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.

I don’t know if I would have done things differently or at what point I would have selected a different path. Costume design was a terrible selection of a major as my interest was fashion but I didn’t want to give up theatre entirely. I thought, at the time, it was a good compromise. I sucked at sewing, so I probably would have flunked out of fashion school anyway. And if I had ended up in fashion – wouldn’t that have sucked out the soul as well – just from a different, albeit more aesthetically pleasing direction?

The thing that drives me most nuts is that I know how much I love to work hard. I’m the type of person who – when I get really into a project – can stay up all night to work out every detail of it. I love to work hard when the inspiration comes. Maybe that’s not meant to be work. Maybe that’s meant to be hobby and I need to find time to sort out my personal creative endeavors from my vocation as work is for the money that pays the bills and life is what happens in the other two hours a day between arriving home and going to sleep (at least until you have kids and then, well, that is your life.)

I just don’t know what I’m doing. I never did. I keep coming up with these crazy ideas about what I can do with my life from nutritionist to psychologist to waitress to school teacher. Heck, with the money flowing into prostitution¬†in this area I’ve half jokingly considered pursuing that so I could save up and have the freedom to figure out what it is that actually could make me happy, in the luxury that a million or two million in the bank allows.

So much of success in anything — especially in the arts — comes down to marketing. Want to start your own fashion label? You better understand business and how to market your brand. Think you’re going to be a world-renowned artist? Talent only takes you so far – it’s marketing that gets you the other half of the way. Not that I’m a marketing expert, but I can say in my 20s I learned a bit about business. What I want is my own brand, my own offering to the world, something beyond promoting software, despite knowing that I’m extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to have a great job with great people.

The next step to any opportunity seems extraordinarily complicated and expensive. And I have so, SO much self-doubt that I hardly am able to take one step let alone dozens from here to next. I just have the energy to write all these silly blog posts about how I want to change things and I don’t know where to start. It seems like school is a good opportunity to shift directions and yet to get into graduate-level programs you already need a level of proficiency in the subject matter… perhaps I can throw money at a problem enough to become good at something I know nothing about today but I’m really getting old. I feel old. And it’s terrifying.

I remember being a child and closing my eyes tight, trying to imagine what it would be like to be an adult. While I could never really picture it, I had this vague notion that at some point you’d snap from your child self into your adult self in a smooth transition. I failed to comprehend that your adult self is just the aged version of your child self, and you don’t exactly ever really become an “adult” beyond learning how to keep yourself alive without external guidance. The transition is only in the way others look at you versus how you feel inside – which at the moment is odd for me because I know I’m 30 going on 31 soon, yet many others still look at me and say I look to be in my mid 20s. Maybe they’re just being nice but this is a trend of many who tell me, shocked, that I can’t be 30.

Now I close my eyes tight and wonder what it will feel like to be 50, and I can imagine it because I assume it’s like what I’m feeling now but worse. This horrific feeling of memories painted over memories painted over memories, the data in my mind constantly being overwritten until I don’t know what was real — these moments or figments of my imagination or memory purged into consciousness several times a day — recess in elementary school, standing alone and singing to myself, hoping someone else would notice and find me interesting — kindergarden class, playing with neon building toys that were bright yellow, pink and green, and fit together like the letter H to create giant walls of color, which I’d play with on my own because I felt like such an outcast and I couldn’t relate to the other kids (this, a memory at the age of four) — and others which flutter in and out of my mind with colors or tastes or sounds, some with a clear time definition and others that happened for sure but who knows when and others that perhaps I made up during a drive failure or a dream. Who knows.

But it isn’t the memories of youth that are so terrifying to taste again — it’s those memories of times I remember a bit more clearly — college, for example — and late high school — which are the horror story. It’s realizing just how long ago those memories were in the linearity of time. Reflecting on this sense of time drives me into a state of panic. I don’t mean to be cruel to others who are older about their age at all, this is personal. This is me reflecting on how little time there is in life and knowing that it’s going by so fast. In the end what I do doesn’t matter in the least. Even if I create some great painting in a revolutionary new style hung in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and galleries around the world for years to come at some point the sun will explode into a million pieces and all of humanity will be wiped out. Even the Einsteins and Picassos and Mozarts of the world will be equal speckles of dust as everyone else who ever lived.

So, in this existentialist  reality, why bother?

Bother because you still have to wake up in the morning and spend most of your life doing something that somehow makes money. If you have to do something that makes money shouldn’t it be more than just a job if you’re able to figure out how to? I mean, I’d be much more satisfied decorating houses or upcoming restaurants over promoting software. It probably wouldn’t pay as well, or at least wouldn’t until I could build my own brand. Or I could go shoot fashion photography for free for years hoping to get a shot that gets me noticed so I could make shooting images of beautiful women in luxurious clothes and exotic locations the tasks that pay the bills ongoing.

Yet the fight in my mind has always been between doing something that MATTERS and helps the world somehow vs just creating art for arts sake or for the sake of business (i.e. design) and its superficiality. Art can comment on the world but rarely does it inspire such drastic change. If I truly wanted to use creativity to influence the world I should be a pop star like Lady Gaga and preach acceptance and loving yourself. It’s too late for that as well. It feels all to late for everything unless today, or tomorrow, or soon, I run away, I take a huge chunk of my life savings and throw it at something – something so crazy – but something I can commit to for at least the next 20 years of my life – and then maybe, just maybe, I can start to sleep again, I can relax, I can smile and find peace.




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2 thoughts on “What I Wish I Knew in 2001”

  1. You know the saying… hindsight is always 20/20. The key when looking back is taking the knowledge you gained and applying it to your future self. This way in 20 years when you look back at today you’ll at least have made a more informed decision regarding with your present self. Thanks for sharing.

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