I am surrounded by art students.
They all seem to be ensconced in different degrees of black, metal studs, piercings, tattoos, “old” band tee shirts, and trendiness.
In stark contrast, I am standing in running shoes, running shorts, a running shirt and have my happy-colored ipod strapped to my arm.
They tote their giant portfolios and projects under their grandpa-sweater swathed arms. Crunching the remainder of the cigarette in the pavement.
I unconsciously have my work ID on the back of my bus pass.
Everything about me screams “G-E-N-T-R-I-F-I-E-D!!!!!!” Especially the text that says “employee” in plastic as it lazily stares up at the ceiling. It feels insulting to the girl next to me, paint under her fingernails.
I wonder if she would ever guess I’m pretty good with a pencil, my favorite being a 2b. I wonder if her friend in front of me wearing the Rancid hoodie would ever guess that they’re one of my all time favorite bands, too. I wonder if they chose to be artists the same reason I kept on writing — to be with other writers. I wonder if they know the weight it carries when you carry that diploma in hand, mom and dad so proud of your regalia.
Everything, fucking everything, is endlessly possible.
Something weird happens when you get out in the world.
And saying that makes me feel jaded and weird and old all at once.
But I think there’s a lot to be said for all this. 1) perspective is merciless. 2) nostalgia is a happy affliction. 3) you negotiate with yourself more than any HR department, any landlord and any other relationship you’ve ever had when you suddenly don’t have a rubric to complete.
So while I’ve “sold out” by some folks’ standards, I’ve remained true to my core and redefined what success is. Success is no longer “fuck the man!” Success has become “change the system from within.”
I think Green Day would agree with me.
A band of stoners got together to be stoners and make music. It was what they loved. Somebody liked it, told the world about it and these so called punks wound up on the Top 40. They sold out. Now, 3-chord jamz, discussions of weed and the wide-acceptance of “alt rock” on the radiowaves are not uncommon. But they’re still doing what they started out doing — now with just a larger financial cushion.
So in the true stylings of a self-aware working gal, I’ll dispense some wisdom to these art students: I say follow your passion, but renegotiate. You are who you are who you are. You’re never going to become someone you truly loathe without your own permission. The world needs your weird. Whatever shape it comes in.
Even the shape of a rebel feminist liberal who still listens to 90s punk and causes awkward social situations masquerading as a businesswoman in running shoes.