*A transcribed series of honest thoughts from a standard Friday*
About once a month I have an emotional breakdown, a period of introspection, revelation, and despair. I don't have much consistency in my life right now, but this is an ever-present constant that I get to enjoy. It's generally onset by the realization that I'm not a good patron of society. So let's unpack that for a little bit.
I am primarily an artist. It's what I've been doing since I graduated from college. Prior to that I was a student for most, if not all, of my life. I'm back to the stage of being a student again, which is a nice relief I guess because it gives me a sense of productivity and illusion of purposeful interactions with society.
Getting back to the idea of being an artist and how I function within society, I am constantly reminded of the fact that I stick out like a broken fingernail: something that is vaguely interesting, that adds sensation to the world, but is a persistent nuisance. Something that doesn't quite fit in, right?
As if my own doubts about my work and life are insufficient, on top of all the self-doubt and anxiety, I also have lovely and generous little reminders that I'm not…
Good. That's a very strange word to use. But I'm simply failing at coming up with a better term. Let me try to explain. By good I mean that I am not fulfilling my purpose. I'm not the essence of what humanity is meant to be and the thing is that I know that mindset is complete and utter bullsh*t.
The way that we determine human value is so incredibly flawed, but we are constantly gaslighted by society because it's what we've been trained to do. We always are going to be looking for ways to interpret each other's actions and to quantify their value. We want to know who's on top and who's on the bottom and if you're in the middle, great. You're comfortable, you fit in, you don't have to worry about sticking out like a broken fingernail.
And so we eat up these ideas about what we should be because if it allows us to sit somewhere in the gradient - then we're doing okay and we can call it a day. But what happens when the thing that you do doesn't have any direct value? I would love it if somebody could explain to me how they manage to exist without knowing where they fit into this value scale that has been prescribed by our capitalist society.
It's not a free market. It can never be a free market because we are all subjugated by the value scale that it appoints us. And the further we get pulled away from the things that we create the more that we can be deceived into believing that the hours that we put into a certain project, a certain idea, gives it value when the truth is that time is relative.
We know from numerous studies that we’re not very productive with our time. Even if you work a 40-hour week, you only put in a couple hours every day of truly dedicated and productive time. But as long as our minutes, our seconds, can be given a price tag, we are very, very controllable.
The problem is that my time has no value. It's the things that I make with my hands that have some strange untraceable quality that makes them desirable, perhaps. But why invest in something non-consumable unless it has a price tag that's been generated by this machine? Why invest in something unless we can trace the value to some expert along the way who said, “Yes. Yes. This thing has purpose and value and you should buy it.”
So now how do I fit into all this? Well. There are a couple of things. First of all, I'm terrible at selling myself and what I make, so I'm a terrible salesperson and that means that I can't really convince people that what I'm doing is valuable unless I talk to them about it. But if we have price tags for everybody's time, then I'd have to buy their time in order to have those conversations and right now that's particularly difficult.
So I'm stuck here. Unable to sell what I'm doing unless I can sit down with somebody who's time I've bought and maybe that's part of why I like grad school so much. I pay to be here. And so people listen to me. Now that isn't to say that I don't love grad school. I love the community, I love my professors, I love my peers and I think that it's worth every unquantifiable dollar.
But I can't trace what I'm doing back to that abstract idea of value and thus I don't know if I can ever really, in the part of my brain that's been programmed by society’s views of value, validate the money that I put into my education - that I've put into my art making. And so I sit there on the floor crying because I have no way of solidifying my hopes and my desire for independence: the ability to do what I love as the way to sustain my life.
And because I can't convince people to buy things that I make because there isn't somebody standing next to me saying that it's worth it, I am alone and in our market system that means that I must do everything myself including prescribe value to the objects that I make.
How am I supposed to sell myself if I don't feel like I'm worth anything because everyone in society has been taught to say that value comes from working a certain amount of time or fulfilling a certain role within society or offering a needed service or creating something that is extremely talented and outstanding … That's the one exception, if you're talented, genius, or you have some link to cultural fetishes (aka, you make something that fits in with some other creative genius).
Unless you fit that description…
Then you're alone.
And you have to make up your value as you go. And I can't do that.
How can I survive?