It’s been a week since I make my project public. A challenging week. I’ve been exposing myself to a new whole level. I enjoyed writing when I was a teenager, but the constant “why do you write this?” question took that pleasure from me. The same happened later with my illustrations, “why do you draw this?”. Music, on the other side, has always allowed me to express myself without that “why?” chasing me. People may or may not like my music, but I have never been asked about why I play the music I play. So for years I’ve focused my creativity on music.
But all those “why” questions made me believe that I wasn’t good enough, that I had to have a clear message for everybody to understand. I had enough self-criticism, questioning myself all the time, so I didn’t need more coming from outside. Writing, drawing, photography, music… creativity has always been my way of expressing myself, my thoughts, my feelings, me; but it looked like the world was expecting me to express others’ feelings, like I was supposed to make sense for everyone else but me. So for decades and until recently I thought that I was not ready for this world. Many of you will understand that feeling. Yes, the feeling that the world would be better without me.
In this week I’ve been receiving lots of messages from heroes who are fighting PTSD. I don’t have a clue about what you are going through. But I know that if you have questioned yourself and had the “world would be a better place without me” thought in your mind, then it’s not you who are not ready for this world. It’s the world that’s not ready for you. I thought that I had nothing useful in me, what could I do to contribute? I’ve always seen how creative other people are, even those who don’t see themselves as creative people.
There was a period when I had my own netlabel. I published lots of music. I heard a lot of beautiful and interesting sounds, music that has not yet place in the mainstream. I’ve been and am part of what most people call the underground scene. I’ve published music of artists that aren’t physically with us no more. I’ve published the first recordings of artists that now are well known in the underground scene. So I have been contributing and moulding a world that wasn’t ready for me/us, but I wasn’t aware of the importance of my contribution. I, and many thousands more, have been doing it because we have a huge need to express ourselves in our own way. And when the established systems deny the importance of what we are doing, then it’s seen as a hobby. Some even believe that if we’re not making a living off of our art it’s because we ain’t good enough. Not good enough? We keep on giving the systems the power to decide what is art and what is worth being considered as art. So the systems invest only in a vague part of culture. The opinion of few kills everyones culture. And by doing this, it slows down our common evolution. I say it slows down because although we struggle and sacrifice our energies and time so we can eat and have a place to live, we keep on creating. We find each other. We find new ways to make our art available. Art is a must, for everybody.
I’ve played hundreds of concerts, but I can count with one hand how many times I’ve been payed. Although people pay for a ticket, it’s only the venue and a few quick hands who get paid. I’ve paid all my trips from my own pocket; money that I earned by having a job that allows me to pay myself for my own creativity. I am not the only one. And this ain’t nothing new. But there’s still the believe that artists get paid.
Because of my anxiety and how low we artists are actually valued, I’ve decided to almost stop playing concerts. This year I’ve only played four concerts, and two of them were the same day. No, I wasn’t paid. I am not quitting music, I’m just starting to value myself. I’ve been giving my time and energies to a system that doesn’t value my work. I’ve been having the payed job and the “hobby” job for decades now. Back in 2013 I found a good solution for me, working in a graveyard. It gives me paid work for around six months every year, so I can use the other six months to work on my unpaid projects.
But in reality, what ended up happening is that most of the concerts were in the same period that I had the paid job. So I’ve been paying my creativity with the most valuable thing I own, my health. Playing a concert ain’t only playing music. There’s a lot happening before and after the show. So there have been too many sleepless nights because of it. It wasn’t until last year that I saw how much that affected my health.
See the paradox? In order to be myself and do what I’m best at, I have to be someone else and pay with my own life. It’s a situation that doesn’t help me recovering from my PTSD, it actually feeds and empowers it.
I ain’t alone in this situation. Almost every artist I know is in the same situation, with their own health issues. With their own survival mode on. That’s a daily torture for our real selfs.
So how do I face it and try to do the best out of it? Being me, being honest, and telling my own story the best way I can, through my creativity. I’ve learned a lot from all the different jobs I’ve had. I’ve worked in multimedia industry, in printing industry, in factories, as a graphic designer, as sound technician, as photographer, translator, postman… always giving both my time and energies to others in order to earn enough money so I can invest a little part of my remaining earnings into myself. I’ve tried hard to be part of something that despises me. I’ve been feeding a system that did not even wanted me to heal, that belittle my health problems. So now I’m in a scary situation where I’m trying to establish myself. I’ve tried that before, but always failed. I failed because I wasn’t the only one involved in the projects. I failed because I wasn’t aware that I was building up my projects in a way that replicated the system that has failed me so many times. I needed to be seen by the system in order to succeed, but the system values me not. The system values not us, the individuals.
That’s what makes me an idealist. I strongly believe that by being who we really are and doing what we do best, we will start seeing the value we individuals have. I have enough experience to know that intermediaries have been abusing in many ways. It is only when we are in direct contact with each other that we start seeing that everything we are good at has the same value. A tomato and a song are equally important. A psychologist and a photographer are equally important, we all are equally important because we all have our own abilities.
For me asking for money from other people has always been very uncomfortable. Now I’m working hard to see it as something I need to do so I can give back something only I can give. Because we are all unique. Being paid for my creations means that I can buy food. If I buy that food directly from people who produce it, then they will be able to pay back an artist for unique experience. You get the picture. What happens now is that intermediaries take a so huge part of the costs that the producers have to pay to create. So those who don’t create are getting richer by abusing both from the producers and the consumers.
That is not how I would like things to work. But it’s how it works now. I still use intermediates who manage my earnings, because it still feels safer to pay through an intermediate than directly to the producers. It’s kind of a necessary evil, a step towards eliminating money as we see it nowadays. If we all did what we’re good at and enjoy doing, then we could all pay with our own products. No matter what. I strongly believe that we all are capable of creating something valuable for another being. Be it tangible or not. We all need from each other, as individuals. If we all did what enriches us, then we would not need patrons. Because we all are intertwined. I may be an idealist, but I am also realist. I know that every change takes its time. Because the systems that took us where we are now, decide where in the timeline we are. In my humble opinion, we aren’t doing what we are able to do, because we are not allowed by the systems. Systems teach us as best suits them. Divide and conquer, but not in the systems way. Be individuals so we can conquer the systems. Nowadays we live in systems that divide people and conquer us. I wrote it in a previous post, awareness. We still let those who doesn’t care about us decide for us. That’s exactly what PTSD is. Yes, I see my own PTSD as direct result of a much bigger issue that affects us all as individuals.
I write a lot about individuals because what made me ill in first place was the nullifying of my true self. Because I know how unhealthy and painful it is. The system has failed me over and over again. My trust issues are basically system created, because those who hurt me has been also failed by the system. It is not the true individuals who hurt me, it’s the system constructed individuals who hurt me. Individuals who must live their own lives in survival mode. We all have our baggage. We all experience life in a different way. But the systems we work for are categorising us and pushing us to the limit. It’s because of my own experiences that I learned to mistrust. I’ve been given drugs to make me be a labourer for the system. I’ve been wrongly diagnosed and denied the help I actually need a lot of times. Sure, I’ve learned a lot. But the price has been way too high. We pay with our own health, thinking that the world would be a better place without us. But it is we who make the world a better place. The world would be a better place without the systems that nullify and despise us. Once again, it’s about the whole picture. It ain’t about dualities. It’s about us all. It’s about culture. It’s about thriving. Once again, a holistic approach.