[ 21 min read ]
Diary of an artist, Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Woke up 3:30 am
The answer about which I wrote several times already in this diary is worth mentioning again.
The value is not only in the answer (I’ve been told by many that they found value in it, so it is not just my opinion). It’s in the comments to that answer too.
I decided that I will offer my readers a chance to read it as a separate piece (two diary entries — part 1 today and part 2 tomorrow), as reading it on Quora is far from convenient (it requires too much clicking).
In this entry I present as first my answer (for those who didn’t read it — reading only comments would make no sense without knowing what the answer was), and then the comments.
Many people (200+) liked the comment I wrote as a response to Schmichael Chen’s comment from January 3, 2017 (also liked by 200+).
I personally liked the most the comment from December 30, 2018 by Rick Hilton (liked by almost 100 people) and subsequent comments Rick Hilton himself and other people wrote in this thread started by him (let’s call it ‘Rick Hilton thread’).
But all of it is well worth reading. Plus, I encourage everybody to read all answers to this question (right now 120). I didn’t read them all, but I bet there is value in some, or maybe even in all of them.
Below is the question as it was asked on Quora on November 17, 2016 by Atul Chadha.
Exactly 20 years ago I was accepted to law school. Graduated at the age of 24.
At the age of 35, I was already a lawyer with 10+ years of experience, mainly in suing people and fighting them in various courts. Due to a conflict in my family I even sued my mother at one point. I won’t get into detail here. Now my mom and I have the best relationship ever — it’s all true.
I was crushing it when it came to court fights.
Most people would say that even becoming a lawyer by itself was a lot. The prestige, the money, the future, the lifestyle. Usually people only want to know your “label” (‘lawyer’, ‘doctor’, ‘banker’) and it’s enough for them to say “Wow! Congratulations” or “Oh, well.”
It’s like a code for people. You’re always either a success, or a failure, never work in progress.
And what about all those people who never get any recognition for their work but don’t stop doing their thing?
It’s hard to believe, but during his lifetime Van Gogh received hardly any acclaim for his work. While alive, he only sold one of his paintings, and that was to a friend for a very small amount of money. Despite this, he continued working throughout his life, never seeing success himself, though his paintings now are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Carmen Herrera was born in 1915, in Havana, Cuba. In 1939 she married an American, Jesse Loewenthal, and moved to New York City.
As both a woman and an immigrant, Herrera faced significant discrimination in the art world; yet she persisted, and continued to paint for the next six decades, only rarely exhibiting her work publicly.
Today, at the age of 101, Herrera continues to work almost every day in her studio.
In the last decade, major institutions from MoMA to Tate Modern have acquired her paintings.
This year, at the age of 101, the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York City mounted a solo exhibit of her works from years 1948–1978. The Whitney houses one of the world’s foremost collections of modern and contemporary American art.
London’s The Observer called Carmen the “discovery of the decade,” and her work is now acknowledged as a precursor to many modernist styles — minimalism, geometric and modernist abstraction, and concrete painting.
It’s only after all those years that people finally realized how much they actually achieved.
But if you were to ask some of their contemporaries back in the years when nobody cared, most of those asked would probably say that Van Gogh or Herrera didn’t achieve much as artists.
The point of my answer is the following. What does “I have not achieved much in life” actually mean? By what/ whose measure?
We really should care only about doing what we love, where our talents are, and doing it to the best of our abilities. Not catering to the expectations of the society, not worrying whether or not we will make our parents proud, or impress our high school friends. None of this bullshit.
At the age of 35 I decided that I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore and switched careers.
It’s fair to say that everything I worked for for the previous 15 years suddenly had little to no meaning. My law school diploma is just a piece of paper that means very little to people now that I don’t use it. I got rid of my label (’a lawyer’) and the people who I talk to can’t say “Wow!” upon meeting me for the first time. Now they are more likely to say “Oh, well”.
But now I know better.
It is an erroneous belief that there are certain things we should have accomplished / done by a certain age. Or that we need certain things (like accolades, nominations, invitations, etc.) for our work to matter.
I know that I don’t need to prove myself to anybody. I don’t need my work to be recognized by people. I don’t need accolades. I’m fine and I’ll be fine as long as I do my work every single day to the best of my abilities and if I’m able to provide for the basic needs of my family.
I can be like Carmen Herrera, or even Van Gogh. That I even dare to compare myself with them may seem ludicrous to many, but if I was to do it at the time when nobody cared about those artists, then nobody would care about my comparison either. Would it have bothered anyone if I would have compared myself to failures?
Schmichael Chen · Jan 3, 2017
Though I have one thing I agree with in this post, there is one aspect of this answer that I would have to respectfully disagree with.
First of all, let me say what I agree with. Do what you need to do to succeed the best you know how. Yes, I agree with it. Apart from controlling what we can control, what else can we do?
The part I disagree with
You might be giving the OP the wrong impression of “Do what you enjoy and when it happens, it happens. That’s what counts.” He might, as a result, end up depriving himself of the much-needed sense of urgency. Yes, I agree with not needing to conform with others’ expectations but if he needs urgency in his life, so be it. He can have it. 2 British PM’s: Lady Thatcher managed her days with only 4 hours of sleep a night but her successor Sir John needed at least 8 hours of sleep or he would go bonkers. You can read it here.
I read one Quora answer the other day. A Quoran wrote how her friend begins to find herself in a state of despair as the friend’s in her 30’s and has not found someone to settle with. Someone suggested in a comment to freeze her eggs and she wouldn’t have to worry as she’d have all the time in the world to become a mother even at 50. The commenter has a PhD and a clinical psychologist. I got a good laugh out of that comment for a while. I thought to myself a mother at 50? What if her friend is not healthy enough to be a mother at that age? Given that age, perhaps more complications during a pregnancy? Having a child and raising it take a lot of time, energy and resources. Having a child is a lot more than popping a human out of a vagina. The child’s well-being solely depends on at least the mother.
Bernie Sanders wanted to become the president. Let’s say he indeed becomes one at the ripe old age of nearly 80. The day after he swears in, he dies. Not much of a good use for Sanders to become the president for a day. I’m not trying to be mean. In fact, I’m his stalwart.
Please have a look at this video: (video no longer available on YouTube)
The sense of urgency is what drives Neil in the video. Without it, his life does not mean much as he suggested in the video. For some people, that sense of urgency is what drives their lives.
Olympics athletes can be trained only up to a certain age. They can’t possibly have the mindset of “When it happens, it happens.”
Steve Jobs used to ask himself when he woke up every morning. What would I do today if this were my last day to live?
One last example and I’ll be done. Global warming is a race against time. So far, we’ve no political will universally. It’s no use when having all the consensus in the world after we pass the point of no return.
Hope I’m making sense here.
Lukasz Laniecki, Original Author · Jan 3, 2017
Thank you for taking the time to comment on my answer. I’ve read your comment and watched the video. Definitely a food for thought for me. I don’t want to respond to it now as I would probably be prone to find only flaws in your reasoning (taking into account my stance which is opposite to yours). I don’t want to do that. I want to give it a proper consideration as you’ve brought up some interesting points. Best regards!
Mike Berring · Dec 3, 2018
Pure class in this response. Well played, sir
Quora User · Jan 6, 2019
Bob Smith · Mar 18, 2019
Schmichael Chen · Jan 4, 2017
Thank you, Lukasz.
Dele Daniel · Mar 1, 2019
Wow this should be our attitude to constructive criticism. What a great person. And I see both perspectives.
Marianne Baker · Mar 1, 2019
You can’t help but be a lawyer deep down but at least you acknowledge it and show some self restraint. I love it :-)
Odera Okoye · Dec 10, 2018
Probably the most reasonable response to a discussion I have ever seen, honestly.
Rick Hilton · Dec 30, 2018
I have been reading Quora maybe a year now just for fun this is the first thread I read top to bottom. First well done to you and other commenators for adding their two bits in a smart and civilized way, I pine for this type of discourse and thank you.
Second i agree and disagree with everyone, ha, how is that for fence sitting but here is why.
I am dying. I am 62 and all the experts give me 18 months roughly, I am new to this diagnosis only two months old and deep into the thinking and perspective., So this idea of urgency, success, failure is what I live with 24/7. Urgency for me to be a ‘success’ is gone clearly, but urgency now to triage what I need and can do right? I think hourly of the regrets/success/missed goals what to do debate. I realize I have no regrets and am proud of what I did do that I and many consider huge successes but there is no fame or fortune attached which is what our culture seems to use as the criteria of which you spoke.
So how do I see these brief 62 years as a success? Top of the list is the huge volumne of love now pouring into me every day every minute, its taking my breath away and I am so grateful but I must have done something right to elicit such a response right? My 40 plus years as a theatre professional , acting , directing and teaching is leaving a legacy of uber cool work seen by hundreds of thousands, successful students now well into their acting careers, fellow artists both famous and not, rich and poor. Thats why hundreds of messages pour into me now every day.
Yet I am not famous, not rich, in fact kinda desperatly broke. So what? So I throw that criteria into the garbage. Wealth and fame are not on this list to use as our ruler. I suggest we all lose those two items right away.
What else do I use to judge? Love is number one. a legacy of work I am proud of is number two., But I judge my level of pride on criteria as well, first did anyone come watch it? My art is meant to be performed and seen. In theatre we judge the success of our work by answering two questions: when you look into the audience do you recognize most of them? If so your work is a failure. Number two is simple, did you get paid? Notice its not did you get paid a lot, just paid. If you made any money and dont recognizse your mostly full theatre you are a raging success., These two benchmarks in theatre are enourmous hurdles. All my work over the past decades is a success. Sometimes I only got 40 bucks and beer but thats a success in my industry.
So we now have: Love and a legacy of achievment based on your industry standards of achievment. This is where I stop today. I am still early in my grieving process and I am sure at the end I will answer any more criteria but today I am at least happy with the first two.
Urgency? I am not sor sure, I dont say yes or no its just a new benchmark for me to now reflect on so I thank the writer for using that term.
My recomendation to everyone is at least start with love. Please throw away fame and fortune, its a man made invention that creates a legacy of pain and grief, throw it away. I talk to a lot of dying people now, they are around me every week as we all go through some treatment to reduce our pain , strench some months to live.
Thank you anyone who read this to the end for i tend to go on and on these days, my head is swimming with thoughts, fears, joy, love, dispair, anger and right back to love.
Joshua Ponsano · Dec 30, 2018
Thank you for sharing Rick. I hope you find peace and acceptance on this sometimes $&#% journey.
Rick Hilton · Dec 31, 2018
thanks and humour has not left me I totally dig how you swore with the weird symbols, I laughed. When the specialist gave me the knews my cancer is of unknow type and origin and I am dying I answered with humour. I said to him “ ok sir so you, the learned and renowned expert in this field and might I add very well paid dont know what it is right?” he says yes, so I said “then I am going home and get another opinion from my neighbours cat, because the #$%&&@! cat knows as much as you and he works way cheaper”
This enviornment where we sat there is not a lot of humour so the look at first on his face was so great, like he did not comprehend at first, then the light went on in his eyes, wait this guys friggin funny and he laughed. That , to me, was a delicious moment, toughest audience ever and I made him laugh. He said he has never heard laughter in that room before , no one ever cracked a joke and he looked at me with this
“who the hell is this dude?” look. The only silver lining that day to me. Keep the comedy coming dude
Dora Loera · Jan 5, 2019
My dear Rick it sure sounds like you have been living your life in a very meaningful and loving way. All the love that is flowing your way is a result of the universal law of giving and receiving. I’m a nurse and I watch the power of love heal, nourish, and comfort all of those patients that are fortunate to receive it. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Joshua Ponsano · Dec 31, 2018
I’m not in your space so I have no right to comment, but damn it all if comedy is all we have in the end, maybe some love if we’re lucky.
I figure, “well if everything is going to hell, we might as well go there laughing”. I’m sure you have a much deeper understanding than I do of this, but I’m learning more and more that control is really an illusion and all we can do is hope for the best, work our hardest, and hope the chips fall in a favorable way for us. I’m less and less surprised, and less phased, when they don’t.
I don’t know if you are spiritual or not, but of all the things people believe of God, there’s really only one I’m sure of, he has a sense of humor.
Rick Hilton · Jan 3, 2019
I was raised in a secular family by the smartest woman I have ever known , my mom. She instilled in our family early to question everything, think for yourself.
No God is not welcome in my home or at my funeral. I kicked a Chaplin out of my moms hospuce room and although nice about it I made clear to stick his god and prayers uo his arse and keep them there god belongs to him not us. Guess that clearly defines my deal with god right?
But spiritual? For certain but it’s the wrong word . Why? See I have akready died once before in 1991 heart stopped 2 1/2 minutes
I know what’s coming been there , poked around asked a lot of questions had a full conversation too , not with god, I know this to be true yet I do not shove it on anyone your journey is yours. We are already in purgatory mate, this world we live in is the real hell, but it’s not a heavenly choir where we go. In fact the language we have can’t describe it. There is no up or down or good or bad or man or woman none of that, closest words I can use are emotion and intuitive. Sorry to be obtuse but it’s fact to me. Peace is there, pain no longer a word , I fear it not, wanted to stay last time but said I can’t I got this new baby she needs a dad , bam I woke in ICU 16 hours later.
Time is a word that does not fit there either. God I asked and was greeted with a strange sound like laughter. See even in the death place I made something laugh . Can’t wait really but scared to hell of the hurt my death , my dying is causing the ones I love
Thats my hell today, the sadness and tears I am surrounded by , it’s a crushing weight my friend just crushing . Wish me luck to save my loved ones from what pain I am causing them it’s brutal to me
Rick Hilton · Jan 3, 2019
People please give me your thoughts on this urgency thing and hurry up I don’t have all day , lol
Sharon Black · Mar 1, 2019
Hi There Rick: Both you and fellow poster Joshua Ponsano, have me experiencing tears and laugher, sometimes simultaneously!
Rick, I am in double awe: №1 is your fantastic sense of humour, your abiding love for life-giving humour; №2 is your description of what it was like, what you experienced when dead for 2.5 minutes back in 1991. Dang, it’s a fact, time is short but I wish you would write (Or dictate — to a person? To a voice recorder?), a short collection of your thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
If not desirable or doable, hope you will keep sharing your rich and enriching voice here on Quora.
My thoughts surrounding your understandably great, even excruciating worry and concern for the suffering of your loved ones are this: Just as the day will come when you will ultimately let go, I hope you and all of your dear family and friends might sooner rather than later get to that calmer, more peaceful place of simple gratitude, of simply being fully, consciously together on this journey, in this moment, and the next, and the next. You know, minus any crushing sense of grief and loss.
I hope the above does not sound facile, or imbecilic. All fatuous allocates aside, your life and your legacy sounds tremendous. Actually, you sound pretty darn tremendous! I am honoured to read your words, and to write to you.
I get how this reality — not just your personal and professional legacies, but the essence of who you are, what you are fundamentally about (Such things as love, laughter, enduring relationships, creativity, theatrical artistry, silly moments commingled with deep thoughts, being in the flow, always questioning, always questing, etc., etc.), makes the end, makes the spectre of saying goodbye while in one’s early 60s very difficult for all. Yet ironically, such things can be seen (Should one/everyone so choose.), to have the very real power to smooth and ease the transition, as well. For sure, time is the enemy, but some time still remains so it is also a gift to be savoured, for however long or short a duration.
In other words, there is an incredible lot that will be lost but there is so very, very much to rejoice in and about as you link arms and go down this path together as far as you can.
If you and your beloved ones can centre upon this as much as possible (Of course, grief, anger, despair, et al., are not to be shut out and denied, as such things are all part of life, part of being human.), maybe the inevitable life-force diminishment and final letting go (All of you will only be saying, “Adios, for now.” I, for one, do not believe it will be forever.), won’t be so brutal.
It sounds like you are already well established in the land of gratitude, Rick. In a non-burdensome way (Is this possible? Can a dying man be lifted from most Earthly burdens as his suffering inevitably increases?), maybe your greatest, final role is to help light the way, to show how their pain can in many ways be translated into joy, even celebration, not merely later down the road but as already stated, right now. Perhaps, you can find a demonstrable means of allowing your shared love to at least somewhat minimize, and thereby come to better terms with their emotional pain and hurts in the here and now, in the relatively near future.
I guess bottom line is, being given time to spend together, time to hopefully work through some of the feelings, some of the grief and impending loss, it is a precious gift. If there are conversations that should have happened in the past but kept getting put off, swept under the carpet, and so on, now is the time.
Hope you will let me know your thoughts on what I’ve shared here. Honestly, I feel a bit trepidatious about having written down my thoughts and ideas, and to now be sending them to you, but since you are so bravely sharing, and even requesting(!) fellow Quorans weigh in, well, shucks, I will just be brave, too. :)
While we are strangers and will never meet, while reading your posts, and writing mine, in my mind’s eye it’s as though we’ve been sitting together in a cozy, welcoming living room, or den, enjoying each other’s company face-to-face.
Crikey, wish I had a good joke to throw in here! Here’s the only riddle I’ve ever been able to remember: Why did the ants run along the top of the cracker box? Because it said: Tear along the dotted line. Kinda silly but always makes me smile.
Take good care of you and yours, dear man. I know you will. :)
In sincerest humility and thanks,
Belinda Stevens · Mar 1, 2019
Do what makes you and household happy.
Yoon Seok Ham · Mar 5, 2019
Huyen Nguyen · Mar 6, 2019
I don’t think the two opinions have to be mutually exclusive. One can both feel a sense of urgency and also focus on their work without caving in to social pressure. Both are thoughtful and valuable perspectives.
Schmichael Chen · Mar 6, 2019
Stephen Githinji · Mar 10, 2019
I agree. As long as the urgency isn’t triggered by societal pressure but a strong urge to be better than your former self.
Klaire Hoang · Feb 6, 2019
Your comment and the OP’s reply are some of the reasons why I browse Quora every day
Sam Billings · Mar 8, 2019
Van Gogh’s sense of urgency didn’t get him anywhere. The poor guy was a failure in his life. Look at him now you say! Well he can’t do that. The last thing you want in life is to feel pressure every day to live up to some delusional ideal. That is a recipe for disaster in my opinion.
Dee Boyd · Jan 5, 2019
Even if Bernie Sanders died one day after becoming president, he still would have achieved his dream, which would be the most important thing.
Pavlina Hanzikova · Mar 1, 2019
Because of people with your mindset, other people feel the despair, stress, frustration, and the need to ask the question if it’s too late…. Is it “too late” for you?
And again, what Lukasz managed to uplift with his answer, you managed to bury with your comment.
For anyone reading this:
Ignore Schmichael’s comment and focus on Lukasz’s MESSAGE.
Take the energy of his words and keep creating, re-starting, changing paths no matter your age. Keep doing whatever you’re trying to accomplish and never think IT’S TOO LATE or THERE’S A TIME FRAME FOR WHEN TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING AND HOW LONG “THE ACHIEVEMENT/”SUCCESS” SHOULD LAST.
Natalie Marino · Mar 1, 2019
Wrong! How many grandparents over 50 are raising their grandchildren because their mothers are off on drugs. How many grandparents do a great job with these kids. Also , I myself adopted children at the ripe old age of 50 and guess what. They are in college now, doing well and in love with life. What if Bernie Sanders became president at 80 years old and lived to be 100. ‘but until 84 years old he was the best president we had? Life and age are changing. We live longer and can do more for a longer time. Stop being ageist. It is as bad as being racist!
Nike Oshunpanko · Mar 12, 2019
A sense of urgency is a good thing to have and it’s essential for success. However I do believe that ther are certain things in life we have no control over. The options in such a situation include Prayer, make a plan B and lastly wait and make yourself happy with whatever situation you are in. Happiness does not come from outside, it actually comes from within. Your thoughts and perspectives on life are what what determine whether you are happy or not
Me Ha · Jan 10, 2019
I agree with the sense of urgency message; sadly the video is no longer available on YouTube.
Lily Mbae · Mar 7, 2019
I just got mild anxiety from this
Beulah Garrick · Jan 5, 2019
This is a great answer, as the saying goes”Make hay while the sun shines.” Blessing !!! Our young people are coming behind and they certainly need guidance, they need to care about something !
Tara Lang-Jackson · Nov 30, 2016
I loved this, Lucasz.
Anne Sarah · Nov 26, 2016
I’m agape love with your writing, with your voice. I, I who has achieved nothing but a very happy second marriage and seeing my sons move on with their lives. I clean houses to pay for my therapy. Thank you
Lukasz Laniecki Original Author · Nov 27, 2016
Thank you Anne. I really appreciate that.
Donna Zetterlund · Mar 21, 2019
Anne, what you have achieved is everything!
Love and embrace the beauty of your wonderful life. To someone searching for love, or yearning to be a mom or to those afraid to face their own truth in therapy, you are living their dream.
To appreciate the poignancy of art and writing is itself a gift and talent. Art has only half its purpose without a receptive audience. The puzzle needs all of its pieces to come to life. You belong.
Each of us has a mission and the way home is always about truth and love. Worldly accomplishments can only ever serve as one of the many possible backdrops to our stories.
Enjoy your unique and glorious path…with all of its bumps in the road, breathtaking views and companions along the way. Blessings and love to you. ❤️
Rebecca Byrd Arthur · Feb 16, 2019
Hesham Elbaz · Dec 2, 2016
Thanks for the inspiration, Anne!
Anne Sarah · Jan 6, 2019
It doesnt matter what you do but as I’ve learnt the most important thing to is stay kind. Stay Safe.
Caroline McCormack Shanahan · Mar 14, 2019
Yes Anne Sarah i agree , staying kind is the most important thing for our well being and soul and it makes the person you are kind too happy Its like smiling If you pass by someone on the street and you smile at them its more then likely they will smile back too.
Jackie Chou · Dec 31, 2019
Thanks for your insightful answer. I think it takes a lot of courage to leave such a prestigious career to do something you truly love. I once dreamt of becoming a lawyer. I was law school bound with very good grades in my undergraduate studies, but I struggle with the LSAT. I also battle severe mental health issues which makes going back to school difficult. I am now a published poet. I often feel like I’m not doing enough with my life, but I have to keep in mind that I have my own unique path to follow regardless of society’s expectations. Great write .
Lukasz Laniecki Original Author · Jan 1, 2019
Jackie, thank you for reading and commenting on it. I salute you for being a published poet! Knowing that you have your own unique path to follow regardless of society’s expectations is so important. So important! As long as you follow it, there is nothing you do wrong (as this is already enough). That’s my belief.
Reading (since my last diary entry):
Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays by George Orwell (40 min, on scribd app).
Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography by Joakim Garff (20 min, on scribd app).
Notes From The Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (20 min, on scribd app). I’ve abandoned it. I’ll try out another work by Dostoyevsky. This one I didn’t like.
Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaiman (50 min, on scribd app.) Finished it. The price of it on Amazon is insane!
YouTube videos and movies (since my last diary entry):
Writers on Writing — Charlie Rose
Music for this writing session: Coffee Table Jazz (playlist on spotify)