As someone who hates obligations, I generally wait ’til Chinese New Year to come up with resolutions. Despite it’s failure rate, I love resolutions–mainly because it gives me a chance to get really emo and think back on the difference a year makes.
Timehop told me the other day that 6 years ago, almost to the day, I started painting again after a 10+ year hiatus. I was still working at Google at the time, and taking studio classes at night. Two years after this post, I quit Google and started pursuing Art as a career.
This year might have been my 10th year at Google, so here comes the understatement of the decade: In the past ten years, I’ve gained Perspective. And the only real difference is that up until then, I was working hard at something I didn’t want, and now I’m working hard at something I really do want. I guess a large part of the difficulty in pursuing something I really do want, is having accountability and responsibility over my failures. Here, I have no boss to pin the blame; you can’t blame anyone but yourself for your own shortcomings. That’s no fun.
But then again, there are other things to blame. Income inequality, for instance. Yes, income inequality, that catch-all. That is the reason why peace-loving hippies are driven to murderous rage and my tech friends prefer to stay in the cleaner parts of San Francisco. Wealth inequality the main reason why everyone in San Francisco seems to be so pissed off.
Perhaps my experience isn’t worthwhile (in which case, please feel free to stop reading) but entertain me here: I think my firsthand experience of wealth inequality within SF is fairly unique. I’m one of the crazy ones who consciously decided to take myself down a few notches on the socio-economic status ladder, give up the cool toys, and make up my own game to play. That said, ladies and gentlemen, I’m not recommending it. If you read my blog, you know that this counter-stream, art business is harder than any job I’ve ever taken (and I’ve taken more than a few–so be nice to artists, they’re weird for a reason, but I digress.)
The way I see it, I’m part of a first wave of kids whose battle-cry was to “pursue your passion,” which we all know is a load of crap because our society doesn’t really care about your passion unless it involves someone paying you to do it. I know this now, because my friends who, ten years ago, decided to pursue money as an singular, objective goal have been rewarded handsomely: they get to spend winters exploring the Spanish coast, they take babymoons on yachts– and I’m actually really genuinely happy for them, I really am. They’ve worked really hard for it.
On the flip-side, my equally educated and accomplished friends who chose to pursue their passions, well, they have to make a lot of hard decisions and sacrifices. Seeing such a stark difference in how these decisions have panned out over the course of a decade has been extremely telling. Basically, it tells me that nothing has really changed in this world, except perhaps that income inequality is worse than ever. I can get more into this, but I’ll try to cut to the chase.
Since I voluntarily, and willingly made the conscious decision to jump off the deep end of the corporate ladder and wasn’t forced off somehow, I feel like I can be relatively objective here. I also acknowledge the fact that privilege allowed me the choice. While it sucks to not be able to afford to go on a family vacation, it’s also pretty awesome to BE SUPER EXCITED to go back to work after a break. On the spectrum, I have been incredibly fortunate and I have zero regrets, but I’ll tell you this: It really sucks to constantly worry about money, and that crappy feeling becomes an undercurrent that makes its way into every small decision you make. So try not to judge people for making some poor ones.
Now that not everyone I know isn’t working at least tangentially in Tech, I have close friends who were heroin addicts, some have dabbled in prostitution. I have friends who have participated the civil rights movement in Berkeley and lived the Summer of Love. I also still have friends who only hang out north of Market St. and are completely blindsided to the protests happening in the City. They genuinely don’t see why people are so pissed off. These friends are unabashedly unconcerned with the housing crisis insofar as it doesn’t affect the next IPO. And all of them are intelligent, highly respectable people; I am honored to call them friends. This doesn’t make me a better person, but it does gives me a shit ton of perspective.
I’ll list a few things I’ve observed, as this is quickly become TL;DR.
- It feels good to be around people who aren’t worried about money, I get it. Stressed out negativity is a huge bummer, but understanding the struggle (and maybe even finding ways to help) is the price you pay for immense gratitude for what you have.
- Almost everything is designed to make people feel bad about not having money: Relationships, malls, restaurants, Vegas, the media, etc. I consciously try to avoid places and movies that make me feel poor. It’s very difficult, because those places are generally very fun and people you care about enjoy them.
- Holidays are significantly more crappy; Christmas and birthdays suck. I try to get on my high horse about being too busy and not believing in consumerism, but my nieces and nephews don’t understand this. They want cool stuff, and I’m the asshole that can’t afford to give it to them.
- In our society, money validates all. Even Art. No one gives a damn about your art unless it sells for a ton of money, but you’re not supposed to care about that– much less figure out how to sell your work. This creates confusion and develops drinking habits.
- It becomes more apparent that a lot of our narratives work by blaming the poor and powerless. Despite what you hear, “Poor” people are often the least judgmental, most intelligent, hardest working, and incredibly fun to be around. I know this isn’t a revelation, but I’ve learned so much more from stomping around the streets with a bunch of low-lifes and a bottle of whiskey, than I have in college and all yacht parties combined. You really grow from having friends in all circles. Everyone would gain from experiencing rags and from riches.
Again, this list is far from comprehensive and by no means exhaustive. I sincerely have no Ego here: just had to jot down some observations. Frankly, I don’t miss the food, but miss the days at Google where everyone went to great lengths to help each other research and share resources with no expectation of anything in return. I now understand that this freedom was afforded to us only because the parties involved were all making a decent income, so money was no longer an issue. In the fiscally-starved art world, if you don’t find a way to monetize your ideas– you’re literally worthless.
I would love to change this, and I have a feeling I know a lot of you would like to, too. Anyone with ideas, shoot me a message and let’s roam the streets with some 40s and give it a go. If you can’t do it in San Francisco, where can you? We’ll grow from it, I promise.