Life

A Letter To The “Adulting” Artist

Dear “Adulting” Artist,

Why did we sign up for this shit?

Seriously. Why did we yearn for the day of our independence? Why couldn’t we have just been happier with the innocence of childhood and the whimsicality that it allotted us?

I keep looking around the corners of my ancient soul, questioning, “Where in the hell did my inspiration go?” I’ve meditated to listen for its call, gotten up every morning at 6:30 to chase after it around the dusty city streets, tried stuffing my belly with green juice and vegan food to fill the empty space it left behind. I drove to the outskirts of town and sat quietly in the mountains by myself. I “spa-day’ed” it up and massaged it down, tried to soak in a scalding hot water and sit in a steam room to sweat it out, praying that a little of it would ooze out of my pores. Still, I cannot find it.

I don’t know about you, but the issue for me was that somewhere along the way, I just kept burying it, under the dingy files of what we call “adulting”. You know… paying bills, feeling the need to work in order to survive, giving all my time and energy to other things because of having actual responsibilities now? So much so that I’ve become intimidated by the idea of painting, writing, or creating anything new. My mind is confused. It’s excited at the thought of a fresh idea or project, but then logic rears its ugly head and asks, “Where is the time for all of that?” Back in the day, my inspiration danced with freedom in its feet and rejoiced with fire brimming its wrist. About 3-5 years ago, in my undergraduate days, I gave it the willpower to direct fashion shows, design clothes, write music, perform, lead organizations, win pageants, and to ferociously go after the career it of which it had always dreamed. Now, as I look back over the years and examine my life up until this point, something is off balance, and I can’t walk around as if I don’t know what it is. I played a dangerous game with my inspiration. I neglected it for so long, and now when I want it the most, it’s eluding me. I guess I didn’t know how good I had it until it wasn’t around anymore.

To the “Adulting” Artist, wherever you are, if anybody feels you, I feel you (hits my chest with my fist). You work and run around, worn out by the afternoon only to come home to a room full of unfinished projects. Then, with the measly strength that’s left in you, you aimlessly try to edit or draw or paint or design or compose whatever is left of the inspiration you kept pushing off to the side all day in exchange for your adulating/worldly duties. The bills won’t pay themselves nor will the 10-page essay for class magically appear in front of your face, edited and ready to submit. I know you think the world will not sit around and wait for you to create, but at the same time, that’s all you want to do. Because while all of this is true for the most part, you’re faced with the painful realization that the paintings in the closet won’t blend and finish themselves, the photos won’t saturate or Photoshop on their own, and the blog posts, poems, and books won’t pick up a pen and scribe themselves.

Although I am happy that I’m moving on up in the world, there’s still a lot of things I miss. I miss my fulfillment in art. I miss the feeling of watching my visions coming to life. I miss the irresponsibility and the possibility that lied within it. I miss the lightness of few loads. I miss the safety net of community. I miss designing. I miss mackin’ and hangin’ without the gnawing thought of something needing to get done. I’m exhausted by the energy people throw at me daily. I’m exhausted by the energy they take from me. I’ve been practicing breathing and chanting, humming and dancing, speaking things into existence, and writing and laughing, and crying, and affirming, and closing my eyes to imagine myself as a hummingbird—a pair of wings growing from my back, pacing at 1,000 beats per second as I elevate into new heights and vibrate above the disaster. I am an artist. I am a visionary. That is at the core of who I am. And if I’m right, it’s at yours, too. When you discover that something has knocked you off center, you must go to great lengths to get back.

My creative energy has been eating me alive lately, and for the sake of my own sanity, I had to overcome the anxiety I feel each time I think about starting a new project and actually finishing it. The ailments of being an artist and adulating are two of the most stubborn facets of my life that I’ve been trying to merge together. If you’re anything like me, you’ll say that you can’t complain (even though now I find myself doing so) but in reality, that is exactly what you need to do. Complain, and scream, and find your voice, and utilize it because at the end of the day, the world didn’t take your inspiration from you. You willingly gave it up. Now, it’s time for you to march right back into that room, gracefully sit down at the round-table, and with loving dominion say, “Give me my. Shit. (claps hands) Back. (claps hands)

My mentor once told me, “Putting yourself first means letting someone else down.” Here’s some things I feel are necessary to do. You have to—HAVE TO— practice utilizing “no” or “not now” and be completely, fervently honest with NO guilt behind it. Shut off the phone, the television, and most importantly, your mind, in order to ignore the nagging feeling of everyone needing your energy and wanting a piece of you. You have to learn how to ask for the things you want. Hell, ask for that extension on a paper or a bill. When you’re getting back to your core, it’s important to graciously receive the help from a friend, and let go of the pride that comes with financial independence for a bit. I know you can pay all your bills, and that’s wonderful, but this person wants to give you a little extra. Do yourself a favor; take that shit and run with it—to the nearest craft store, fabric shop, or massage parlor. Plan those days off, or better yet, take off for yourself. Allow yourself the luxury of waking up breathing, craving, and salivating over the idea of doing nothing more than just creating for that day.

To the adulating artist,

trust me, we’re here (does eye to eye motion), but hear me on this: your frustration with neglecting the true nature of who you are must be greater than your fear of falling short financially. Only then will you be able to make the proper changes to align yourself back in the good graces of your creative energy.

Keep your head up,

Nneka

Leave a Reply