Surviving tree photo via Shutterstock
Since I embarked on this gratitude project I’ve been thinking a lot. Which may or not be a good thing (because it led me to this bit of a rant).
These days I am OK with allowing myself to kick society’s rules, norms and standards right through the Holland Tunnel and into the slimy depths of the Hudson River. That’s pretty much where every unwanted thing in NYC ends up anyway. Lately, I’m even more tired of the way some people feel it is in their right to determine the title, success, outward appearance and lifestyle of others. When did we get to the point where it became OK for managers to mingle in the personal lives of their employees, or speak rudely, inappropriately or hastily to them? When did we decide to give up precious time with our families to appease companies that hold “at will” employment at the very core of operations? (Your child was sick? Oh, sorry, someone who doesn’t have children or get colds took over your position while you nurse the little thing back to health. The company will be sending you your non-existent severance package in the mail. You take care now.)
I don’t like corporate hierarchy and I am not fond of people who value such a system. I also don’t like people who boast about being an expert, a critic or a ‘superior’ – these are dangerous words to attach to ourselves given that we are all just human beings. I once had a conversation with a professor who mentioned that one of his students addressed herself as a novelist. “None of her books have been published and she’s never made any money from her writing, so how can she possibility be a novelist?” the ‘wise’ professor said mockingly. I sat for a moment listening to him go on with his rant and felt sad for this woman who I had never met. Who was he to determine who this woman really was? And why did money dictate whether or not she could call herself a writer?
I am an artist. I despise constraints and crave beauty, spontaneity and freedom. I love nature, books, music, poetry, sustainable architecture and art. I am also a writer, not because I have been paid for my writing, but because I love to write. I think differently than most, so I often file my thoughts away in a dusty corner of my brain during conversations that I fear will make me sound different or silly should I actually share them. Rarely do I let people I don’t know (and even some that I do) see the ‘me’ under the layers of facade that have accumulated over the years. It probably all goes back to Catholic school when the nuns scalded us for everything including the “just in case” scenarios. Self-preservation was a necessity.
The things that I value most have nothing to do with status, money or success, a price of being an artist, I suppose. And even in times when I know that I must take on a project for the sole purpose of earning money, I am conflicted if the philosophy and values don’t mesh with that of the content on our website.
Yet, among all the frustration and distaste for what so much of our world has become, I am grateful for the freedom to finally do what I love. This freedom does not come without constraints as we are all tied in one way or another to survival (= money), but at least I have the ability to dictate how I will dress, behave and socialize on any given day. I am grateful that I no longer need to answer to a “boss” and that my work and talents are no longer scrutinized under a microscope by a company that has the dollar as its sole interest. I am grateful that in the instances I am forced to engage in life’s many capitalism games, I can decide in the end whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs. And I am most grateful to have realized that no one but I can determine who I am.