Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Back The Way I Came

by muchachaK (Katy Brown)

I was born in NH, and when I was small, we moved to the West Coast, to the Seattle area, and that is where I grew up. When I was small I danced and sang for hours in my room by myself, I learned songs as I learned to speak, and before I could read. I asked for a piano for my 7th birthday, and that is what I got. We didn't have much money, and I think they got it for free somewhere, but it was beautiful, and sounded amazing. For eleven years, that piano was a friend, an enemy, a lover before I ever knew what a lover truly was.

And I always sang. In school it was embarrassing...the music teacher thought I sang well...I didn't like her pointing it out to the other children. I just loved to sing. I annoyed choir directors by learning the other parts and singing them in the middle of the soprano section.

And I loved to draw. My mother brought me pencils and crayons and pastels and paints and I would use them all up. And grammy taught me to sew.

And I learned to play the viola because I had always wanted to play the violin but there were too many violins in the school orchestra...and still I sang, and played piano, and drew and painted, and other than school, that, all of that, was my life.

As a teenager I discovered theater and that raw feeling of living onstage, when the words are so much yours that you become someone else, not by pretending, but by being.

And through college I sang, and I performed, and I wrote plays, and I became discouraged. By the seeming difficulty of existing as an artist of any kind. And overwhelmed by the intensity of my own creative drive. And I began to live life as one day job after another, because I didn't know any other way to be...but I didn't know how to make it work.

I moved to San Francisco and performed and wrote plays, and danced flamenco. But after a while, I didn't love creating anymore, because I was tired of starving. Tired of struggling with myself. Tired of being tied to dayjobs. Tired of being lost, and nameless, and overworked and underpaid for my craft. I remember filing a tax return during a particularly busy acting year and my total income for my highest paying show was $1000...for four months of work.

I had to escape from that life and suddenly, my heart moved me to a decision...I would move to Spain to dance. But then the money fears took over again, like always and I thought "as much as it sucks to be poor in San Francisco, it's going to suck even more to be poor in a country where I can hardly speak the language".

So I made the biggest money driven decision of my life: I would go to law school. And the thought excited me. I would free myself from this poverty inducing art trap, use my brain, and have a whole new life.

I severed all ties, took the LSAT, got in my car with my father and two cats and a few belongings. I left my boyfriend behond on the sidewalk with the rest of my California life...and drove to New Hampshire.

I'm going to assume that you've figured out where I'm headed with this and get to the point: it was the worst decision of my life...but it was also the BEST.

The best because it utterly forced me to identify my intentions, to claim and name my values. After years of running from myself, I had to stop and acknowledge what I had already known as a small child...that art lives in the core of my being. It's a dominant and valuable aspect of my own self-image. If I went to law school, I would have to sever my ties to my creativity not just for the duration of school, but for as long as it took to pay off those monster student loans. I had to give up every creative outlet, completely. Once the stakes were high enough, I was willing to make a choice, and the choice I made was for love, for soul, for art.

I can't imagine my life without it. Armed with that knowledge, and letting it guide my every choice now, my life has blossomed in ways I could never have anticipated during all those years of denial. I lived in relationship with my creative side, but with one foot out the door at all times as I feared poverty. Now, all feet are in, no apologies are made. I am free to exist without the weight of my own self-doubt holding me back, and I have discovered ways to make some of my creative work profitable.

There are so many ways, in which we artists don't even realize that we apologize for our existence. We are not compensated equally for our work. We are seen to exist beyond the range of "normal". They are "us" and we are "them".

And I just don't care anymore. I am who I am. I am what I am. It took 3,000 miles of driving and a poetic return to my birthplace to claim it, but indeed, I am what I am, and what I am is an artist.

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