- One could move to Paducah, Kentucky, as detailed on The Abundant Artist here. The city decided to experiment by offering help to established artists wishing to relocate. The experiment appears to be successful so far. You can find out more about Paducah here. $1 subsidized living? Tell me more!
- One could also move to Austin, which boasts a vibrant music scene: over 1,900 performing artists and bands live near or in the city. Move To Austin is a blog detailing all you would want to know about moving to this sunny, humid, hot bed for artistic people, good eats and culture. Unlike other parts of Texas, Austin has an abundance of outdoor activities including rivers and hiking. I do hear that the allergy season is worse there than other places, which might be a deal killer for me.
One of my college buddies blogs about her recent move to Austin here. I’d be lying if I didn’t say she almost has me convinced. To play the devil’s advocate here though, not all places other people like are great for me. Some people express on a forum discussing the city the problems living in a hip place come with. They are the same problems I am facing here in the Bay Area. I am sick of the cooler-than-thou attitude, the competitiveness and the cliques. Be yourself people! Don’t be a snot!Let’s explore a few other places.
- Boulder, Colorado was always a great place to visit in my traveling days. Interesting people flocked there to drink good beer, hike in the mountains, see live music and go to college. On the city website is an extensive list of articles describing it as being the best city to retire in, the best artistic destination, the best food, etc. Check it out yourself here.
In addition, the links listed there led me to a great article on the top 25 small cities written by American Style Magazine.
- I’ve often fantasized about moving to Taos, New Mexico. Taosis.com offers an artists guide to Taos, and professes that not only does Toas have great rafting, hiking and skiing, it is a mecca for the artistic.
When I visited Taos a number of years ago I found it to be beautiful, with an enchanting spirit that pulled me in. It was very warm, and beautiful orange sand stretched on for miles outside the city limits. I found hidden nooks and adobe-style buildings.I really do love Victorian and Art Deco architecture as well, though, and have found that it is important to me to live in buildings that inspire and motivate me, or at least be around them. Which is one reason why I wish the San Francisco Bay Area were not at such a high (almost double) cost of living index compared to many other places in the U.S. And a reason why I’ve often considered Portland, Oregon.
- Portland, Oregon is a hotbed for artistic people, including writers, yet it does rain many months out of the year. I always found it lush, green and inspiring when I traveled through the state and I wanted to explore Mt. Hood and bunk down in an old Victorian somewhere to collect books and write. My friend lives there, and has enjoyed being around similar-minded people, reading books, driving a cab, going to school, enjoying good music, and has been experiencing all the good and bad of being young, free and awesome in her twenties. Bike trails and healthy local food abounds. And c’mon. Powell’s Books and bacon donuts?
- Seattle would almost be an option, if it wasn’t so damn rainy all of the time there, too. I remember my aunt moving there for a while when I was growing up and how depressed she got living in the downpour all of the time. But the music scene is booming. There are jobs. I have friends there, even. Arts, culture, food? Check. Just wet. Very, very wet.
- Ashland, Oregon is one of my favorite places for food. It’s a small college town, but I love the hiking trails and good eats that abound virtually everywhere. While visiting I went white water rafting, had great fish and chips at an English pub and amazing scrambled eggs at a local diner. It’s a big tourist destination with plenty of small businesses and boutiques. The Shakespeare Festival contributes largely to the bohemian and theatrical crowds visiting on and off throughout the year, and it is also a college town at heart, with Southern Oregon University offering undergraduate programs in many liberal studies. The unemployment rate there is comparable to California’s, though, hovering at around 11% as of 2010.
- Lexington, Kentucky was listed by Kiplinger as a great place for single artistic people (I would include people who are married but still act single to that category). The area, according to this article, has 15 colleges and universities, a young crowd, horse and bourbon scenes, affordable housing, a large gay community, a nude art scene, ($650 for a two-bedroom!), an underground art and music scene and jobs. Hmmm.
- Knoxville, Tennessee is another place I visited while traveling that just felt different. It had a thriving culture, beautiful buildings, young people everywhere, a music scene, art and good food. It felt like a creative place to be and had a good energy. It wasn’t as overwhelming as Nashville and seemed like a place where you could grow. The living expenses are lower than the average, and the unemployment rate is below average, though the job growth has stopped, according to the data I could find. It’s a pretty place, big enough to get lost in, but warm as well. I found the state of Tennessee to be absolutely gorgeous, with green trees, subtle fog and rolling hills.
- Funny, reflecting on this article I wrote about Oakland in 2007: In the last couple of years, Oakland has become a mecca for people looking for an artistic bohemian lifestyle. I’m over it. I don’t think I ever want to live in West Oakland again. If I can’t walk my dog at night, what’s the point? Beautiful Victorian flats abound for OK prices, but not near parks or walking distance to stores. When I lived near West Oakland, one neighbor got mugged by kids and another with a brick over his head. Not something I want to calculate into my already mounting stress of living in an area I cannot afford. To play devil’s advocate though, most of the creative people I associate with live in Oakland, and I often consider moving back there because of the rents, the shops and the potential.
I’ve stayed here in the Bay Area for this long because I love the ocean, the mountains and the people. My immediate family lives here and my extended family is close by. I’m kind of a type A personality, so I do OK with competition, I just don’t like it very much. And living on top of so many people just isn’t ideal. I like to spend lots of time alone where no one can see in my window or hear me practicing guitar through the walls. Still, there are still many opportunities and resource available if you are energetic enough and willing to fight for them, so I remain. As do many others.
If I had it my way, I would pack everything up and spend a year traveling in a van across the country until I found a viable list of meccas. Funding that project is going to take some more brainstorming, though. Any observations from your travels to different locales are much welcomed here.
Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do what you love. That’s my biggest pet peeve. In all my working life, I always thought the problem was that I just couldn’t fit in. It’s true, I don’t fit well into standard jobs and they make me feel miserable. But I’ve found niches. They are out there. And all of the jobs I hated paved the way for the work I am doing now. Each skill set I gained from working for someone else has helped me get better at working for myself.
Recently, I took a direction that wasn’t quite right. I lost faith in my abilities and started a stressful part-time job. It caused me to have to work seven days a week and I was a monster to those around me.
I got really sick for a few weeks. While I was sick, I sat on the couch and I submitted a ton of poetry to various counter-culture pubs I actually like reading. I also sent my resume and writing samples out to a bunch of different websites I liked and some writing gig ads.
As a result, I’ve had six poems accepted in small indie mags for publication and am working full-time on writing projects.
I share my experiences finding my own niche, because I know that there are probably a ton of people out there that feel like they should take a crap job due to the bad economy, consigning themselves to drudgery for the time being. I found out that the only person consigning me to drudgery was me. Because the economy was rough and I had already lost so much, I had nothing to lose. And I’ve gained the most important thing back, for now. My autonomy.
Taking the stressful part-time job didn’t help me or anyone else around me. Instead, it cause me to be hurtful to my friends and husband.
I felt that I had to take the part-time job (I say part-time, but it was around 36 hours a week of my schedule, on-site, on my feet, in addition other freelance work) because it was the only way to give back to my husband and be validated by society. I felt “normal” for a time, because I had a “real” job. Many people don’t know what freelance writing is, or how people make a career out of it. I am finding that if you are reliable and a good worker with a knack for words, you can totally make a living from it if you are willing to work hard and hang around other people like yourself for motivation.
Once I quit, I got projects that paid. The only one holding me back was me and my lack of faith in my abilities.
I feel that the hard periods of our lives smooth us out and make us the bad-asses that we end up being if we don’t give up. I want to hear your success stories, if you’re out there. What is holding you back? What are you afraid of?
We strive so much in this society, but for what? To fill the empty ample hours of endless space in which we might just find ourselves if we stopped for long enough?
We’re all fighting our own ghosts of the present and the past. The previous incarnations of ourselves from the many parallel universes we inhabit are sometimes riding alongside our tornado-torn houses singing, “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too.”
But life isn’t really about feeling good all the time. As humans we want to feel good. Our bodies want sugar/alcohol because it’s the quickest form of sustenance it can get. From an evolutionary standpoint our bodies are just being super efficient at their own long-term expense. I don’t think the body cares much for the future. All it knows is now. And now it is hungry. So eat that snickers, right?
But our minds are planning and scheming up ways to separate themselves from our bodies. The mind would be happy if it could float around like Max Headroom just taking up space without worrying about the sleep and the hunger and all that stuff (never mind that the mind needs sugar just as much as any other body part).
My point being that our bodies may want to feel good, and our minds may want to feel good, but that’s not what life is going to give us all the time. For some reason, it’s just not possible to feel good every hour of every day. To wax zen on you a bit, I’d say that we need the bitter so that we can appreciate the sweet. This world is full of sickness and hunger and pain and fear and violence. At the same time there is love and beauty and satisfaction and happiness.
Life is some kind of amalgamation of the juxtaposition between happiness and pain. Somehow, we have to let go of both to appreciate either.
Otherwise we’re just hungry ghosts running around wishing for more. It’s not enough for a hungry ghost to eat this pizza right now. It wants ice cream. And before the next bite it wants another bite. And before that bite is done it’s worrying about how to procure the next bite.
The answer is to experience life for what it is. Experience wanting that next bite. How it feels to grasp and need. How it feels to let go of the grasping and the needing. To settle into the unknown. Let the want be the want without forcing it to become something else.
Or something like that.
I don’t know where I’ll be a month from now. Could be I lose my car and this house and end up in a studio apartment with a bicycle to take me where I need to go. Could be I play an open mic and meet a bunch of cool people I want to jam with and spend all my time writing music. Could be I just carry on wondering what to do next.
The novelty of it all is this cliff’s edge I’m hanging onto. The uncertainty of it all. We can always look back and say, oh, that makes sense now that it’s over. I had just the right job or friends or amount of money to learn what I needed to learn. But while we’re going through it we’re grasping for something else, unless we stop to feel, literally, everything this moment has to offer.
There is no guarantee we will ever have another moment to sing, write, exercise, work, be amused or embarrassed. Nothing is set in stone. Yet we operate under the presumption that we’re guaranteed another sunrise or rainstorm. Hell, you could be living in a leper colony in Nepal, shunned by your town and community because of fear and disfigurement.
Sometimes the things I take for granted are abundant. Two legs. Healthy lungs. A soft bed to sleep in. A working shower. A car that runs. A husband. Some food. Family. Freedom of choice.
Instead of counting what’s missing, let’s count what’s here. What we already have. Because you can have goals to change what you have and strive for more, but you never have anything other than what you have in this moment, right here.
I found this random blog by an online personality named Diggy, that had a plethora of typos and some good points.
I think it’s a circle of those online marketing blog people who write about how to achieve your dreams and be better people and not to let life hold you back blada blada blada. Next thing you know you’ve signed up for an e-book and a marketing course for the succinct price of 29.95.
I’m going to step inside my cynical skin for a moment here.
I’ve always been of the impression that we are all stars in the sky: some are just brighter than others.
And there is not room for every single person on this earth to be the most special and the most famous and the most popularist. I know. Popularist not a word. Roll with me here.
The first entry I read by this Diggy was on Goodlife Zen, a blog that can be very inspiring at times. And it resonated with me a lot. I agree with this:
“We all have a gift to be able to influence people in some unique way, whether it be through words, music, painting, sport, construction, food or anything else you can think of really, the list is endless. Even if you are not the best in the world at something, if you are really passionate about it, your passion can be an inspiration and motivation for others.”
I think we all have our niche. As in our place on the long tail. And I also agree with what is said later in the entry about not striving for fame or money when you are working on your own special unique gifts for the world.
I think my point is that not everyone can be a Trent Reznor or an Amanda Palmer. In fact, no one can be them except for…them.
But we can be uniquely us. And we may help one person with whatever art we have inside to share. And that’s enough for the soul. Unless your soul says you need to reach more people, and that’s fine too.
I’ve seen people I really admired go after fame at the expense of all else, and end up sorely disappointed when it didn’t give them that sense of fulfillment inside.
But when it comes as a side effect of being yourself and doing what you love and pursuing your own piper song…
So yes, I may be a cynic, but I feel that not everyone can have the spotlight in this life, or they would. Not everyone can be thin, rich, popular, or famous. And the world is full of people who are making money selling you that myth. So buyer beware. No one can sell you yourself. No one can give you what you already have.
On that note nobody, ever, can take that away from you. Isn’t that what Victor Frankl said after surviving the holocaust? Our attitudes are our own.
But along with being a healthy cynic, I am an idealist. I believe the world can be a better place. I believe we really influence our realities to a large extent. It’s all in our own perception, because we can’t have anyone else’s mind. If I can enjoy every moment I spend playing the same song I wrote over and over again until I love it…
That my friends, is the ultimate zen.