Category Archives: Arts

More Thoughts on Ambition, Depression, and An Otherwise Ambivalent Life

When I was a child, I was remarkably judgmental. My parents raised me as such. For them, having grown up in households with parents who were not college educated, who were bluecollar workers or clergy, who lived only slightly above the lifestyle afforded by poverty, I understood their hatred of all things they worked so hard to escape. Although my town was quite diverse, as a child I always felt better than many of my peers. My parents created and reinforced this notion. I never felt better in the sense of actually liking myself or better in that I was able to make and maintain friendships, but I was told time and again that there is a large faction of others in the town, and while I was allowed to be friends with those people they were not like us.

To be clear, this was not a racial issue, as my parents looked down upon people of all ethnicities – though, of course others “like us” – Jewish families, typically got a pass. It was horrible, and yet at the time it made sense –  was our shared values of education and working hard to achieve goals, with a general disrespect for cultures that, by stereotype and outcome, didn’t have the same type of lifestyle. It wasn’t their fault, or at least it certainly wasn’t the fault of the children, and yet there was still this sense of sameness and otherness that pervaded our view of our town. It is how I, despite being miserably depressed and empty as a child, was able to find some solace in going shopping with my mother and purchasing hundreds of dollars in Nordstrom Brass Plum shirts and pants and skirts and dresses. It is how I managed to push myself harder to get where I am today, because deep down I was terrified of becoming one of “them.” I could never truly envision myself a starving artist or struggling parent. It wasn’t in the vernacular of my limited foresight. It was the only truth I knew, which now I know to be no more truth than any other dream or goal.

We were never rich, but my mother dreamed of great wealth and my father wasted away his life eating himself fat and working long hours to provide for our family so we could maintain our illusion of happiness in the shape of comparative success. My mother would frequently go on and on about how she wished she had married someone richer, not once considering returning to work herself. That was somewhat normal of a train of thought at the time. My father, meanwhile, earned a rather high salary for his middle management consulting role, and we lived a very comfortable life. My father liked to purchase “nice” things, although I didn’t always agree with his taste. My mother, for the most part, liked to purchase whatever QVC or the Clinique woman happened to be selling her. And I grew up with this painful sense of privilege compiled by the guilt of knowing none of it was deserved. Through each year, that guilt grew stronger. When my mother made an off-putting comment about a friend at school whose parents rented instead of owned, I cringed inside, knowing that criticism was completely unjust, especially against a child who had no choice to whom she was brought into this world.

I do believe that so much of your ambition is tied to how your parents wired you for reward. My reward came from meeting and surpassing expectations of this illusion of our stability and relative superiority. If I wasn’t to be a math genius, I was to be a great painter. I had to be something better than the others. I had to be special to matter to my parents at all. They certainly didn’t appreciate when that special came with a fragmented mind and a hyperactive, mess-creating child who longed so desperately for the attention and approval of others, unless, of course, this need for approval resulted in something they could brag about.

As an adult now, having been through enough sociology classes and life to know that everything that I thought was real as a child is a complete clusterfuck of a post-war generation and immigrant family mentality tossed down through the ages, I want out of this. Out of trying so hard to prove something to someone when no one is even listening anymore. Sure, my mother still shares every thing I post on Facebook as if I had won the freaking Olympics, with pride acceptable for a 12 year old daughter, perhaps, but not a 31 year old. And in my little puddle of psyche so empty and ambivalent I kick myself together trying to find the shape of a person who has some motivation, some drive, some reason to exist beyond merely existing or earning a paycheck. And I can’t find it. I can’t find anything that tastes real anymore, except the incredible and overwhelming love which my alter-ego of a boyfriend – warm, quiet, sensitive, needing no attention or approval – bequeaths to me in ample supply.

But one cannot live on love alone. And I often think if I didn’t have this love right now, I would be so fragile, I’d have nothing to keep me going. Thank god for his kind heart, his deep compassion for all the people of the world and all that is unjust and cruel. I am happy to have a safe place to go, wrapped in his arms, far from the judgmental warfare of my suburban family home.

I don’t want to just set out to help others when I’m not ready for it yet. One can easily do more harm than good. If I fuck up in business it’s terrible for sure but, at least in the communications side of things, a fuck up here or there never killed anyone. But to dedicate my life to helping others, I don’t want to do it for selfish reasons, because that won’t go over well. I need to find something deep within me, something so true, which I can become passionately obsessed with, something which can become my intention for life. It could be motherhood. It could be psychology. It could be design. It could be writing should I ever muster up a plot, realistic dialogue and the tenacity to draft more than eight pages. For someone who writes so much as I do it should be easy, but my stunted empathy has made it quite impossible to dream up others. I’m still trapped deep within myself, this little, weak, shell of a human being who attempts to claw out of her flesh to find her guiding light.

Floating with The Fault in Our Unemployed Stars

Despite purchasing a Kindle last year for my trip to Thailand, I hadn’t gotten around to using it for much beyond travel guides until this recent period of unemployment. Between then and now I’ve downloaded a library of inconsistently-themed books on a whim, since books are much cheaper to impulse buy and excuse oneself for at the sake of becoming literate and literary.

Given I tend to shop to offset the feelings surrounding negative occurrences in my life, I downloaded a few more books at Amazon’s suggestion hoping that I’d get through all of them and be able to say I had accomplished reading more in a few weeks than I had in the last 30 years. Instead, for the most part, these books are just collecting pixel dust on virtual bookshelves.

In two weeks of unemployment I’ve forced myself through 50% of the historical fiction tale The Daughters of Mars which, in all of its historical accuracy about being an Australian army nurse in World War I, hasn’t quite aroused my speed reading chip. Another book I downloaded on a whim — The Fault in Our Stars — seemed like a wise trade in honor of the accomplishment of getting half way through the other book – a quick-read, tragic young adult novel where the main character — a 16 year old girl from Indiana — has stage IV lung cancer and spends the book living and dying simultaneously while being as normal a teenager one can be while living and dying respectively simultaneously. I figured I’d read the book before one day soon watching the movie on an airplane.

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Time for Creativity. Time for Pause. Time for Solitude.

One of my great regrets of all time, that is all time leading up to today, is my lack of proper time dedicated to reading. While I’ve wasted countless hours of my life transfixed in Jezebel articles, Facebook posts about hilarious dogs and babies being successful or unsuccessful babies, and magazine articles sunk into overflowing bathtubs with their wet pages stuck together before completion, the number of full-fledged novels I’ve read in my life – is something I regrettably can count on my own two hands.

Yet language and writing has always been a passion of mine, more than the drawing and painting my parents had pushed my talents towards. While as a child I stayed up late at night to read trashy childhood series such as Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitters Club: Little Sister editions, I refused to read actual serious books. Why? I’m not sure where my rebellion of all things “adult” and “responsible” came from, but it sure started early. My father, with his stern aggression and judgement around my own interests, made me hate authority and turn against it at all costs. Although my father was a man of physics textbooks and oft right-wing historical non-fiction and editorials, for some reason literature got mixed up into the world of authority, my arch nemesis, the land of academia and maturity, of all the things we should do with our time when we have it in between hours staring at the second hand of the clock hung above the school door and the darkness that is our daily rest.

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What I Wish I Knew in 2001

In 2001 I had secured offers to four out of the five colleges I applied to for costume design. Had I selected any other program my life would be entirely different today. However, the major factor which shifted my life was my sheer naivety regarding how art itself could have become a viable career for a person with a creative soul like myself, vs running from it so haphazardly because I didn’t want to get caught up in a field so superficial untied to a career.

Maybe I made the wrong choice. I don’t know. What I didn’t know then was that 10 years later I’d be working in enterprise software. That instead of leveraging my creativity to launch my own fashion line or show my work in galleries, I’m ghostwriting copy for reports that ultimately matter only so much as they gain the attention of prospective buyers. I could die tomorrow and nothing I’ve created in the past 10 years of my life would matter at all. In fact, most of it already doesn’t. Continue reading

Holiday. Celebrate. It’s All Right.

For that record, that song is way too perky for me. That said, I’m looking forward to this three-day weekend in the States to memorialize people who fought for this country and/or just sleep as much as I actually should be sleeping every night.

My boyfriend and I are celebrating our anniversary this weekend and off on our annual getaway to a state park nearby. I used to think it was silly to pay for a hotel in an area that’s less than two hours from your house, but now I like the idea of it. When you spend so much time working it’s nice to have a little getaway, even if you could have just gotten up early and returned the next morning from home Continue reading

It All Fades Away in the End

This blog isn’t just about money, it’s about how money is so tied into the life we lead, our morals, our contentment, our journeys. I write a lot about investing and income here, but also, I like to write about the meaning of life. Perhaps that’s because my grandfather was a Rabbi, and it’s hard for me to isolate talk of earning from my own philosophizing. Nothing ties the two together more than art, an expensive hobby as both participant and viewer.

A good work of art moves you once, a great work of art continues to move you long after you’ve parted ways with its formal presence. Musicals are unique in that while the storyline might not stick with you, a great score in its own right can slither into your thoughts for a long time to come.

Too many musicals these days are designed to purely entertain and not get you to that cathartic state that art is all about. But, as I wrote the other day, my recent entanglement with Bridges of Madison County (which closed today, WTF is wrong with people) left me reflecting on numerous themes posed throughout the piece and how they related to my life. Because I’m so vain. Or, that’s how art is supposed to work.

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A Weekend in the Country of Westchester with My Parents and Knives

Visiting my parents is always entertaining, if you want to spin it up positively. If they could go 30 seconds without screaming at each other, I’d gladly hand them a reward. They are both just overgrown kids who throw frequent temper tantrums. No wonder I have issues.

My favorite part of the visit is always the standard ask your opinion and then yell at you for giving it conversation. Take, for example, the remodeled upstairs bathroom, where the tiling has been done extremely poorly and my parents are trying to figure out what to do about it. It would be great if when they ask me for my opinion they actually wanted it, or even if they knew what sort of opinion they’d like in return so I could just play their silly little game. However, there’s never a right answer.

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100 Things I want to Do Before I Die

This past week, from making the collage on how I see myself in therapy, to traveling through NY for work and experiencing a moment which must have somehow spiked my lips with the bitterness of passing time and sweetness of nostalgia, I’ve decided I need to focus on what I actually want to get out of life. If I don’t have a series of constantly moving goals in life, I know I drop into a depression, but that isn’t good reason to chase after goals, which mean little to me.

  1. Sell my artwork to someone I don’t know
  2. Finish writing a 200+ page novel
  3. Ok, start a 200+ page novel
  4. Live in New York City for a year
  5. Spend a month in Italy
  6. Take a cruise to Alaska
  7. Go on a safari in Africa
  8. Feel healthy (physically)
  9. Feel healthy (mentally)
  10. Write one good song
  11. Write a play… that is performed in New York City
  12. Find my true singing voice (i.e. learn how to breathe)
  13. Figure out how to sing the right notes all the time
  14. Get cast in the lead role in a show specifically for my voice
  15. Learn how to cook meat and vegetables perfectly
  16. Have a group of friends to travel with
  17. Have my artwork shown in a recognized gallery
  18. Grow old gracefully
  19. Share my passion for honesty with the world
  20. Make people laugh. Everyday.
  21. Own one dress that makes me feel like a million bucks.
  22. Have somewhere to wear that dress that isn’t a Halloween party.
  23. Spend a week in Japan, a week in China, and a week in South Korea
  24. Help others get more confident managing their finances
  25. Develop and nurture a strong extended family
  26. Regularly volunteer and help others
  27. Run a mile without feeling winded
  28. Have my artwork appear in a national magazine
  29. Write a second novel.
  30. Perform stand-up comedy.
  31. Spend one week a year at some tropical beach.
  32. Read 12 fiction books per year, minimum.
  33. Hit $1M in networth at 40
  34. Quit my FT day job when I hit $1M networth at 40
  35. Spend way more time with my sister. Visit her 4+ times a year
  36. Have a too-hilarious tweet be tweeted by a verified twitter user
  37. Write blogs about the meaning of humanity that people enjoy reading
  38. Sing in a choir again. Travel through Europe with said choir.
  39. Learn how to tap dance
  40. Learn how to play the piano
  41. Learn how to play the piano and get good at it
  42. Get really good at giving speeches
  43. Stop caring what others think about me
  44. Cut processed sugar out of my life
  45. Get serious with my photography
  46. Have my photography displayed in a gallery
  47. Dance like nobody’s watching, even though they are
  48. Design a product’s UI
  49. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  50. Visit Maine
  51. Write an album of songs
  52. Have a kid or two.
  53. Teach them to love themselves
  54. Teach them to speak up for what they feel is right
  55. Teach them that adults don’t know what is right any more then they do
  56. Learn how to oil paint really well
  57. Draw the human form realistically
  58. Learn how to use a professional film camera
  59. See the northern lights
  60. Do one pull up. No, seriously.
  61. Perform at an open mic
  62. Keep a clean, organized, decluttered home.
  63. Learn to be happy with what I have, instead of wanting more.
  64. Be respected for what I have to uniquely contribute
  65. Have perfectly sculpted eyebrows
  66. Have a bikini-worthy stomach
  67. Fit a size 6
  68. Drive a Tesla
  69. Have a threesome, or a foursome. (I didn’t realize this was #69 until after I wrote that. I swear.)
  70. Or at least write some seriously hot erotica about this
  71. Publish a book of erotic short stories under a pseudonym
  72. Paint on a really large, museum-size canvas
  73. Stand up paddleboard
  74. Go beginner surfing in Hawaii
  75. $2M in networth before retirement, pref $5M
  76. Have my paintings shown in a major museum
  77. Write a third novel.
  78. Come up with the recipe for a signature drink.
  79. Consistently sleep 8 hours a night
  80. Make peace with my father
  81. Make peace with my mother
  82. Sit poolside on a hot, humid evening at least once a summer
  83. Become a hugger. (Of people, not trees.)
  84. Win an international art contest
  85. Attend a swingers party with non terrifying people and hide in the corner
  86. Write an incredibly erotic story about it afterwards
  87. Spend a week at an Orangutan refuge
  88. Volunteer for a week with Octopuses if such a thing exists
  89. Take a long cross-country road trip across the USA
  90. Learn how to ride my bike better and not be scared of it
  91. Do some sort of long bike ride down a coast somewhere
  92. Learn how to not lose every matching earring and sock.
  93. Visit Amsterdam
  94. Visit Paris with someone who can show me how locals live
  95. Experience a very fine wine so I understand why they are so expensive
  96. Fall in love with life every single day.
  97. Wake up in the morning and exercise as a routine.
  98. Design a beautiful, unique bathroom to come home to every night.
  99. Be a good friend to people who deserve a good friend.
  100. Don’t die. So I have time to do all of these things at least twice.

Etch-a-Sketch: One Life Creative, One Static

The model’s gaze centered across the room, off at a wall, lips pursed to silence the pain throbbing in her left shoe. Indie music rocked the background as men and women of all ages hunched over clipboards and sketchpads capturing the model in quick gestures of line, with some works created in 20-minute spans much more detailed than others.

This was a typical Thursday night at drink & draw at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan. A college friend, I’ll call her Lisa, invited me to meet up to sketch after too many posts regarding my lacking of creativity in my life.

Seeing Lisa was like seeing the very other version of myself I could have become, you know, the person who is the you that you might have been if you just said “fuck it world I just want to do what I want to do, and I’m going to do it.” Lisa started college with me at the same time (I can’t recall how or when we met), apparently dropped out, went to another school for film, dropped out of that, then finally returned to my alma mater to finish her degree.

Despite being Chicago-bred, she is so New York. She is the New York I’ll never be.
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If You Live Long Enough, Everything Happens for a Reason

Last night, I treated myself to a Broadway musical while in the city on business. There was one specific musical that I was hoping to see, but I didn’t get tickets in advance because I didn’t know if work commitments would come up and cause me to miss the show. My evening turned out to be open and free, so I wandered up to TKTS to see if there were discount tickets available for this production. No dice. Then decided to go to the box office to see if any full price tickets were left. They were.

Broadway tickets are expensive but, for a good show, so worth it. Most artists would never be able to to afford tickets these days, so I enjoy paying full price seeing my theatre education at least going to supporting the arts while I earn a sizable income at my standard every middle class man day job. Nonetheless, this event was especially worth the entrance price. The box office informed me, 30 minutes prior to curtain, that the only non-nosebleed seat left was front row center. I never sit front row center, but why not, I thought, as the man selling the tickets assured me the orchestra pit made those seats far enough from the stage that they wouldn’t even strain my neck. I was sold. Continue reading