The Way We Were

There are times I dare to look at my life, and I wonder how I got here.

Me. The girl who, at fifteen, carried out the ‘I’m leaving home’ threat after an argument and hitchhiked 250 miles with a backpack and a guitar, to busk on the streets of Glasgow. (Can I just say I’m not especially proud of that one now, and it is one of the myriad reasons why I will never have children of my own.) The girl who came out as bisexual in a small town high school in Yorkshire. The girl who went to protests, screamed about animal rights, human rights, went vegetarian because her parents said she wouldn’t, learned guitar because nobody thought she’d make it past the first three lessons before giving up. The girl who wanted to see her favourite band so badly she slept rough on the streets of York afterwards. Who hitched the 15 miles to the closest town on a regular basis in order to see back-room punk gigs, unknown bands, at the Arts Centre.

Teenage me might have been kind of a dick, but she burned bright. I believed in so much, had so many opinions, and by god, I was loud about them. Ill advised, badly informed, teenage opinions, yes. But I fought for them, I screamed them, and I believed in them with every single ounce of my being.

I was going to do something when I grew up. It didn’t matter about money. I wasn’t going to end up in debt, beholden to material possessions. I wanted to do something meaningful, worthwhile. I didn’t know what, but there was time for that. It would probably involve music. Politics. Art.

Time goes by in a flash.

That was seventeen years ago.

I have a loan. I have a credit card. I have a new car, an iPhone, a laptop. All of which I’m still paying for. I have a job I hate, working long hours, for little pay. I haven’t changed the world, the world has changed me. I remember the path, but I can’t make sense of it. All those decisions, they were mine to make, so why on earth did I make them? Oh, hindsight is certainly a bitter thing.

Fifteen year old me would be horrified. Fifteen year old me would be disgusted.

“How did you end up there?” she’d ask. Belligerently. “We started out alright.”

I mean, we didn’t. Not really. I have always, and to this day, had problems with what is right and good for me, and what I really want. The two often tend to be mutually exclusive. Problematically, I’m fairly good at getting what I want, if I want it badly enough. Some people have called that manipulative. Maybe it is. But it rarely hurts anybody but myself. It’s a pity that I never want the right things often enough.

I could lay out the wrong turns I took. I can see most of them clearly. The biggest, moving to a new city to be with a possessive man who I barely know. Leaving behind my family network, putting myself in a situation where I had no job, no money, no close friends and nobody nearby who I could turn to when that relationship turned from possessive to violent. I was nineteen. I knew fuck all, although I thought I did. It took me three years to escape that, during which time I’d started uni, and then dropped out because of the relationship situation.

My second mistake was staying in that town afterwards. Not moving right back to be with my family. I spiralled into self destruction, self harm, a series of unhealthy relationships and one night stands with people I hated any other time.

I could lay them out in sequence, but it would achieve nothing. I cannot change the past any more than I can tell if the future will improve matters. There’s little sense in regret. There’s sense in taking what you can from past experience, and using it to form better decisions, a more positive future. But that’s not as simple as it sounds either.

I’d like this to end on a positive, life-affirming note, but the fact is, I have great weeks and I have terrible weeks, and this week has been the latter. But, that’s okay. It’s okay to feel shit sometimes. It’s okay to have days where you feel sorry for yourself and regret every bad decision you ever made. Sometimes. Because nobody on this planet is perfect.

One day at a time.

Tomorrow will be different.

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Art and Life, Permanency and the Value of Moving On

Should art be transient? Can it? Does the very nature of the piece in question mean that, when it no longer exists, it is no longer art, and that therefore the answer is, no, art cannot be transient because once it has gone, there is no longer any art.

There’s certainly an overarching idea, I think, that permanency adds value to an object. Of course, this is completely true of a broad variety of the things that we might buy, nobody wants to spend money on an object which is going to require replacement too often. A person would almost certainly prefer to pay double the price for an item which will last then five years, than purchase the cheaper item which will only survive for one. That’s simply common sense.

Art, creativity, they don’t always go hand in hand with common sense. I have been at my most creative when I have been at my least logical. When my emotions have raged roughshod through my mind, overtaking any sense of what is best for me versus what I really want, those are the times I have screamed my anger, pain, unhappiness out onto canvas. Metaphorically speaking. From the perspective of a buyer, of course, art is an investment. As a creator, a maker, (and if you remove the obvious necessity to balance creative freedom with the need to pay bills), what you create can be whatever the hell you want it to be.

I adore the contrary indulgence in the idea of creating work which will, in time, fade and disappear. I am drawn to the idea of something intriguing and impressive, or painful and beautiful, which can be viewed only for a limited length of time. Ephemeral pieces, delicate and fragile, or in some other way constrained by the passage of minutes, hours, days.

In life, too, all too often we spend so much time on what has been that we miss so much of what is, and what will be. Time passes by, and whilst we still pick apart that one moment, we miss the opportunities held within the next. Holding on too long to the past, and forgetting to appreciate the here and now.

Life itself is fleeting, transient, and we create things in order to fill our lives with meaning, purpose. We buy objects to fill gaps, in our homes and in our lives. We write stories, create pictures, with the purpose of reaching out for longevity, desperately trying to avoid staring into the void, dodging the subject of our own mortality. For art to mimic this transience is to stare mortality in the face, to give it wide eyes and accept that yes, life is fleeting, and to be comfortable in that. It’s a reminder that nothing will last forever, and that holding on too long to one thing can damage your exploration of the rest.

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