(I wrote and posted this on Medium in October 2019, knowing that not many people will read it, since I don’t have any presence on Medium. But the healing was in the writing, and the writing is abetted by the delusion of an audience, the readers. ANYWAY, almost a year later as the world is coming apart, I (now 30) seem to be at a muuch better place…I am able to paint and write again, and the abstinence last year seems only to have magically improved my practice, as if all this while that I was not creating anything, the tools inside me were sharpening themselves without my knowing about it. I feel more secure today to share it where more people (that delusional audience/ reader) can find this. If some of you reading this are feeling something similar, maybe you will find hope knowing that, this passed for me, and will pass for you too. xx)
I am a painter who hasn’t painted in more than 4 months, and with just about 3 completed paintings in the last 10 whole months. I am a writer who has a better chance of impressing you with my rejection history than with my list of publications…if only for my persistence value. My doggedness to keep at it. But it’s getting harder and harder to keep at it. I sometimes wonder if an editor getting my third email of the year with one more submission or pitch that she has to reject, rolls her eyes in her room, a room that must have a calendar with dates circled in red highlights for deadlines and with printouts piling over her desks onto her floor, I wonder if she ever rolls her eyes and wishes I will stop, and give her one less bad writing to review and reject. Do we really need one more writer in this world? Or another painter? Or thinker, or what have you? Every time I put a thought to paper, I am filled with a sense of self-importance, an urgency to have it read or seen that makes me pursue editors and gallery managers to look, to pay attention. As do many others. I find myself avoiding artists and writers in every room, every party. At first it was because I was self-conscious about my identity, I didn’t feel like a real writer or a real painter and felt I had to hide those parts of my identity from them…and later on it was because I just could not stand that same self-importance mirrored in them that I was starting to find tiresome in me. It stared at me face to face and asked me if I wanted to be like that, or if that’s the kind of person I want to hang out with? With this strange sense of self-worth, this self-created idea that we are important, and that what we make is important and worthy of the time of others. Someone said (maybe Tim Ferris?) that we are all the average of our 5 closest friends, and if that is true who are those 5 friends I want to keep closest to me?
When I was little, and the adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I gave them all different answers customised to the preference of my audience demographic, as some kids do. But in my head I was always clear about what I wanted…I wanted to be the person who makes others feel better. It was a simple idea…to be a kind of soothing balm, the light in every room I walk into…someone that others may not necessarily gravitate towards exactly but one that makes others tilt slightly towards, to smile and welcome and be glad that she came. It could be as a doctor, a psychologist, a writer, or a bus driver, that wasn’t important. Most days I feel like I have managed to achieve that, to be that smile and light in the room, be the calm head during a family crisis, be the dependable professional under a tight deadline. Many people in my life now, including the closest and most important ones, tell me that my smile is what they like the most about me. It has become my singular defining feature. So that now I have to keep doing it even when I don’t feel it, because what if I stop smiling and lose these people that welcomed me into their lives for it…what will I be without this then?
I don’t know where I am going with this essay exactly, I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t know who or what I am anymore. The older we get it gets harder and harder to reinvent our lives…the stakes are higher. I have reinvented myself and how others perceive me many times over my 29 years, and now here I am at a junction, about to move continents, take a life leap that is new and complicated, and I have the rare opportunity to start it all over from scratch. The only problem is that weird need we all have to keep holding on to our past selves and past lives…whether it is in the form of our old friends, old families, old journals, clothes, books or CDs, or old habits, old food preferences…we want to keep repeating some of these even as we reinvent other parts of our life to feel a sense of continuity, a seamless transition between our old and new lives. But what if all our past selves and past connections slip away from us? When the bridges to our old life burns one by one, so that there is no way to return back to it, or even parts of it? Our identities and sense of self is so tied to other peoples and objects, that when the people and location of our lives change, our identities also gets a jolt, a push to reassert themselves. And if the thread to my kite is not tied to an anchor down below, how do I resume my flight, resume this continuity in my life story? How jarring is this reinvention!