What makes people go for it? What makes them know that they shouldn't do anything else but write poetry or create music or paint pictures or even play a sport? How do they know? Do they have a choice? Are there people out there who went for it and didn't succeed and are barely making a living because they have to pursue their art? Are they embarrassing themselves by trying? Do they have to be told to stop and get a job at a store or something?
Take someone like e.e. cummings for example. How does he know he's a poet? Did he have that middle-class safety net that allows for failure without the financial repercussions? Who knows, all that matters is that the guy had some kind of crazy style and that's not including the lower-case letters for his name and uncompromisingly became what he wanted to be.
At least that's how I interpret his work.
Sometimes I wish I had become a poet or a painter or serious writer and artist. I wish that I had the spirit of e.e. but there weren't too many companies in need of a poet when I graduated from college. Maybe I could have done it. Maybe I could have gone after something that the rest of the culture labels "out there" and succeeded. Maybe I didn't do it because I was afraid of what my mother would have thought if I moved away to become a poet or a novelist. She would have thought that I should be in middle management or marketing somewhere drawing a pension or a 401K. She already loses her mind over the fact that I can work from home - or anywhere - from my fancy little laptop. Sometimes I don't go in to the office for days and don't talk to my bosses for weeks because I get so caught up in doing the job from my home or in the backyard with an umbrella over my head and in my glass. I should be out networking, hobnobbing and "being seen."
That's the part that gets me. It's the assimilation and mainstreaming of people and the culture. Instead of networking in an office in a suit, I should be networking from the rooftops, sounding my barbaric yalps like Whitman. I should be challenging ideas, apathy and complacency instead of becoming part of the status quo and getting the job done so I can go home and watch TV. I should strive to create quality work and let that do my talking instead of banter and witty repartee in a social setting.
Doing stuff like that shouldn't be the hard thing. It should be the norm. But it's not and because "mainstreaming" and taking the road most traveled is we all suffer.
Suffer? How do we suffer because we chose safety instead of challenges? What's with that word? "Suffer." How do we suffer? Isn't that a dramatic word that should be used dramatically, like when describing why you decided to put your dog to sleep?
"Well, she had cancer and we didn't want her to suffer..."
Suffer? Here's how: Because people opt for unchallenging lives set around work, commutes, two-week vacations, the stock market, little league games and sitcoms, we suffer because sometimes we lose talent. We lose artists and minds of would-be geniuses that somewhere along the line were scorned and quit. Other times, they just didn't see the other way and chose the lives that their parents and relatives lived. These were the people who believed that if someone took a chance or crossed the beaten path, they were weird and must be talked about, sometimes viciously and other times condescendingly, at parties or banal meetings at the store or something.
"Billy moved to New York to become a poet or a playwright or something like that. He lives in a fleabag apartment and gets unemployment and just sits around and writes all day instead of getting a job. Meanwhile, his friend Chris is in law school while his other friend, Steve, who graduated with him in high school, is a financial advisor for Vanguard."
Think about it. I mean really think about it. How people do you know who play the guitar and write songs and don't perform them anywhere or if they do, they do it at bars that have live music on the deck during the summertime. They get a couple 30-minute sets as long as they play Margaritaville or something by James Taylor in exchange for a percentage of the cover and free beer. Occasionally, they squeeze in some of their own compositions to lukewarm applause. Of course you know people like this and you know what? The songs they write are just as good as the stuff spewed out by some ubiquitous act like Matchbox 20 or some silliness like that. They are just as charismatic as any other talking head in some group, but they have to put their time as an adjuster.
Everyone knows people like this. Everyone. And there is no difference between them and the people who "made it" except for one thing: The people in Matchbox 20 had the balls to sleep in a van in strange hamlets after gigs in crappy clubs. They figured it was OK to live on the dole while getting a few hundred bucks here and there until they got the big break. Some people do it because they simply do not have any other choice and others just don't have the stomach for it.