So, yesterday, I’m sitting at the YMCA as my son is taking his swim class, and my ex-wife comments that she’s surprised anyone would want to be my girlfriend or wife. “You don’t have a job, after all,” she said. Untrue on so many levels. In fact, I juggle several small freelance jobs to make ends meet. For someone who is unemployed, my days are jam packed. I’m far from the stereotypical idea of someone lounging around, watching TV (or Facebook) and doing nothing. Uh-uh. I will say I was not surprised to hear this coming from her. She always felt my creative endeavors are a simple hobby. She is dead wrong. Making things is woven so deeply into the fabric of who I am that when I don’t do it for long periods of time, I become toxic to both myself and those around me.
Last week she name called me, telling me I was living a “Peter Pan” lifestyle, and that I wrote “ghost stories” (I’ve written perhaps one. She never read my work) and that I was not a “real man” because I didn’t have a regular 9-5 job. Well, that put the nail in the coffin for me. I once thought the world of her opinion, but she systematically dismantled that. It’s strange to me. What happened to the free spirit who drove me to New York City and tried on silver dresses and matching wigs, and who told me to always follow my heart and my dreams? She’s been body snatched, I tell you!
My point is not to trash her, but rather, to empower myself. I once relied heavily on other’s opinions and support. My confidence was lacking, to put it mildly. No more. And I think that’s a big lesson for any creative artist. We’re born this way. I don’t do well in other environments. I’m not good at that ‘other’ stuff.
In this era, where movies are number one based on who many ridiculous millions they make, and where books and writers are faced with being a bestseller or a no-seller, our art has become a totally different monster. Is my book not valid because it is not a New York Times bestseller? Am I not successful because I’m not making a living soley by writing?
To me, art was never about how popular it was. That alone did not validate it for me. Rather, how it connected made it valid. And my work has been connecting with people. So what if it’s a handful? So what if I’ve spent more on my art than I might ever recoup or profit from? The joy…the true joy…has been in its creation and in hearing from those who have enjoyed it.
For years I dreamt of playing stadiums with my bands. I wanted that validation…to hear the crowd…to know I was ‘okay’ and ‘cool’. Fame can be short lived. But true art stands the test of time. Let us not worry about how much money we’ll be making and instead worry about creating the best we have inside of us. If being wealthy and famous are our base desires, then maybe there are other paths. And plenty of people are able to make that leap. I’m not sure how. Luck? Severe talent? Larger than life personalities? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve stopped worrying about those uncontrollable variables and have started to make the best damn stuff I’m capable of. And I hope it resonates. And if I’m soon lucky enough to make a living doing so, I’d feel like the luckiest man.
Me? I’m still going to remember my old friend the way she was, and I’m still going to believe in following my heart.
In other news: I’m blown away to find out Bruce Springsteen suffers from severe depression. Wow. This is a man who’s music and philosophy have had a profound influence on me since I was a small boy. Fighting my own depression since the same time, I’m shocked. In a good way. It actually is quite comforting finding this out. Still trying to wrap my head around this revelation.
Until we all meet again…my best to you all.