Is anyone else afraid of the word “cubicle?” I am. It conjures images of The Office, or Office Space, or that one movie where Michael Douglas gets out of his car in traffic and walks away forever (I never finished that movie – is it like Eat, Pray, Love?); it reeks of stagnation and failure. It materializes images of dystopian blocks of deadened souls like the cells of a plant under a microscope. Is that a dramatic association to have with a piece of office equipment? Absolutely! Ya girl never claimed to be subtle.
I’m young enough to have plenty of time to “put my mark on the world,” but newly old enough that many successful artists are younger than I am. It’s scary because I’m so ambitious, full of the anxiety of the future’s uncertainty. I can’t fathom the agony of that familiar image: a middle-aged woman wakes up and realizes, all of a sudden, that she’s middle-aged and has accomplished nothing. Does this even happen? It’s hard to imagine that you’d wake up feeling that way all of a sudden – seems like you’d notice it happening over time. But what if I’ve already missed all of my chances to succeed? These fears are, of course, coupled with the reassurance by rationality: I’m young as fuck and I have plenty of time to do shit I want to do. But what if I never go to Germany, you know? What if I shift my career and interests so often that I never really get good at anything? What if I’m past my *biological* prime by the time I want to/have time to have kids? What if I spend my twenties pushing and pushing and pushing and miss all the good stuff? Ugh I need to calm the fuck down.
Moving here as a confident person with big dreams can be humbling. As stubborn as I am, it took actual years for me to realize this. I couldn’t understand why I was slowly losing belief in myself. Of course, it took me eight months to find a full time job despite all the experience I boasted (and I did boast, as you must when you’re a woman and need to advocate for your own ass to get a job), but that was a symptom of the larger problem, which is that everyone here is doing what you’re doing, except they seem to be doing it better. And, even so, they seem to be just as unsatisfied as you are.
Ugh, kill me for bolding “the moral of the blog post.” I hate myself.
What I think I’ve finally realized (and I tend to shy away from maxim-like beliefs, but sometimes you just have to latch onto something to accomplish jack shit) is that the only way you can so-called “make it” is to delude yourself into believing you can. It’s a catch-22, because if you subscribe to the reality that your chances of “making it” are extraordinarily slim (which they are), then they become even slimmer. The only way to increase your chances is to lean into a delusion. Most artists with any level of notoriety worked their asses off for years with the knowledge that their chances of “making it” were almost nonexistent, but continued to push forward as if they were, indeed, going to “make it.” Perhaps that’s an oversimplification. I probably shouldn’t be using the word “you” in this paragraph, because I’m sure there are plenty of people with enough internal impetus to continue pushing forward no matter what happens, but I am not that strong of a person. So, let me alter the message – what I must do in order to continue practicing writing and practicing music and spending time on skills I want to improve is convince myself that I can be great at these things if I do so.
Does it make me a piece of shit if I want clout? The core of the desire isn’t necessarily narcissism, although I’m sure that’s in there. From previous work I’ve done that has attracted an audience, no matter how provincial, I can safely assume that creating work that others enjoy will bring me some satisfaction. The feeling of satisfaction is similar to when I see a film that really “speaks to me” (LIKE MOONLIGHT, FUCKERS), or when I hear a song that seems to have come out of my own brain – it’s less about admiration (although I did take the Harry Potter patronus test and got fucking peacock so that must be part of the desire for an audience) and more about connection. The feeling of success comes from knowing my work has made a connection between myself and someone else. Connection with others is a goal I hold close to my central purpose, which is one of the reasons I resent New York, a place where building (or should I say baking?) a crust around myself feels entirely necessary to my survival, and where despite being surrounded by human beings almost all the time my ability to connect with others is stunted.
I think the essence of all this is that I want to make my mark on the world, just like everyone else, but I also want to be engaged wholly in the world. I don’t write words or music to observe the world or to have the world at my feet, I do so to embed myself within it. We often lament the limitations of language (me included), but how fortunate I feel that so many other people have had the ability to express with words emotions that I have been unable to convey.
Ok, was all of that too corny? Last night I had the fortune to hear comically loud sex happening somewhere outside the window of the apartment where I’m cat sitting. Usually I get pissy when I have to hear someone else’s sex, but it was so cartoonish I couldn’t even be mad. I mean, I was mad on an existential, why-the-fuck-do-women-feel-like-they’re-supposed-to-sound-like-a-porno level, but tbh this was beyond that. It was actual screaming. Maybe they were filming a porno. I had that thought while it was happening. Anyway, go see Moonlight!