This is super difficult to post to because it is one of my greatest soul-crushing realizations and fragments of it become clear to me each day in small, startling ways.
There was a specific point (almost exactly 10 years ago) I shifted my life direction from wild, creative chaos full of art and music, labors of love and sawdust and paint stains and burns, to a more structured, “professional,” “respectable” path.
Sure, everyone grows up. The path somewhat suited a very real part of me as I’ve always had a deeply analytical and logical undercurrent. And, it was probably necessary because along with my chaos came periodic bouts of self destruction. That absolutely had to stop.
This path lead me away from more creative roles into accounting and business management. And to grad school. These things come naturally and there are so many facets of operating a cohesive and thriving entity that I love, as if I suddenly found how to collect my studies in social psychology, math, behavior, engineering and legal theory into one broadly recognized field. For that, I cant exactly say I regret holding an MBA in my hands… despite the price tag and how many times I got my registration blocked & kicked out until I could pay up for my prior semester units. Or finally gave in and took out DOE loans.
What shakes me is how I landed on this path. My logical undercurrent stems at least genetically from engineering and math/logic backgrounds, but also from surviving extended periods of instability and potential danger. It comes from survival by any means necessary.
This new professional designation was, at least on a deeper subconscious level, to prove people in my family who called me “stupid,” wrong. It made me believe I could earn enough money (by extension also respect) to never have to worry about being fed or in a stable environment, or owing people money (I still do so that’s out the window), or stuck with someone who was hurting me. I knew at least I could no longer be around unstable and dangerous people. I can list at least 10 things I left behind, believing I’d never make enough or be successful at in order to be safe (feels ridiculous seeing how much some of these roles pay nowadays).
It started to become the mask for the tattoos that had masked whoever I was before that. The mask that now says, I’m not chaotic. I’m professional, and successful, worthy of my ideas and opinions being taken seriously. Or that I am not crazy, not a caricature of a broken child. That I am a “real person.” Sometimes even amusingly, the mask says, “I’m definitely not who you assumed I was…”
And honestly all of this garbage breaks my heart. Maybe this deep subconscious rift gave me a fantastic educational experience and graduate degree, but it was in lieu of rather than in addition to all the things that make me feel whole.
This mindset came at the cost of my art. Of even doodling on the sides of notes and backs of invoices. One singular idea of safety driven by a lifetime of trauma came at the cost of practicing violin 5 hours a day, playing guitar another 10, producing music, playing with new technologies. Hot glue and liquified steel.
It came at the expense of writing my heart out every day, notebooks and notebooks full of poetry. Of paint and fabric scraps. Of designing print and web stuff that I didn’t care if anyone ever even saw (and plenty was published, so there’s that). It came at the cost of my big cameras and little cameras, analog and digital, shuttering my silent observations put to film.
These fragments are the holes I feel deepest, the pits inside me that feel dead, and the root of every crisis cycle that rears it’s ugly head every 3-4 years. Lately it’s been every 1-2 years and I have to believe this accelerates as I start to understand this cycle, and inherently know something needs to change. I’ve probably always known, but had been drowning out my voice for so long trying to “escape.”
It breaks my heart that such an extreme collection of experiences can rip a person from the things that make them whole and happy, their entire identity and source energy, the most intimate and honest versions of what it truly means to “be” in oneself with certainty. I hate it because I didn’t have a choice until it almost feels too late. I hate that I have tied one traditional version of success to necessity. It makes me unable to comprehend my successes or celebrate how far I’ve come. It’s an existential disconnect from myself.
And I don’t think the crisis cycle will subside until I act. I do, I try anyway. I’ll typically act in patchwork… Over the last couple years I’ve tried to work these things back into my life, fragment by fragment. Getting frustrated with this shoddy quilt of attempting things I used to excel at and thrive with. It’s such a humbling and disturbing feeling. It’s profoundly uncomfortable.
It’s the only way.