I called my friend a while ago to seek her opinion on feelings of aimlessness and redundancy I felt about final exams. I expected to commiserate with her.
What I got was a free therapy session. I have a therapist, a real one. But I didn’t come seeking therapy.
I called my friend from across the country to remind myself my actions are of consequence (I’m aware I’m a leech, don’t worry <3). And to whine about the nature of academia in an undergraduate degree.
Lately, I feel like everything I write ends up in a black hole of meaningless papers that will be read by approximately two people (my prof and the TA). That thought is tremendously heavy.
Papers get read, a bland bit of feedback is returned, then my work is never, ever seen again.
What’s going to change about me after four years of repeating the cycle? A cycle of research, slightly remixed to avoid plagiarism. And following the same Google Docs essay template for a variety of obscure academic topics lacking real-world application.
I feel like this is primarily an arts student problem. All you science kids enjoy learning about the secrets of the universe, our planet and other real-world stuff.
This is the great human condition though, isn’t it? To suffer and have to prove our worth?
Humans like to create meaning all over the place
There’s a picture of a cat at the top of this piece. I always keep it in my writing, why is that? It’s because I like that little dude. He’s my boy.
In the show Community, Jeff Winger has a speech about naming his pencil, Steve. He soon snaps Steve, breaking the hearts of everyone in the room with him. But Steve is still just a pencil. Humans attach meaning to everything, but often forget to add meaning to ourselves.
This is where I would usually write something about the beauty of the little things. Finding nooks and crannies, or the doodles in our margins, that make up life’s smaller pleasures. But now, I wonder if any of that matters without recognition.
If an angsty kid writes poems in a notebook, but no one reads them, did they write them at all?
Of course, they did. But one can only write for themselves for so long until the simple act of writing just isn’t enough. At some point, we need validation and recognition, someone to ask why that word, imagery or rhythm was used. Otherwise, we’re just screaming into the void.
Show the world your art
Whenever I meet people who don’t want others to see, hear or read their art, my soul shrivels up a little bit. Why? I tell those people it’s because humanity is deprived of something that could be critical to the human experience. That’s true to an extent, but we both know what’s created at 3 a.m. while moderately intoxicated won’t be the next Ulysses (1922).
The reason I ask people to share their art is that recognition reminds creators that they’re consequential. Their thoughts are worthy of attention. What they create will break out of that black hole.
So, tell me what you felt while drawing with reference to an artist you like. Elaborate on each example of elegant alliteration or the esoteric meaning of the work. That shit sparkles.
It’s still probably shit (especially if it’s a 3 a.m. creation), but it’s your shit. That needs to be acknowledged.
Be of consequence
I’ve met too many people with camera folders full of their own poop (yes, their actual poop) that they’re happy to share, but refuse to share anything artistic. I find that tragically hilarious.
I want you to be of consequence. You are.
What you do for other people — writing papers, flipping burgers, shovelling snow—that all matters. Even if it often doesn’t feel that way.
But I say share the real you. You’ll never know how incredibly special your work is if you hide it.