Confession: I worry about a LOT of stuff besides the garden. Life, work, relationships, the world. Lately, I’ve been worrying myself to tears. But is it worth writing about?
One thing I know is that a good blog is for other people as much as it is for yourself. Other people should get something out of it. So when I was figuring all this stuff out, I read Man Vs Debt and The Art of Non-Conformity and DigginFood. They write guides and tips and how-tos and I, also, want so badly to be useful to people like they are. Their straightforward writing makes personal angst seem so… tacky.
But my sister urges me to read Hipstercrite, and I do. And her writing makes personal angst seem meaningful, relatable. I like her fearlessness talking about sex and dating and angst and flailing around while you’re in you’re twenties. Flailing twenties? I could ALSO write that blog. I’m 27 and have about 10 years practice being a champion flailer. But I’ve kept that angst private. That’s the big deal – if I write it, you can read it, so I’m outed as a emotional being who is possibly bad at life. The horror.
But every artist I’ve admired said that the more intimate their work, the more people respond to it. That deeply intimate work touches people deeply. And I also want to do that.
“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life — where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.”
— It Chooses You by Miranda July
But you know what? I thought I was past all this. I thought I had flailed, and earned my PhD of flailing, and now I need not flail or moan or cry anymore. I don’t know why. Things just have been SO much better than they were when I was internet dating my way through Pittsburgh or unemployed in San Francisco or awkwardly faux-touring my way around Germany. I looked in the mirror one day and saw wrinkles around my eyes and I thought; finally. I’d had my quarter life crisis and now it could be over. Jeez!
But maybe I’ll never be past this “crisis” stage. Maybe as long as I think that my work and relationships should make me happy — something I share with so many people in my generation — I’ll keeping asking myself, periodically, if they do. And when the answer is no, I’ll always be galvanized to do something about it. And when I’ll feel like I can’t, it will always make my heart ache and my eyes burn.
The world is so terribly screwed up these days, it’s hard to feel like I can take any action to make things better. So my inability to “succeed” in my own life becomes a downward spiral of an inability to make anything better, despair with people in power, total distrust of institutions’ abilities to keep us healthy and free. When people freak out about pink slime or carcinogenic sunscreen or Monsanto suing small family farms when the wind cross-pollinates with their GM corn, all I can think is: when did you people trust anything? The default is shit. The only way you get things that aren’t shit is to research, fight, struggle, deal with inconvenience, and half the time make it yourself. And here I am, my only real skills being writing, drawing and designing things on a screen. I can’t even get my own boyfriend to stop ordering shit factory-farmed chicken wings at the hockey rink.
“I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.”
— Kurt Vonnegut, “Physicist, Purge Thyself“, Chicago Tribune Magazine, 1969
I don’t know about you but I feel like a pretty sick canary myself.
Sometimes I want to make really angry art. Though when I try to put it down to paper, I can’t really get past the theme of “everything is shit”, which is hardly inspiring. I’ve seen what negative art can do. It makes a point but it also pushes people away. So I vowed, long ago, to focus on positive art. To help people imagine better things, because imagining a better future is hard and our brains are bad at it and I want to help. The master of this is Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She writes things about the state of food and farms that could break your heart, but somehow is always so bright about other possibilities. But, hmm, as I write this I realize there’s also the Banksy model. To critique with cleverness that’s biting, but not wholesale condemning. Am I that clever? I think I could be.
So to answer my own question, yes. I think this should be a personal blog. I think I should embrace my role as a canary in a coal mine. And that probably means talking about terrible things from time to time. But I will always try to refocus on the good in the end. And maybe even be clever with it.
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