HOLDING YOUR OWN
VISIONS, DREAMS, REALITIES
- peer pressure, family ties and cultural confusions.
I dedicate this blog to Michael Leunig: a man and artist who has forged his own path with grace, intelligence, innocence and openness.
- WARNING: THIS IS NOT SCIENCE - THESE ARE MY OPINIONS
My biological father and mother were married for a grand total of three months. This meant that for need of milk I spent my young years with my mother and didn’t really get to know my father until I was sixteen. (Turns out he is awesome and was a treat to discover and blossom and bloom an amazing relationship with - rad Dad). It is a theory of mine however that since I didn’t have the affirmation of his love for me whilst growing up I have always been kind of on the hunt for someone to believe in me, tell me I’m doing good, justify my actions, tell me they are proud of me, or at worst straight up tell me what to do.
Once I had my boyfriend’s Mother read a three page long poem I had just written and was planning to perform in a competition that weekend. All she said was something like ‘it didn’t really move me’ and I cried for two hours straight, ditched that poem completely and performed an entirely new piece (that she preferred) instead! I was puffy eyed and hagged after an emotional binge because one person who I loved and respected wasn’t moved by what I had written... wft! But there was a little baby me that felt devastated, confused and not good enough and was in need of kindness, patience, understanding and humour (all of which I try to give myself now).
This looking for advice from others thing has led me into numerous spaces, some of them positive, others not. I remember for example having sat with my great grandmother when I was eighteen designing an alternative university course for myself over the next four years where I would go to the actual places and spaces that offered the things I really wanted to learn, things like language, puppetry, japanese drumming, piano and the like. I was so excited. My passion and motivation were naturally raging! I took notes on every new thing I saw or heard to research it later. I decided, sitting with her that I would not go to ‘the institution’ again - I had already given them twelve years to educate me and was deeply disappointed by their offerings. I would instead forge my own way.
However, upon return to Brisbane, Australia, all my old and new friends were “studying” at Universities, doing things in official ways, chatting about philosophers I hadn’t heard of and blah blah over dinner. My Dad hearing my plan for my own self directed study said to me “If you don’t study at university doors will close for you.” I didn’t know what that actually meant, or even whether the doors that would close were ones I even want to be open. (Even now I contemplate getting hand tattoos specifically to prevent me from one-day falling into a job that my higher self knows I don’t want to do).
I listened to him though, and my friends conversations, and decided to enroll where my friends were studying their undergrads and my Dad was doing a PHD.
Uni in a nutshell for me... Music was dry and uninspiring, language was impossible to motivate myself into learning (still mono-lingual age: 26). Had some good classes in Indigenous studies, learnt about whiteness theory. I read a lot more in that three years than I do now, that was good. When I speak of my time at Uni to people I basically reflect that I spent three years and $20,000 or so on meeting five AMAZING people (lecturers and students combined) who I cannot imagine not knowing so hey, I happy with my choice ultimately but I am not happy with how and why I made it.
I was swayed, people said to do it and I did it, and this is a mentality that worries me in general. The military, religion, consumerism, capitalism, waste, etc all seem to be fueled by a similarly simple and tokenistic responses that don’t really answer the big questions.
‘...Well, everyone’s doing this, you should do it too,’ it’s not really gunna fly.
Over time I referred to UQ as poo Q and then finally in my last semester when I was really just jumping hoops and searching for ticks and sevens, my own special name for it was Fuck U. Harsh I know but they invest my Uni fees into Coal Seam gas and never asked me if that would be okay.
So now I am writing a novel (untrained), writing albums (not understanding music theory or production), have an alter ego as a free lance anthropologist and am overall a little bit jaded by the system and feeling like I have to fit within it if I am ever to gain any traction in what I’m doing. I contemplate masters regularly, and will probably do one but not under the coaxing of anybody else.
I am a true believer in following your excitement (not if that means cheating on your beloved, or stealing cars necessarily - although those things can have their developmental place) but following your truest callings, the things that float your boat, make your heart sing, make you happy! Happiness is underrated!
The reality is that we live in a complex interwoven world and society and there is a legitimate place for all kinds of expression and expansion. If you LOVE gardening, there are ways to make that your life and livelihood. If you had a dream about an amazing fantasy story and felt to start writing it down, do it, no matter what you mother, friends, co-workers or partner, say. Too many people are jaded to take everyone else’s word as the gospel, you can’t necessarily even trust your family or friends or the employment pathways person to stand by you. Only you know what you are capable of, you’re the one with the dreams, the visions, the feelings.
I know myself whenever I see a fantastic live music performance with beautiful stages, great sound and wide audiences I have the simple and pure instinct to be up there on that stage. That is what my particular spirit is called towards. And so that is the path I am choosing regardless of whether the supervisor at Centrelink, my Dad, my ex or even my best friend can see what I can see or not. People frequently have strong opinions on what we should or should not be doing, saying, thinking, learning etc. But what is your opinion on yourself??
Having plan B’s is all well and good but I think it is important to keep a handle on whether plan B is sneaking into the foreground and disguising itself as your plan A.
I know personally that if I don’t a) write music, b) perform, c) write books, d) publish poetry and leave it on peoples doorsteps as offerings etc, I would not actually be able to forgive or understand myself. I would be severely depressed at forty and no good to anyone as a social worker or artist. I have to make music and write.
The choice is not, do I or do I not... love horses, or teaching, or art, or science fiction, or zombie films, or feel called to protest or humanitarian work, or erotic cinema, or singing... the choice is what to do with that passion, that vision, that drive, that life blood that is you!?
We all know that the education system gears us up to want/need ticks and approvals and ‘well dones’ and all that bullshit, but what good is a tick from someone else if you yourself do not approve of or ENJOY your own actions and life? What if the Father or mother you are so desperate to hear from is absent or cloudy and jaded themselves or have already passed away?
The worst thing would be for the cycle to continue and more and more dreams to be un-lived.
My god father said to me just last night that for everyone that has a negative opinion of what you’re doing there will be at least one or perhaps ten who love it, who it means something to. Find your audience... No not everyone will like my songs, some people may yawn and put my book down and use it as compost, so be it, I obviously wasn’t writing it for them.
The fear of disapproval is enough to stop you in your tracks and turn you right back around on the spot, back to your plan B, or worse, plan C, or D, or E, or F....
Do not be bowled over by other people’s opinions, find your own, back yourself, stand by yourself. Ask yourself the hard questions and be honest with yourself, do the work, put the time in, get support, support others, reflect, encourage, develop, skill up, smile, play and follow your callings. Finish projects, water gardens, go on trips, talk to strangers and listen to stories, get out of your own head, get out of your own way. And when someone says something like “well your not ******* enough, or X is not a legitimate profession, or happiness isn’t that important, treat those moments as obstacles to stand tall beside, breath in, breath out, and be there for yourself, some one will always disapprove or try to flag you down perhaps because you fulfilling your own dreams and visions actually confronts the deepest parts of themselves. The part of themselves that knows that they have not addressed their own dreams and visions and hence regret things. Ask them what they love and perhaps you may even end up crying and laughing at the kitchen table together in short time.
We all live in jaded times, lets get real and raw and ruckus, support each other, but most importantly support ourselves.