|Swim at Your Own Risk|
Oil pastel on vellum, Laura Z
I do have a tumultuous mental health and employment history. I'm educated, and I've held a few good jobs, but after a while my eccentric restlessness gets the better of me, if bad luck doesn't get me first.
It's not that I don't want to work. I'm just...odd. I'm acutely aware that I don't fit in, and I care about it far more than I want to. My artistic nature is not something I can put aside until I have "free" time. It's who I am: the all-consuming passion that drives me crazy is the only thing keeping me sane.
Though I am perfectly at ease on stage performing in front of a packed audience in a ridiculous costume, I never got the script for "real life." I have no idea what it means to pass for normal, stable, employable.
Even though my life depends on it.
The mask that never quite fit begins to look weird after a while, and I know in my sore thumb heart that I'm not fooling anyone. I start to feel like a fraud and a liar - and I am a terrible liar. My face always betrays the roiling depths of emotion and I cannot hide.
It is only a matter of time before this simmering anxiety begins to boil, like a kettle shrilly announcing the gig is up. Then I gather my things and go home to smash rocks and paint while I wait for another last paycheck.
Being an Artist is a miserable excuse for sucking at adulthood. I don't want to hide behind it as if to say, "I know I'm maladapted to a calm life of maturity and responsibility, but in my defense, I'm an artist and I can't help it." It crosses the tongue like so many dinners of Ramen noodles, tasteless and shameful, and void of nutrition.
Herein lies the deepest, most inaccessible desire of my heart. Supporting myself through my talent instead of my lackluster ability to feign being normal will require recognition - otherwise I might as well add delusional to my lengthy diagnostic record.
Validation is a wonderful thing, and I've had a bit, but so far it doesn't pay the bills. I remind myself that I've already sold many times over the number of paintings Van Gogh sold in his lifetime. And I still have both my ears. It's a small comfort.
Accolades or monetary success have never been my primary motivation for chasing this impossible dream. What I crave more than anything else is to justify who I am. I long for the day when I can celebrate this maddening sensitivity, and see this peculiar obsession as the gift it is, instead of a shameful and cowardly excuse for all the things I'm not.
What I'm truly hungry for is vindication for being me. I'm going to do it anyway, and I'd like to know how it feels not to need an excuse.
And I really, really don't want to eat those peas.