[ 6 min read ]
Diary of an artist, Monday, March 18, 2019
Woke up 3:30 am
So do I have the attributes of a successful person?, and the second question, Do I have something to show for my efforts?
As for the first question answering it is easy. I don’t. I had them in the past, the attributes of a successful person, but after I had decided that I will not be a lawyer anymore, most things I did between my late teenage years and mid 30s lost their appeal (or significance, or both).
I finished law school and got law school diploma, worked as a lawyer for more than 10 years, had a nice pay check which allowed me to live comfortably (more or less maintain the standard of living which my parents were able to provide us with in my adolescence — I didn’t have the same net worth as my parents and I couldn’t afford all the extravagances they could, but on a daily basis I could afford the basic middle class life and that’s also how my parents lived, not counting their extravagant purchases or exotic trips from time to time). But I was on my way to catch up with them quite soon. It all seemed that I had all reasons to believe and expect that it will be this way. One person from my family even told me, upon hearing that I will go to law school, that, as a lawyer, at her age (which was around 40 at that time) I will have the means to buy most things I will want, and that, perhaps, I will even have more money than she will at the time I’ll be around 40 and she’ll be around 60 (she’s roughly 20 years older and also has college education).
That was the expectation. We know it (we can assume it — reasonably, as most would say). That’s because people know what the conventional career building looks like and what kind of money can be made in what profession (on average). Of course there can be better and worse times in any profession, but more or less we know.
So right now I’m not in the game anymore, and if I ever thought about coming back, I will be several years, maybe even 10 in some cases, behind my peers. It would take me approximately 5 years of very hard work to even get to the place on the ladder where I stood at 35. Work that wasn’t my cup of tea. And I would be 46 at that time. Which means that I would be approximately 10 years behind everybody. And for some people only this move gives any hope that people will ever see me as a successful person again (and unless I’d be wildly successful they’d still argue that had I stuck to it I would be even more successful — I would not be 10 years behind my peers).
Why only this move gives any hope that people will ever see me as a successful person again? Because they believe that it’s how it should be. That the fact that back in my late teenage years I picked law school and continued down this path (climbed that ladder) until I was 35 means that I should have stuck to it, like almost everybody who I studied with.
Any other move, a decision not to stick to it, is always very risky. You need a quick conventional success, or else people will conclude that you made a mistake and they will view you as a failure. Ideally the conventional success should come immediately, or within a couple of years — three years with no clear sign of a conventional success would already be a lot, and five or more years clearly indicate a disaster). Ever heard those stories when people had this absurd idea to give themselves 6 months? Clearly there is a reason for that. By the way, why not three months? Or three weeks?
And there is no arguing with those people. That’s how they see it (the majority). If you haven’t achieved the conventional success within a short period of time then they’ll tell you that sticking to your initial career choice would have been a better decision. One, two, three or five years after you moved to something else they will want to compare your financial status with the financial status of your ambitious and hardworking high school peers who stayed the course after graduating from the same school / college, and, lo and behold, you will be nowhere near them. How come?
As for the second question it all depends on who is judging it. People who are interested exclusively in what kind of money you’re making, and if you can live off that new thing, or what awards people gave you, or whether or not you won some kind of a competition, or whether or not people reached out to you to interview you or invite you to speak, or whether or not a lot of people are buying your books or your art — i.e. those who want to see the attributes of a conventional success, they will never pay attention to the amount of hours / work you put in.
Things like the body of work that you produced over those couple of months or years, or the fact that you work (do your thing) every single day, or the level of dedication with which you approach your work, or the fact that you love what you do, will not impress them. They will hardly see any value in it. And small conventional successes (those early indicators that this actually could lead to something significant as far as conventional success is concerned) mean nothing to them, because if it doesn’t go hand in hand with money, awards and recognition by someone who already matters a lot in a given profession / field, by critics, or by the media, it means nothing to people. As long as you don’t make the front pages of newspapers, magazines or internet sites, as long as you’re not the hot new topic, as long as you’re not making it big in a given space, or at least as long you don’t see any real money, they will view things you made in that period of time as something insignificant and totally irrelevant.
Of course, you can view it differently. And people who are not interested exclusively in what kind of money you’re making, and if you can live off that new thing, or what awards people gave you, or whether or not you won some kind of a competition, or whether or not people reached out to you to interview you or invite you to speak, or whether or not a lot of people are buying your books or your art (i.e. those who don’t care about the attributes of a conventional success), they will see it differently too. They will see value in it and respect you.
Reading (since my last diary entry):
Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (40 min, on scribd app).
Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays by George Orwell (40 min, on scribd app).
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (40 min, on scribd app).
YouTube videos and movies (since my last diary entry):
The Pacific Basilone (on HBO Go) Finished it.
The Pacific Melbourne (on HBO Go) Finished it.
The Pacific Gloucester/Pavuvu/Banika (on HBO Go) Finished it.
The Pacific Peleliu Landing (on HBO Go) Finished it.
Music for this writing session: Coffee Table Jazz (playlist on spotify)