You have never fit.
It’s bright out at 7 in the evening in the Northern Hemisphere in August. I wake up from a short nap and make coffee and toast. I might be reenacting the morning to erase the fact that I didn’t get much done today, and in fact starting over. It defies logic how someone without a regular job or kids has so little time. It’s not like I shoot up or sit around and watch reality shows. But what do I really do?
If the refrigerator is empty because I didn’t bother with grocery shopping, I think annoying thoughts like, I live and die for my art. Why is it annoying? For one thing, what is my art, exactly?
* * *
If nobody recognizes your art except yourself, but you keep acting haughty about it, it’s annoying.
But the people it annoys the most are your parents. Not because they don’t believe in you, but because on the one hand, they can’t let you starve, on the other, they can’t keep enabling you.
Besides, they’re not rich, and you’re middle-aged.
They consider the problem of you a failing on their part. They didn’t raise you right: they made you feel special.
I’d die before taking a job at McDonald’s, you used to say when you were a kid. Later, when you were a little more jaded, you’d say, I’d be a stripper before taking a job at McDonald’s.
If you were going to kill your soul anyway, may as well make money doing it. But out of all those scenarios—McDonald’s, death, stripping—the likeliest was always death, because you—stubbornly, annoyingly—live and die by your mysterious art. And then there’s the part where you are prey to depression. Those factors don’t make for ideal survival instincts.
Your parents also gave up on marrying you off a long time ago, because besides your art, you also live and die by love, and your soul meshes most with those who wander like yourself. Wanderers don’t have stable jobs. As soon as they do, it magically works out that you leave the relationship. It’s like you thrive on instability, you want the constant quake.
How is it going to wear when you’re actually old? Answer: Much more unbecoming than the tattoos you never got are said to age poorly.
You have a dying car and no medical insurance even with forced healthcare, but you’re sophisticated—as are your tastes and desires—and you don’t deprive yourself of “nice things.” In fact, you’ve pampered the shit out of yourself all your life and no one understands how, least of all yourself. It’s not like you’re a secret prostitute or a bank robber on the side.
It’s true that you are loved by people. You’re lucky that way. But you don’t fit. With your own best friends, you don’t fit. With Americans, with Iranians, with other women, with other middle-aged people, with married people, you don’t fit.
You have never fit and you’re okay with it.
Still, what’s going to happen when you’re old?
Secretly to themselves, so many people feel like they’re hacks, frauds. But you never have. They opt for stability; you opt for meaning. They regret the life they’ve chosen. But you don’t, not so far anyway. You have a built-in self-validation mechanism that’s going to make you live—really, truly live—or die.
There’s your answer: one of those two things will be happening when you’re old.
Maybe it makes you feel a tad like a fraud the way you’ve been collecting pictures of desert garden ideas for landscaping the house you’re looking at with your man. But you’re smart. You know nesting doesn’t make you a fraud and the truth is that you’re terrified of commitment. Of responsibility. A house? You actually shudder at the thought.
* * *
I take a stroll on the beach with my father as the sun descends. He’s in town to move my 18-year-old brother to Los Angeles. I share a profound kinship with my father. His has a gentle soul and a vast philosophy. More than any study or reflection, it’s through him that I’ve learned humanism.
I’ve been working on myself for years, to be good, and then after, to be better.
We carry our shoes. The sand is coarse and pleasant under my feet. I ask my father:
“Do you see a difference in me over the years?” He doesn’t answer right away, and I think he’s weighing his words. But when he slowly shrugs, I realize he doesn’t have an answer for me.
“Not really. You’re still an adolescent.” I’m a bit crestfallen—he doesn’t see all my internal work. Also, I like the part of me that’s a thriving adolescent.
“You don’t think I’m calmer?” I ask.
“Yes, calmer. You’re calmer.” I change the subject and we go back to talking about the human draw to, versus the shunning of, theism.
When he returns to the East Coast, he calls to ask me to mind how I influence my 18-year-old brother. He doesn’t want my little brother adopting my priorities. He means my lack of priorities. The call happens when my brother and I are about to pack the car for an impromptu trip to San Francisco. My man is working out of town, so it seems like a good time for a road trip.
I tell my father he doesn’t have to worry about the mind-boggling, independent 18-year-old who moved cross-country and lives and pays rent by himself. He washed dishes at a fancy restaurant since the age of sixteen and saved the money to move, then landed a part-time film crew job on his second day in Los Angeles. He wants to establish residency, then start college. He has a plan. My father can relax.
Still, my brother and I don’t go to San Francisco.
* * *
In his apartment, my teenage brother ruminates on prototypes and patents for a gadget he’s thought up. In her apartment, his middle-age sister takes evening naps.
It’s 8 p.m.; I’ve had coffee and written a blog post. It’s finally getting dark. When will I unpack those moving boxes of mine? If I agree to the house with my man, I won’t have to unpack. Two moves in two months. This is unheard of for me. I hate moving like I hate going under a surgeon’s knife. They both cut me open.
The boxes have taken so long because I’ve been working on my art, building a body of work. I don’t mean the writing or music video or acting that have indeed used up much of my time. I mean the problem of me. I am my own body of work. I’ve said before that more than wanting be loved, I want to be good, as in, evolved.
Evolution is slow-moving. Depression is all-encompassing. Navigating a psyche while working out the practical puzzle of day to day survival is taxing. Nobody accepts that you work hard, or at all, if you’re not making much money.
But you have a good life. If in your middle-age you have the luxury to wax poetic about your teenage angst, you have a damn good life.
Or alternatively, a lost life.
Since you don’t feel lost, we’re going to go with good.
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You’re the best part of blogging
~ so tell me everything ~
WordPress informs me that below this paragraph, some random ad might appear unless I spring for the no-ad upgrade. If so, apologies.
And ftw, my mental block has you stuck at 17 and that’s not changing anywhen soon.
What’s “ftw”? I bet a real 17-year-old would know…
For The Win. Doofus 🙂
As usual – just beautiful. I am sort of heartbroken while reading this, but it’s been kind of a heartbreaking 2 weeks so it’s definitely because I feel lost myself. Or at least the purpose of all my “art” is lost; ergo it obscures my own purpose.
Boy, we are quite a tribe! I wish I could be more like Aussa. She seems like such an easy smiler… I smile on the outside a lot.
Feelings of self-doubt and being lost always go away, thank goodness. We could probably speed up the process by looking at our life and choices objectively rather than through whatever momentary detail that threw us in the first place, don’t you think?
Or, maybe change perspective a bit – not “lost” per se; just at times directionless and lacking some discipline. (Myself)
Well, I can certainly relate. (I reading about your Twitter argument right now.)
I wish I knew everything I thought I knew at 17
It’s really something, isn’t it, how invincible we felt back then?
I was king of the world. So I thought.
You are an enigma, my dear Gigi, and I love reading your thoughts. If you’re happy (or at least not-lost) then ‘good’ is adequate, for now. I think you’re probably entirely too complex to be pigeonholed, so I don’t quite see the point in comparing yourself to the parameters of same, but hey – it’s your life, and you seem to be…most definitely YOU.
I think more than anything, I was presenting one facet here. I like my life. If I didn’t, I would and could change it, as I believe we all could. As you did!
YES! Ohmigosh yes!
You are a fantastical writer. I often feel these many thoughts as do many creative people. I’m on the side where I had to settle for a job to take care of my family, but my mind often wanders to the creative. The writing, the desire to write a book, to maintain a blog, to come up with videos, to create an app or a restaurant. I applaud you for sticking with your art, your passions, and hopefully you will continue to live doing those things while still being able to make it in life. Good for you!
Thanks Ben. Yes, obviously all bets are off when there’s a family to take care of — but then family is a reward in itself. I believe that wholeheartedly.
And having a S.O. (or sig oth as they kids call them now) is also another person who will influence how much you have to do one or the other. I just hope you can keep doing your thing no matter what. And by the way, I feel the same sometimes when my parents ask what I want to do with my writing etc. They think it is just a hobby to pass the time, but to me it is just who I am.
You know my age, right? I still have a crazy aversion to writing it, but I revealed it in that video. I think you saw it. Anyway, the point is, I’m old enough that I will be continuing the same way.
My parents, especially my father, has always supported me in my artistic pursuits. But he also wants me to stand on my own feet. I don’t feel that’s an unreasonable desire on his part. He has led an artistic life himself and managed to take care of his family, so he is entitled to have the opinions he has.
My SO’s have all been generally supportive. I’m a very specific sort of person — you either like me or don’t, and those who do, obviously accept the whole package.
And Ben. Write your novel. It’s doable. Don’t stand in your own way. We fool ourselves into thinking other things stand in our way. It’s not true. Not when it comes to writing.
This post made me think. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my life…wondering how it turned out so differently than how I imagined it would. I can’t change the past…but sometimes I wish I could so that I could be more successful and financially secure now. I’m just shooting for happy at this point.
Regret is kind of useless, Jana. You will always have new choices going forward. Also, “shooting for happiness” — isn’t that what the whole thing is about anyway? Including money and success?
Hey where’d the Cathartic Monkeyisms go?
Have to ponder this post for a bit – I’ll be back…
This post makes me very angry GG. Not you or your description – your writing is excellent and your topic is on target, as usual. I had to go away for a bit to get perspective, to stand back a bit so I didn’t vomit an emotional diatribe all over your blog. Yech! Ha! You see I’m 57 and my Mom is 82 and she and I haven’t spoken for more than a year for exactly the same reasons that you delineated. She refuses to see how I have grown and continually accuses me of being childish, irresponsible, having poor judgement and being undependable. I got so tired of her negative attitude towards me that I couldn’t even tolerate a conversation. Even simple stuff always was approached with an accusatory tone. For instance I happened to mention that my phone charger broke and her response was “How did you break that?”
Basically I got so tired of her passive/ aggressive attitude that I warned her she had to stop or I was finished. She apologized maybe twenty times when I pointed out what she was doing over the course of years. She is a smart and accomplished professional woman and cannot seem to change her negative attitude towards me. Quite honestly I have lost any and all affection for the woman – she has verbally beat it out of me with her constant sniping. I would be perfectly happy if I didn’t see or speak to her again before she dies. I broke off ties with her years ago for the same reason and eventually after 2 or 3 years got back in touch. But you know how when you go back to an old boyfriend or girlfriend to try and reignite a relationship and it isn’t long before you realize exactly why you left in the first place? Well, it feels exactly like that – this is the second (or third) time I’ve been fed up with her antics and severed communication, Given her age this will likely be the last time this will happen – definitely a bonus in my life.
P.S. This is not a suggestion of how you should proceed – it is more along the lines of a worst case scenario – one of those “If nothing else I can always be used as a bad example” situations. I am sure you will fare better in your relationship with your Dad. Like you and your Dad, my Mom’s opinion was so important to me, I guess that is why I let it hurt me so much.
Oh Paul, I’m so sorry for the dynamic that you experience with your mom. It’s very different than what I have with my dad — my dad was being honest. My dad is the person who has always built me up. He is entitled to voice his honest assessment, even if it’s wrong, even if it hurts my feelings. He is not a hurtful, critical man. He speaks what he feels is true, and I have always respected him for it. Normally, what he feels is true is that his daughter is intelligent, talented and compassionate. He is a most enlightening and nurturing father.
On the other hand, I do experience people in my life who (attempt) to treat me the way you describe your mom treats you. And of course, I end up having to take the same action as you.
I do hope that the two of will reach an ultimate truce. It’s so hard for some people to stop being nitpicky, unfair critics if that’s what they’ve done all their lives. At the very least, I hope you find an inner peace about it and find yourself immune to it.
Some of us just can’t fit into that “normal” box. There is enough people following the traditional route. The rest of us have to work on our art. That is our calling. Sometimes I want the stability of traveling in the lanes the world has made for everybody to go down, but I know that I wouldn’t be happy there for more than say two or three weeks… then I’d just have to go my own way.
Your writing is pretty sophisticated for an adolescent by the way 🙂 People say I still look like I’m 18 (I’m 40) but I’m sure that its our lifestyle that keeps us young.
Interesting. Do you have children? What is your passion?
I don’t have children. Since I was 18, I’ve lived in the ashrams of Mata Amritanandamayi, whose more commonly known as Amma the Hugging Saint. I spent 16 years in her San Ramon, CA ashram, traveling back and forth to India a couple months a year. But, 6 years ago Amma told me to come and stay permanently in her main ashram in India to help take care of the Western Cafe here. My sister runs the cafe, I cook the meals. For most of the year I cook for around 600 people a day, as most eat India food, but for a few months a year, when Amma travels throughout India, then I work in her traveling Kitchen and we cook for around 30,000 per day. It’s a pretty hectic life, but it’s worth it… as I’m a purpose driven kinda guy…
Wow, that’s fascinating. I need to learn a lot more about Amma. I know many people personally who are her students. Would that be the correct term? “Student?”
People have a lot of different relationships with her – some look to her as teacher, mother, benefactor. For people that look to her as a mystic then those students are called disciples, but Amma has a lot of charities that have nothing to do with whether or not you follow any disciplines. The vast majority of the charities are run and worked by volunteers.
Very interesting, thanks.
But Amma often says she doesn’t really have any disciples, rather we call her Amma, that means mother, and that is the real relationship – and it’s true that she’s babying us a bit.
Hi. My name is Tara. I believe I may be your long-lost soul sister. Awesome piece of life you’ve shared. Thank you. 🙂
Thank you, long lost sister, nice to meet you.
Thanks for re-linking this on FB, I had not found you by August. I’m well past the usual definition of middle age and still wondering what I should be when I grow up. I think I’ll skip it and stay adolescent and strange.