Sacrifice or Fear?
February 22, 2020
I remember 16. I couldn't go a day without drawing in my sketchbook or on scrap paper. I'd spend hours on DeviantArt, consumed by the work my favorite artists were putting out. They inspired me to paint, draw, write—whatever! How it would all turn out didn't concern me. I was doing it for me. I was learning, and all I cared about was letting every random nonsensical idea be set free. Unabashed, I'd get carried away with an illustration I was making and ignore my homework. I'd get in trouble for staying up late drawing when I should have been in bed. I had this fire burning that I never thought would go out. I could do anything!
Somewhere in the midst of growing up, 40-hour (plus) weeks, and just everyday life, I started feeling lost. While I was going through so many life changes, I forgot what it was to be myself. I prioritized others' needs (usually wants) above my own. I pretended that my sacrifices were necessary—that I didn't have a choice. I was too busy with other obligations (things that I thought were important) to create for myself anymore. If it wasn't for my job, I didn't have the energy to do it.
I was tired from work.
I was making excuses.
The truth is: I was afraid of failing. I felt like I had run out of ideas. Something was missing, and I began busying myself with pointless distractions saying I needed "time to decompress" when I should have been throwing myself into my first love: art.
I was irresponsible. Not in the traditional sense—I went to work, paid my bills, supported the people around me.1 I was being productive, but productivity is NOT a substitute for purpose. I was on autopilot half the time—always waiting for certain dates and times when I would finally be free to do something I wanted. But the irony is that time was never going to be there if I kept making excuses for not making the time.
I was in an existential crisis. I was neglecting my own authenticity. And in 2018, a few huge life events pushed me to my breaking point.
It seems that most people hit a point in their lives where they no longer feel comfortable with truly evaluating their path. Their plans are already in motion, and they are too afraid to question their direction or beliefs because this is what they know. What do they do if they realize the path they've chosen is leading them somewhere they don't want to go? It's especially difficult if the choices they made were based on someone else's expectations instead of their intrinsic desires—essentially, living out Truman Burbank's life.3
"Certainty is an illusion of the highest form: there is nothing guaranteed in a life, so it’s in our best interest to do that which is not least risky, but most worthwhile."
As children, we have very few preconceived notions. We're always playing and experimenting. We're discovering this vast world we walk through. We find it difficult to grasp the idea that we "can't" or "shouldn't" do something—those words just don't make sense to us.
As we get older, we're more aware of our mortality leading us to fear potential missteps because we finally understand and appreciate the responsibilities our caretakers shouldered to protect us. However, we start to assume that each and every one of their burdens was necessary and that we must take them on as well. Rather than building an improved world that we want to live in, we begin restricting ourselves to believing in the world as told by those before us because "it's how it's always been." "Can't" and "shouldn't" are frequent residents in our vocabulary when dealing with potentially brilliant new experiences because we don't have the time, or we deem them to be superfluous.
I'll take a second here to acknowledge that there are people who genuinely do not have the time because all of their responsibilities are necessary to support themselves and their loved ones. Those who are barely making ends meet to put food on the table.
As for the rest of us, we're just making a lot of fucking excuses.
I've made a lot of fucking excuses.
Often, I've chosen to let my anxiety overpower my drive. I've let it pick at the "imperfections" of a project to the point of giving up. At times, I've even allowed it to talk me out of simply attempting to create something for myself—the blank canvas is just so damn terrifying. What if it goes poorly?
So what? Is there some demon ready to take me down to the depths of hell for it? If there is, history is on my side because I haven't been dragged down yet! The only way I lose is by continuing to waste time by pacifying myself with useless distractions that keep me stagnant.
But I'm working on it. As I mentioned in my previous post, I've started waking up earlier each morning and blocking off that time to focus on the part of myself I was constantly ignoring. Designing, photography, drawing, writing—these are things that enrich my sense of self, and the only way I could possibly fail is by allowing fear to stand in my way.
I'm creating for myself again. If 16-year-old me was so enthusiastic about sharing some of the most embarrassing work I've ever made, what the hell do I have to be afraid of? Absolutely nothing. The goal isn't to make something for others to gawk at. It's much more personal than that. It's much more important.
And it's about fucking time.
I am very aware of my privilege, and I appreciate how fortunate I am.
If you haven't seen The Truman Show, then do yourself a favor and correct that ASAP.