February 26th 2014: Financial Burden

Financial burden. I still don’t get it, until I find myself crying inconsolably as I receive my paycheck  just to distribute it among all my pending bills. I still don’t get it. Sorry dear, you still can’t get a real mattress, you still can’t get a comforter, why are you even thinking about how much you’ld like to renew your wardrobe? I’m so sorry you don’t have a decent pair of classic stilettos.

I find it hard not to be a cheap person and yet not being able to afford basically anything outside of my needs (and yet, sometimes managing to acquire some things). Just this past week I have been acting out the following performance score:

 

Which of course failed after 1 week.
Which of course failed after 1 week.
And more than anything, score or no score, I cannot live any other way. That is as far as I can stretch my earnings. I chose to live under the poverty line but I really don’t know how to. I have been trying and I have pushed myself, but my stupid privileged muscle memory keeps thinking that $500.00 is a decent price for a dress or a jacket. And it should be a decent price, provided I could afford it and the people who made it got paid fair wages. The saddest part of my weekend, and I mean saddest as in I feel sorry for myself even feeling sad, was running to a window at a shop to see a pair of sunglasses that was simply fabulous just to see the price tag and knowing that I was nowhere near being able to afford them. They were one week’s worth of work. Damn. I’m for sure happy with the $5.00 shades I bought on the street during black friday, but I can’t help thinking how long or why have I been ok without shopping much lately? I receive this e-mails from my favorite stores, they’ve had some great deals, like 40% off and 60% off, and I can’t even afford the discounted products. It’s embarrassing. But c’mon, obviously I don’t need anything else! I have clothes, I have a home, I have foodstamps, what else could I possibly want?

Financial burden. What? And then I receive those emails with deals on flights. I see an incredibly great deal on a flight to where my family lives. Well, can’t do it. Except, of course I could, instead of redistributing my check among my financial responsibilities. That’s when it all becomes really dehumanizing. That my financial responsibilities must take over my…oh no, wait, people don’t really have emotional responsibilities to themselves or their loved ones.You can totally disappoint yourself or someone else, and there is no real consequence for that, so we, of course, do it all the time. But you can’t fall behind and disappoint the bank or the government, or else… Well, I might lose the bank but at least I’ll still have a family to presumably love me, hopefully.

I guess this year has been harder than I expected simply because this “burden” has caught up with me. I can’t afford this lifestyle but I live it, and I am yet to figure out what that means. I of course do not live by any means near to the standards I was used to only a few years ago. This has nothing to do with translating economically into NYC (which of course demands that [almost] everyone adjusts to some extent), this has to do with me not having the means that I was used to have, this has to do with the choices that I have poorly made for myself for feeling entitled and trusting every promise made to me.

Financial burden. I remember taking that mean survey that your borrower demands from you when you are about to graduate.

Financial burden. I still don’t get, until I find myself crying inconsolably as I receive my paychecks just to distribute them among all my pending bills. I still don’t get it. Sorry dear, you still can’t get a real mattress, you still can’t get a comforter, why are you even thinking about how much you’d like to renew your wardrobe? I’m so sorry you don’t have a decent pair of classic stilettos. No baby, you can’t afford to visit your family.

 

OK let me go out and drink my few spare bucks away.

 

What do you want to do with your life?

Why won’t your fancy private school degree make your life better already?

 

Because you haven’t even paid for it yet!

 

Think of why you decided to study art.

You always thought (very romantically) you would rather be poor but make art. But be honest, you never really believed you would be poor. But no. You are not poor. Poor would be a person who has just a little bit of money. You are below that. You will be poor the day you have paid off your debt, and then you’ll have the chance of growing out of poverty…right?

 

I haven’t figured out anything yet. I often feel lost in how to approach my own situation. I don’t even have to pay anything for my loans, but the number keeps growing. If only my income would grow at a 6.8% rate day by day. If only I would’ve been money-smart instead of book-smart.

Still, I don’t regret having given myself the opportunity. I don’t regret and I wouldn’t change the friendships that I’ve made, the lessons I keep learning, this experience of incomparable vulnerability that I am going through. And maybe slowly, but I know I’m beginning to figure it out. I just need to trust my dream.

 

Katy would tell me I’m just doing “entitled bitching,” and it is true, because I can, because yes I bitch but also I apply for jobs, while working 3 jobs, submit proposals to festivals, get rejected, I find time to work on my art, also to support my friends’ art, I make time for meditation, for taking care of my body, for fun, for my internship, for rehearsal. I’m not just sitting here bitching.


I originally wrote this text on February 26th 2014, with the intention of posting it on this blog. But then, for some reason, I didn’t post it, until today. A lot of this was incorporated in The SM Cabaret Script, I realize now. Well, my life is in such a different situation than it was a year ago, or even 5 months ago. More of that to come next.

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Art/Work

“Art begins in a wound, an imperfection, and is an attempt either to learn to live with the wound or to heal it.”

-JOHN GARDNER

 

The “wound” is still fresh, and imperfections abound.

I am no longer in the safe bubble of an academic atmosphere, where the work is guaranteed – though I’m paying for it rather than getting paid – and optimism about the future is easy to come by. “I’m getting a Master’s degree at a prestigious university. Of course I’ll be able to find a job,” can quickly turn into, “Why did I get a Master’s degree if I can’t find a job that uses it?” And therein we find the many imperfections of an artist looking for work.

These last few months I’ve been consumed by my search for work. My online existence has been whittled down to cover letters and job websites and professional e-mails, electronic applications and resumes and profiles that can’t possibly give an employer any real inkling as to what or who I actually am. The number of “sent” e-mails grows  while my inbox remains empty (except for those empty “Thank you for your interest” responses). The amount in my savings account shrinks while the student loan numbers loom ever larger and more intimidating. Out of this wound – or into it – I’m pouring my savings, my time, my energy, my focus, and nothing is coming back in to close it. I’ve been trying so hard to find work that I’ve forgotten to create my own.

I enjoyed working my way through grad school because there was always something to write, to think about, to question, to create.  My mind was focused on how to be an academic and an artist, but lately all it’s been doing is figuring out how to be an employee. Which is okay, right? Because I have to be an employee somewhere to support myself as an artist, don’t I? I can’t do both, not just yet.

Maybe not. As Stephen Sondheim once wrote, “Is it always ‘or’? Is it never ‘and’?” I seem to have traded in an artistic frame of mind for a job-searching one, and convinced myself that’s okay in the meantime because that’s what had to be done. But this blog is proof that art and work don’t have to be separate. I don’t have to wait for one to get to the other.  Instead of waiting for work, I can create my own, whether “work” means a job or a piece of art – or both. Who knows?

None of us know where or how this blog will end up, no more than any of us know where or how our lives will end up. But the good thing  – the great thing, really, the incredibly uplifting thing – is that on this page there is already a work of art growing out of this wound, out of this imperfect situation we have found ourselves in. Art and work don’t have to be opposites. We don’t have to choose to live as workers or as artists. We can do both, we can be both. We can work on that together, and let the wound start healing.

 

Hopefully,

Thursday