This post looks longer than it is because it's actually two posts, so bear with me, okay?
She's that good! (My offspring, that is.)
I'm sharing some thoughts for #FreedomFriday because it's more than close enough to the KISS Mental and Physical Freedom topic I wanted to contribute to a while back, but have been too on the go to get right.
In short, the greatest gift I received from letting go of my once was focus on all the wrong (in my personal experience) ideals of "success"...
was remembering "myself".
After losing an almost lifetime to the pursuit of the almighty dollar, with the hope that I could one day kick back and live the life I really wanted (how ironic that we waste a whole life doing this and miss most of the best parts, huh?), I rediscovered my passions.
My art. My creativity.
Creating because of the need to and not because I had a deadline. Creating what fed and soothed my soul, instead of producing someone else's ideas so that they could achieve their dreams...
while mine stagnated or were completely forgotten.
My father always encouraged us to find and follow our passion.
He prioritized this over financial gain.
Obviously he meant find work in whatever arena we were passionate about and that's both an intelligent and a fair suggestion. But when it comes to art, and authentic creativity, working in a professional arena as an artist or designer can (in my experience again) utterly destroy whatever ethereal magic it is that drives a person to create and "make" art in the first place.
I mean real art.
I mean the broke as f*ck un-celebrated Bukowski hacking away alone in a dingy shadowed way past midnight room kinda art. I mean the living in a sh!thole trying to survive on cheap whisky until dawn, but still can't stop writing even though you keep trying to stop writing and get a decent job kinda art.
I mean the Van Gogh kinda art.
The - I just see things differently lonely soul, crazy making but I still can't stop painting even though nobody really buys anything much anyway kinda art. The art that bleeds out of some people's souls and the bleeding can't be stopped kinda art.
I mean the genius.
You don't draw that out of someone by giving them a brief to follow and a monthly income to sit comfortably on, while they don't even have to think much. Or they, rather, spend as much time trying to switch themselves off because they're only half alive and it's killing them one way or the other anyway.
But I've been called extreme.
I think, though, that an authentic and original creative process is very much like giving birth.
Birth only happens with a reasonable amount of pain and it's exactly this that makes it so much of everything all at once. Isn't it?
It's not clean and safe.
It's not stable and practical.
Birth is violent and messy and miraculous and wonderful and terrifying and beautiful and everything at once.
It's f*ckin' intense.
And this is what makes it so real and so right here, right Now. You can't not be "in" it when you're in it. There's no way you can soften or avoid it.
Birth and death.
And life and art.
If they're the real deal.
But I chickened out of going for it after I graduated with my Fine Art Degree.
I played it safe.
I didn't want to be a starving artist even though I'd read Kafka's "The Hunger Artist" when I was sixteen and it still remains one of my favourite stories to this very day.
Although my dad insisted we live our passions, my mom has always been more fearful of financial stress.
Knowing what I know now, I think it's so sad that we pass our own fears on to our kids. And our guidance on how they should live when many of us aren't really that happy with our lives ourselves and, thus, shouldn't really be giving such guidance or advice at all. Yet we think we know better because we're older.
I've since learned that older often doesn't mean wiser and I'm relearning how to live well, in many ways, from my twelve year old.
So, at what I strongly suspect was my mom's guidance, I chose to be practical and to not be "a starving artist".
Those, by the way, aren't even my own words.
Yet, somehow, the words "starving" and "artist" have been forever cemented together in my mind.
I skilled up on Desktop Publishing (DTP as it was called back then) and moved into textile design and clothing manufacturing instead. Then into graphic design, page layout and publishing. Then into T-shirt design and manufacturing. And then into web design and development.
All skills using my creativity, but not really my perspective or truth. I enjoyed working in all of those arenas though. I even paid the bills, managed to buy a little cottage and have a few meager years of less financial worry in between.
I wasn't happy with my life though.
My soul wasn't happy, that is. And I never even knew this because everybody else I met was pretty much in the same boat. Living for the weekends and holidays seemed normal. As did working towards retirement when we would, finally, get to enjoy our lives.
Some of us didn't make it that far.
What a waste of good time.
It struck me today that we're still buying in to this "corporate and retirement" thinking when, in all honesty, with inflation and the world as it is few people are able to retire anymore. The world has changed. Corporate gigs aren't as alluring (or as ethical), hardly anyone doesn't have a side hustle these days and things just keep on becoming more expensive.
Makes you think, doesn't it?
I read a post on Fakebook once that said something like" Create a life that you don't need to take a vacation from".
If only we focused on this instead of on "retirement". I wonder how many people might live far happier more fulfilled lives, doing the things that really mattered to them if we took this approach.
I never went for it though.
I was practical and sensible.
But I always felt as though I was waiting for something better.
Waiting to start living.
And I waited for many, many years.
I was almost fifty years old when I figured out my time around here was limited. I mean... until this really hit home as a reality and not some far off distant something that I could mostly choose to ignore.
You wanna know what my biggest regret is?
That I didn't walk this walk sooner so that my kids could absorb this understanding and perspective by osmosis.
And f*ckin go for it!
This post is really about my children.
My daughter specifically.
A young woman now, I can no longer tell her what to do with her life. I don't think we ever have the right to do this to our kids anyway, so I would have tried not to. But I believe that if I'd just done what I'm doing here on Hive all those years ago, I would have made it work. As artists and creatives do even if it's tough and it sucks some times.
Even if we have to do without at other times.
We do it because it keeps us alive in a way that adequate nutrition, creature comforts and private medical aid never can. We do this because we choose to live instead of merely to exist.
I wish I'd walked this for my eldest.
Because when she was little, around the age of seven or eight years old, she wrote a good few chapters of her first book. Somehow her teacher at the time got hold of it and asked if she could show the rest of the grade teachers. And so she did. And this half or so book made it around the entire faculty and all the way to the Principal's office eventually.
There was that much interest and enthusiasm at both the level of writing she was capable of and also at her innate creativity.
I'm not the writer in the family, to be clear. In fact, when I sent the article I'm about to share with you to the editor, working with me on "Perfect", his exact email reply was:
"Great Caesar's Ghost! You should get her to edit your work, not me! You should get her to fucking ghostwrite your work! You should get her to fucking ghostwrite MY FUCKING WORK! She's of age. Can I marry her?"
This editor is a writer himself and was an English Literature professor for some years. He is well read, to be clear.
So here is a bit of Gaia's writing, at age 16, just to show you I'm not biased about this one.
This letter was published as a full page spread, in print, in The Mail and Guardian as best letter to the editor of the year in 2018.
Mr Kavanaugh, I am angry
Dear Mr Kavanaugh, you’ve outdone yourself this time. Not only has your being appointed made survivors of assault and harassment feel invalidated and invisible — because you have used drunkenness and vague alibis as defences for your despicable actions, and had those defences accepted as valid — but you have stolen the voice from those you victimised.
You have achieved your position of power, yes — but you have also unintentionally become the ugly face of an uglier institution. It’s an institution run by those used to having the power; those who sit obese on stolen land with the bones of women, of immigrants, of queer persons and people of colour stuck between their teeth.
Brett Kavanaugh, you are a pawn — because, had you not been appointed, well, there are a thousand more men exactly like you. Pink, squealing magnates suckling from the teat of Papa Capitalism, watching as news channels air your dirty laundry … and barely breaking a sweat. Knowing your money, your church, your connections will keep you safe. Untouchable. Men like you are plentiful, and believe yourselves powerful — yet your abundance makes you replaceable.
Had you not been appointed, Mr Kavanaugh, another of your colleagues within the conservative hive mind would have filled your spot, all too ready to step up to the task of concealing the innumerable cons of a Trump-headed administration behind the pros — the quantity of which I could count on one hand.
“Unemployment rates are the lowest they’ve been in decades.” Maybe, because of the United States’s history of institutionalised racism, your censuses aren’t taking into consideration the fact that employment doesn’t always mean happy, healthy living. That many people of colour still don’t live in the “good” neighbourhoods, because of their parents’ continued struggle to recover from a heritage of slavery and oppression.
Maybe, because of the US’s ingrained patriarchy, the wage gap doesn’t always seem like such an issue when the women being polled are trust-fund babies. Maybe, thanks to the availability of safe and legal abortions, being able to prevent the births of children a woman cannot or does not want to care for helps keep people off the streets. Safe and legal abortions. A right to which all people capable of carrying children should have access. A right, Mr Kavanaugh, that your collective threatens.
Too many articles have been published since the announcement of your appointment claiming that this is the beginning of the end of Americans having autonomy over their reproductive health; the more white, cisgender, heterosexual conservatives are placed in positions of power, the more overwhelming the force of self-preserving, convenience-based thinking.
Men, as a general rule, should not have a say in whether or not people with wombs have access to abortions or other services. Take the fact that tampons are taxed as “luxury goods” whereas condoms go tax-free — as if sex is a necessity but personal hygiene is not.
But now, thanks to the ingenious powers that be within the American judicial system, not only is there another man contributing to a discussion that does not concern him, but one who, according to Dr Christine Blasey Ford, is practised at removing the autonomy of others.
These archaic men, about as intersectional as a slice of white bread, are repulsive. Brett Kavanaugh. Roy Moore. Donald J Trump. Abusers, manipulators, entitled oppressors of diversity. Who treat women as “less than”,as objects, with which anything can be done, without consequences. When we speak up for ourselves, these sorts of men elect not to listen. They turn off their hearing aids and watch our lips move, the static leaving an empty space in which they choose our words for us.
“Leave us alone,” we say. “We’re not impressed by your money.”
“Grab me by the … Call me pretty, and it’ll all be okay,” they hear.
And people call women coming forward with their stories of trauma selfish. They tell them they should have kept quiet, and that their accusations will ruin the perpetrator’s life. Ruin their career.
I am not writing this because I want praise for being “woke”. I am not “woke”. I am just angry. I am a woman lucky enough to not be living in the US, but unlucky enough to recognise that, if ever a global resurgence of conservative thinking were to occur, it would start there.
And now? It is starting. And it isn’t being started by bored little boys playing at neo-Nazism. It’s being instigated by some of the most powerful people in the world. People with heritages of oppression, of advantage-taking, and of othering. The Ku Klux Klan has grown faster since Donald Trump’s inauguration than at any time in recent memory. Neo-Nazis feel confident to hold parades in the streets. “Conservative” is rapidly becoming synonymous with “alt-right”.
Brett Kavanaugh, accused of sexual misconduct and assault by three brave, powerful women. Brett Kavanaugh, appointed to a position on the Supreme Court, despite this. Appointed for life. Congratulations, sir, on proving your own sheep wrong. Brett Kavanaugh is now on the Supreme Court, and will spend the rest of his life sympathising with those he knows to be abusers and frauds. Because he knows how it feels to press one hand to his chest, the other to a Bible, and lie bare-faced as the world watches.
— Gaia Elkon, grade 10, Westerford High School, Cape Town | Original article source
Sixteen years old.
After her almost first novel made such a ruckus at school, at the age of around eight years old, Gaia decided to become a writer.
Shortly after this decision she came to me, a bit teary and wide-eyed, and told me that my mom had said writers don't make money and to do something practical.
I tried to counter it by saying she could so totally be a writer. That she had the talent for sure. I've continued to maintain this but, sadly, being the black sheep of the family doesn't give me much clout, so...
I used to occasionally ask if she's still writing, but it seems she rarely has time these days between University and tutoring.
Heartbreaking, isn't it?
You should hear her sing...
I don't judge Gaia's decision although it makes me deeply, deeply sad. Because she is that good. And because she did want to go for it and has, somehow, forgotten this plain fact.
As we do.
As I did.
I hope she remembers sooner than I did.
To Freedom Friday
My share on what Minimalism, and this perspective, has brought me with regards to Freedom is twofold.
I've been afforded the freedom to live my passion even though the pay isn't that great (yet) and maybe never will be. The thing is... I'm in love with my life for the first time
in forever, because I've been granted the freedom to really be myself by letting go of all of the shackles that consumerism brings with it.
I'm also free to create the content I choose.
It doesn't matter if I spend all day creating content but I'm doing it for the money, you see. If that's the focus it's very unlikely any original and impactful content will be generated most of the time.
If I create something and it doesn't get likes or hits, I may be tempted to think it's not valuable and to offer people what they want.
And I'll only lose myself and the joy in the "making" if I do.
Letting go of the possible financial gain by honestly going minimal has given me a creative freedom that would never be possible if I were still focused on the moola.
No f*ckin' way.
I see and hear people complaining about control, systems and society so often these days.
Who wouldn't at this point?
The thing is... if you're willing to do without most of the (really unnecessary) material comforts, to disregard the (utter bullsh!t) social hierarchy and the (illusion of) security that only money can buy in a Capitalist system...
you really are already free to step outside that box and pretty much do whatever blows your hair back.
It's that simple. 😊
"None but ourselves can free our minds" - Bob Marley
Beyond fear is freedom
And there is nothing to be afraid of.
To Life, with Love... and always for Truth!