On Being an “Normal” Artist.

You have to take some risks when you’re a kid to find out who you are. You just have to learn which risks are safe and which are self-destructive. Everybody does weird stuff. As you get older, I believe if you’ve never been allowed to do all that weird shit, then you make it into some kind of obsession that you’re too old to have!

~John Waters

There’s actually a whole collection of priceless quotes from that guy, but that one was relevant to how I’ve been feeling these days. A couple of affirming, yet unrelated events happened this past month:

  1. The opening for the AAWAA group show my artwork was featured in
  2. Helping an artist friend (Eva) digitalize and re-make her old punk band records from 31 years ago
  3. My parents wanting to know my future “plans”… “As an Artist.”

Related or not, all these things made me slow down and consider where my life has been, and where it’s headed. I’ve always considered myself to be a simple person. Like, I’ve never wanted to be a rich, and whenever people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d always say “happy.” When that wasn’t satisfactory, I’d make up a title or a position they’d be happy with, or to fuck with them, like, “Oh, I’d want to be a paralegal.” I remember one time I told a teacher that, and she said, “Why a paralegal? Why not shoot to be a lawyer?” I said, “Nah, I hate public speaking.” I think I was 12 years old at the time.

As I grew older, I started to realize that being a simple person was actually quite complicated to everyone else. Wanting to be a simple person meant having to answer a lot of questions about “where you want to be in 5 years,” and “what do you want to with your life?” I found that I got really good at answering these inane questions, even though I had absolutely no interest in them whatsoever. 

But here’s the thing: I also thought (and still think) angst is trite and pointless. Even when I was 13, I never thought raging against the establishment was anything to be proud of. I felt like it was worthless and frankly kind of overdone. Or maybe that’s just in hindsight. Maybe I subconsciously just wanted to fit in, like everyone else… and I did. Actually, I found I did amazingly well fitting in, even in Kindergarten, when i didn’t speak English. My grandma asked me how I wanted to tell the teacher when I needed to go to the bathroom, and I told her I’d hold up a peace sign. Yeah, a peace sign meant I had to go to the bathroom. (Consider this when I you see people throwing up peace signs in pictures.)

Anyway, I realized that’s who I’ve grown to be. I’ve gotten REALLY good at looking normal. I even confuse myself sometimes… until I’m reminded what “normal” is. I don’t even mean to say that in a condescending way, I say it to remind myself that it’s okay not to be what everyone else wants you to be. Sometimes, in conversation with my artist friends, they’ll look at me wide eyed and say,

“Holy shit, you look so normal, but you’re actually really weird!” I smile and say, “How do you think I got a job at Google?”

So here what I’ve learned about me, that may or may not apply to you: Sometimes you have to input your life into these little Facebook profile fields, like “School,” “Company,” “Relationship Status,” just so other people can make sense of you. I’m fine with that. I’m also fine playing the part of a complicated “Artist” but I’d rather just be a simple person, wearing a plain, non-crazy, non “artist” clothes and haircut, living my life happily floating along. You can make sense of that as you will, but I’ll call it my own way of rebelling against normalcy. I call it “Art.”