What I Wish I’d Known Before

It is truly time to throw away the stigma of the starving artist, the unhappy hipster, the angry writer binge-drinking and chain-smoking. There is no longer room for those stereotypes in society, and really no room for them in my life. Young writers and artists of ANY kind, really, need to understand, from the get-go, that you are allowed to be happy, you are allowed to love yourself (god, just LOVE YOURSELF, it’s all you can ever do), you can give and reciprocate love and find balance and all the while CREATE. Let this happiness and beauty flow from your fingertips. Let go of the quasi-disorders you cling to for the sake of art. Its hard- bloody hard, to stop the agonizing daily trips to the scale and instead focus on how much you can love this vessel through which you create. It’s hard to stop counting calories, or cutting yourself. It’s not hard to stop smoking, when all along it was just a façade to make yourself look more ‘tortured,’ more ‘Sylvia Plath.’ Its hard to love someone with everything you’ve got, hard to give yourself to another person who lives and breathes and loves you back, but that’s more rewarding than anything created out of self-hatred.

It’s called fiction because it’s made up. So make it up. Don’t torture yourself for good material. You’re lucky to have a life unfit for a heartbreaking memoir about your tragic life. You’re lucky and you’re talented and you’ll still be talented when you’re soaked in bliss. Where are the novels, poems, paintings about self-LOVE? Is the world really so fixated on self-hate? Why are we so engulfed in sadness all the time, reluctant to accept and give love, reluctant to admit that there IS, in fact, beauty in this screwed up world of ours? There will be unhappiness in life regardless, days on end spent basking in the melancholic glow of an unremarkable sunset. There will be doubts and insecurities and bad hair days and ‘he-doesnt-love-me’s and failed chem tests and lost love and death and runaway pets and house fire and poverty and there will be days in which your head just really hurts and everyone sucks. But that’s not the point. The point is that you have to make your own happiness, and hold onto those moments of perfection, file them away for the melancholy. You have to use your independence, strength, confidence, and above all, love, to combat the difficult times. Maybe some exterior coping mechanism can help for a while. Maybe you’ll ‘get a decent poem out of it at least’ (I used to say that all-too often). But maybe that’s not enough. Maybe you need to stand up and write for yourself first. Write to heal yourself, and then write to heal the world. There are so many brilliant writers who spent their lives publishing volume after volume of sex-laden, drugged-up nothing, when they could’ve changed the world with their words.

I’ve seen too many brilliant young people succumb to their sadness, to these notions of starving artistry and the supposed beauty in heartache. And I’m sick and tired of  striving for something other than happiness. I’m sick of suicide being something so familiar, of depression and eating disorders sweep through the people I love like stomach flu at the beginning of term. I don’t want to live in a society in which sexual assault/ abuse is so prevalent. Abuse and mental illness cannot be prevented (obviously), but in the destruction of the tortured artist stigma, many people may be able to seek out happiness. Many people who I’ve seen grow into a carbon-copy Bukowski.

Self-destruction is not glamorous. Alcoholism isn’t a joke. Eating disorders arent pretty, for god’s sake. You can write, draw, paint, sing AND (surprise surprise) love yourself at the same time! Who knew! (Actually, I’m sure many successful artists figured that out a long time ago- its the ones that didn’t that stuck their heads in ovens or drank until their livers floated away on a river of gin.)

I wish I could say that I realised this years and years ago when I started writing. I wish I’d listened to those that told me to focus of the art rather than the act. I wish I could say that I’m a strong and independent woman who never falters in her developing philosophies and ideal, but I can’t. No one can. But we can try to overcome the portrayal of artists that leads to an overwhelming, communal sense of unhappiness. We can do our best to love ourselves and one another and not let our developing contentment get in the way of creating.

This is really nothing but a big ‘f*ck you’ (a very compassionate, understanding f*ck you) to the smaller version of myself that believed that you could only be a proper poet if there was something inherently wrong with you. I had my struggles we all do, of course. But now its time to be happy.

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