When I was in middle school, I listened to Offspring’s Americana.
Welcome! To! Ameri. Cana.
Please. Make. Your. Selection. Followed. By. The. Pound. Sign. Now?
It was a time when I relished heavy guitar music. It was the perfect soundtrack to light teenage angst, slightly more serious burgeoning depression and assorted problems that came with my territory.
I only got into that one Offspring album, mainly to understand the “Give it to me baby… – uh huh, uh huh!” chorus that showed up in parties. (One day I’ll talk more about growing up in peripheral Poland with American culture, but it will have to wait). To my surprise, I loved it. I loved it not for the acknowledged hits, such as Why Don’t You Get A Job. Two songs captured perfectly my sense of alienation: Have You Ever and As You’re Staring At The Sun.
I wrote alternative lyrics in Polish for As You’re Staring At The Sun. I scribbled its lyrics in journals, I sang it under my breath, longing for the full breadth of rock abandon. I wanted somebody to give me a microphone and allow me to sing it, not realising that a rebel scream is never, ever permitted.
Time has passed. I have mellowed. My voice may well be more suited to jazz than it is to rock or punk; I may secretly (or not secretly…) be very sensitive and afraid of offending people, rather than screaming hard-ass rebel I’d dreamed of becoming. I dreamed of being unafraid. Thats a dream that did not come true.
Have you ever been an artist with a dayjob? Have you ever hated your dayjob? Have you ever found a dayjob that was fulfilling? Have you ever felt like you were cheating on your art? Have you ever got caught up in a paradox? Have you ever felt that there was more?
I have a dayjob and I’m good at it.
I am a performer. Autistic children are a hard, hard audience. And to a point, I am thriving. Instant gratificaion, being off media, lots of running, changing landscapes. I’m loving it, I’m extremely organised, I’m incrementally… dying? Dramatic. But I do keep realising that I re-organised my life for this work to an extreme extent, with discipline that I was unable to execute as a freelancer. And that bothers me. Bothers me a lot.
So what’s the problem? I like my kids and my team, I am part of the school’s community, I occasionally check out other jobs but don’t make serious plans. I rarely manage to apply for artistic jobs of any kind: I either have no availability or no juice. The job is taking the majority of my energy; if I manage to do anything at all, it’s a surgical strike, maybe three hours a week that I can afford to spend on art. And that bothers me. Bothers me a lot.
Why do I work harder for a company than for myself? Well, it’s much easier to believe an established entity that hires others. I am motivated by other people’s presence – a lot easier to do work with immediate reward and impact that work for possible future gain. But also I keep noticing this thing of working AROUND my dreams rather than towards them. Like, I’d written songs, but god forbid I honestly pursue getting paid for that, I was just tinkering (i.e. wrote/improvised over a 100 songs, semantics); I wrote three shows, but forget about touring; I love singing, but THAT’S terrifying; I play the piano, but practicing that would trigger my primary school trauma or whatever.
I’m scared. I keep doing things that are slightly AROUND my fears. I’m a good comic with decent timing, but forget about doing heats – nevermind that with my job open mics are all but impossible, because I need to sleep. I can do drag, but not drag improv. I can do improv, but not burlesque. I can do stand-up, but not clown. I haven’t sung for months. I’m losing myself a little.
I need a new metaphor. Is pursuing my art really staring at the sun, an impossible endeavour? There are still the small things that I do while I wait, like writing this blog, rehearsing twoprov every two weeks, my weekly playwriting sessions and monthly poem-writing courtesy of Rhymes with Orange. These are the real things, things that will count and be beautiful. But I strongly dislike feeling marinated in fear – it’s an emotion I live with and maybe can’t imagine life without.
Perhaps it is time to make a list of things I stopped doing and consequently started fearing. A sum of all fears, to be conquered in small installments. Because aside from the universal fears that we all share now – the rise of fascism; the fall of environment – my personal fear-demons have been kicking my behind for longer than I care to count. And maybe there is no perfect fearless Rita that I dreamed of – just the one willing to face herself, and keep doing it rather than getting comfortable.