Dear young kids of ATL,
Please stop wasting precious time inducing depression if you’re not truly pre-dispositioned to chemical imbalance. Besides, truth be told, even real deal moods and blues are soothed by active artistic therapy. Situational depression due to obsessive ego evaluation and general laziness is a hole you don’t want to descend into. Youth is the greatest time to get some seriously cool shit done!
I’m sure much of what I’m going to say can apply to most people to one degree or another, though the issues ahead are more prominent with the young, especially the young and well funded. Know that quote, “Youth is wasted on the young?” I’m still young(ish), but not as young as I used to be, and I have looked back and seen how much energy was wasted on stupid shit. Young ATL, if you’re privileged and blessed with free time and money to spend, why are you just sitting around with your youth AND RESOURCES? You’re definitely letting opportunities pass you by.
Rich boys, rich girls and all trust fund babies in between, you are the object of jealousy for so many. For most of us full-time slaves, there are not enough hours in the day. But we also know that idle hands are the devil’s playthings. When not working, you can easily fall into the seduction and vanity of an overactive social life. Drug and love habits may cure boredom or stress but they become just that: habits. You become the sort of person who fills a void by buying things instead of creating them.
With social media’s reign, the Big Brother of our time, coupled with mandatory attendance at actual, social events, what people think of you can become a haunting, primary concern. The danger here is in focusing too fully on insecurity in your abundant free time. We Americans have some difficulty in appreciating the blessing of free time due to these mind games our culture has created. Free time is free but still made to be used wisely!
Yes, the luxuries of eating La Fonda whenever you want and smoking weed as soon as you wake up are overlooked when you’re upset that you don’t have a lover, or that someone said whatever to you, or a random person you lurked on Facebook looked at you the wrong way. I promise, diverting your attention elsewhere will help you better utilize your energy. Get off your ass for something more than starting a thousand bar tabs you’ll regret when you’re 25 and your beer gut won’t budge.
Think about it: the First World gives us enough time to be bored, so we have time to make shit happen. Most of us squander our energies doing things that end up sucking our souls dry. We focus on the idea of celebrity, even if we say we don’t, all wanting to be loved and recognized. We waste our ideas by getting wasted, thinking about doing things but not feeling “good enough” to follow through with them, preoccupied with the idea that our ideas aren’t really ready to be shared. You forgot that pushing yourself to do is more likely to create a stronger development of your expression than just thinking about doing.
I know a lot of people who say they are writers, photographers, musicians or whatever, but if they have work, they aren’t sharing it. Maybe they are too scared to even start. When I began my first photography series, I battled it out with my youth-induced insecurity. I hadn’t gone to art school. People who did go to art school didn’t help. I tried to talk about my ideas with a ACA/SCAD teacher whose work I admired, but she scoffed at my interest in photography. She hadn’t even seen my work. This is A PROFESSOR we are talking about, someone who is paid to “guide” (and, I hope, to help people find their creative selves and paths in making) art. She looked at me as nothing more than her student’s contrived, uncool girlfriend.
Who gives a fuck about what someone’s credentials are anyway? What you DO for yourself is more important than who you know, where you’re enrolled or whatever other hoighty toighty bullshit people hide behind. After receiving rolled eyes about my ideas (not even my work), I could have hid in my room, but I said fuck it, took photos, had art shows, sold my photos, got a sweet write-up in the AJC by the editor of Art Papers, then bought more supplies to keep going (plus a Wii!). I still had a lot to learn, but it didn’t turn out so bad after all! Fear of outcome plus discouragement from peers keeps potentially good things from happening in your life.
It is totally scary when people try to crush your creative spirit in those innocent stages, though. It keep us from sharing and often keeps us from even starting. Enter the next level of discouragement: the critic! When rising artist Kelly McKernan attracted some negative words in a review from an ATL critic a few years back, some of the community were annoyed. And rightfully so. A young and active artist with heart, Kelly was fresh out of art school and getting support from both galleries and friends. Then along comes the critic. Keep in mind that “critics” adhere to the traditional form of journalism known as “criticism” which includes partaking in the not-exactly-noble job of “criticizing”.
The fact is there WILL be people (besides yourself) who stand in the way of your creative progress and those are the people who discourage either from their critical high horse or because they are threatened by another person entering a realm in which they have previously gotten attention. Constructive criticism exists, but I promise you’ll know the difference between shitty or helpful. You’ll have to keep up a protective bubble throughout your life. Imagine all the negative views in the world that have hindered potentially great creative people. Ouch. Don’t let this happen to you.
We make art, in whatever form, for ourselves. The act of creating nurtures us and helps us deal both internally and externally. It’s cool to have the freedom to share as part of the unspoken dialogue in a community of creatives who are also doing it for themselves, but beware of wolves known as critics who use other people for their meat. Most of them don’t even make their own art or music. They can’t decide whether you do or don’t thrive outside your creative cocoon. You are the only person who decides what you do, and your drive and productivity determine how successful you’ll be.
There is also no reason to measure the worth of your work in the traditional sense. I’m not saying don’t work towards goals. I’m saying don’t worry so much about what is good enough. “Good enough” is a shitty plateau that dilutes the joy of the growth process. Comparing yourself to other artists/musicians/writers is useless because you aren’t trying to be someone else.
Once you get your insecurities mostly out of the way (because, trust me, those pests will be around forever), now you just have the issue of time and money. If you don’t have to MAKE time and money, then you especially don’t have an excuse to wait any longer!
Back in the day, the American way was you went to high school and were expected to work or go to college immediately after graduation. Parents were smart enough to not give kids a shit ton of unearned money to squander at the “adult” age of 18. I see rampant free time and funds for much of ATL’s youth more so than in my own. Life won’t stay fancy-free forever. Your money (and then your free time) will run out. When you work all day, you’ll learn to appreciate your free time and attempt to use it wisely. And you’ll regret the time you wasted. All the privileged kids of ATL could do themselves a favor and start doing shit NOW. With ATL’s suburban sprawl and migrating suburban-to-urban youth, we have plenty of all kinds of kids from all sorts of backgrounds with too much time on their hands.
I was very fortunate in my own youth. Even though I dropped out of high school to do alternative study (i.e. the laziest form of education), my g-ma paid for my college in full. My grandmother lived in Candler Park (now in Oakhurst), and she never worked a day in her life (except voluntarily as a librarian). I could have gotten Hope, but she preferred to pay out of pocket, saying other kids NEEDED it. She herself was a rich, white kid. But whereas all her sisters were debutantes and decided to marry Republicans, she went to college at Cornell to study birds, started attending Black Panther party meetings, got arrested for draft card burnings and continued throughout her life rallying against wars and working on environmental issues. Her passion is activism, and she uses her resources to help other people and the planet.
She’s not an artist but she supports progress. In the age of the hipster, the complaints about rich kids, who pass as tourists through counterculture without looking at their CHOICE to contribute to society and give back, are understandable. Of course there are plenty of kids who use their money towards supporting their community, though they may be fewer and farther between than those with slack-ass entitlement issues. Think about all the start up record labels that help local bands who don’t have enough money put out records themselves. These little labels fully know they might be completely throwing their money away. Every release is a risk. I’ve seen the difference between a rich kid who does coke every night and goes shopping and a rich kid who puts together a zine festival or art booths every year. It can be a thankless job sometimes.
You don’t NEED money to make art or to give back, but it helps. So while your parents are paying for you to go to college or just paying for you to do nothing, you have the opportunity to grow your skills. If you don’t want to be a productive member of society and get a job, you may wanna consider at least getting a hobby. I’m not talking about hobbies based around swigs of Fireball or casual sex. Your insecurities will only develop much faster if you’re solely occupied with yourself rather than with something else you are happy making or doing. I hate to talk about our foundations and shit, but it is important to use your brain since you have one.
You’re in the process of building your life. Where do you wanna go? What do you wanna fall back on? Do you love yourself? Do you love your world? If you don’t then make it the way you want it. It’ll take work and effort and all that jazz, but it’s important. Besides, when you get older and are forced to have some work ethic, what’s gonna keep you sane? You will. Hopefully. (;