Being Realistic – No Thanks

Image by Kylli Sparre

“Be Realistic.”

Is there anything worse for a creative person to hear?

A wild vixen, or a blitzkrieg dynamo does not want to know your opinion. They want you to say “Fuck yeah!” and pump them up (or just shut up).

You know all those people who you admire, idolize, admire? Why? Cuz they’re realistic and normal day-to-day humans who just settle and go for the easy way out? Nah, you really respect their tenacity and ability to dig deep and follow the path they know will make them happy.

Telling artistic or adventurous people to be realistic can be extremely damaging, especially if they are very young. Creative types are SENSITIVE and, unless they have an iron will, may be affected at a deep level, which might not even register. I am one of these people. My nerve and confidence were vandalized as a teenager, with lingering comments floating in my subconscious ever since.

Young people are the most susceptible, too, because youth is the time when confidence is most cultivated. Even as an adult, when we are more inclined to worry about things like money, if your confidence is limited, the chances of following your dreams are likely going to be crushed by that anvil of doubt. You probably won’t go for it.

It’s scarier not to.

Think about all the people you really think are The Shit. Are they realists, or did they take risks? They said “Fuck you!” to everyone who might try and talk them out of their wild fantasies.

People who chase dreams and do what they want are just as human as you. The difference is that they actually keep going, despite people who might try and tell them they’re not realistic or that they are crazy.


Can you imagine these situations?

“Hey JK Rowling! Just stay on welfare, no one makes money on fantasy books about wizards.”

“Hey Bethany Hamilton! No one can surf with one arm, just go work in an office or something.”

“HEY, Kurt Cobain, punk is dead, sit down.”

I could come up with a million of these, very famous or not. I know people personally who do what they want and make a living because they are determined. They aren’t rich – who said anything about rich? This is nothing to do with money. Everyone seems to equate realism with making money – you know, I am at a point where I would rather be living in my car or in a tent and living on potatoes and dandelions, doing what I want, than to be “realistic” and working in an office or bagging groceries.

The wild ones are the ones who make the world change. They are the ones who touch your hearts. They are the ones make the songs you listen to when you’re in love or in despair. They’re the ones who make the movies you watch to lift yourself up. They’re the ones who write the books that make you want to be a better person. They’re the ones who create the beautiful images that make your throat burn and your eyes water.

Why the FUCK would you want them to be realistic?!

The likely scenario is that the ones who are saying such things are jealous, or wish they had the balls to do it themselves. Why wouldn’t you want someone else to fucking try? The best people to look up to and to emulate are the people who are true to themselves and who don’t give a shit if people agree or not – they know who they are and what to do. That is a rare trait, and enviable. It doesn’t matter if they’re into painting, music, writing, or being an astronaut, they should all be supported to do what they’re passionate about.

What is reality anyway? Reality is what is happening, right now. Right now my reality is sitting on the couch with wet hair writing this because I am pissed someone told me to be realistic, someone 13 years younger than me who knows nothing about my life, someone who insinuated I do not use my head but only follow my heart. I do BOTH. Being realistic only means to be in the moment of what you are doing. I don’t know what is going to be my reality in several years. I don’t care. I care about now. I care about doing things I love to do. I care about myself, not what other people think, and so should you. If you have dependents, fine, but you can still make some income while doing what you love. You can give certain shit up that you don’t need. You don’t need to starve, there are WAYS.

I’d rather be hungry and happy than full and miserable.

Being “realistic” (in terms of “Get a normal job where you know you’ll make money”) may lead to a different reality than you may expect. Maybe you’ll do something like that and end up so depressed that you become a drug addict and end up in a gutter with a needle in your arm. Who KNOWS? I know that’s a crazy example, but there are no guarantees for ANYTHING, so you might as well do what you like.

You wanna end up dying (inevitable!) and being like “Daaaamn, I shoulda done that, I’m a stupid idiot.” Or do you wanna end up like “YEAH I fucking lived it up – I may have been broke but at least I’m ready to die!”

You get one life. ONE. Why waste it? You don’t get time to waste. There IS no time to waste. Don’t just exist, fuckin’ LIVE IT.

What the Hell To Do With Your Life

I ain’t scared of much.

You know what terrifies me? Wasting my life.

I have already wasted way too much. I have also accomplished a lot of what I’ve wanted to do. But can you imagine (as I try to) what can be accomplished if we do NOT waste our time?

I have been looking at how I spend time a lot differently lately. I do spend a ton of time online, but now I try to make it count.

If I feel tired or lazy, I try to at least learn something. If I want to play a game, I make it educational instead of pointless. No more 80’s Nintendo (back to once a year for me!) – because of this I am now a geography pro. Do you know where Kiribati is? How about Togo? I do.

Why am I bringing this up? Mostly because I am unemployed and flailing. I know what I want to do, BASICALLY, but when you are a “scanner” (as Barbara Sher coined it) you can have so many interests that you absolutely cannot decide what your focus should be.

I have so many interests it can be staggering, and often I don’t know what to focus on so…I do nothing. This is a problem. Only recently have I figured out how to fix this issue in terms of time-wasting, but in terms of how to pinpoint a goal is very difficult.

I’ve had a long history of different jobs, some short-lived, some long, and my frazzled journey has left me with some deep scars. I’ve been to school twice, and ended up not wanting to do those things as jobs. I’ve been fired countless times (though only once in the last 13 years). I’ve never had a problem finding a job or getting one – keeping them has been harder, because, for the most part, my unhappiness is obvious. I have a very expressive face and am unable to be a phony. Even when I have attempted to fake it, people know.

When I apply for jobs, often I will change my mind right before an interview, frozen with dread at the idea of spending all my time doing something I don’t really want to do. Very rarely do things come up that I want to do.

BUT WHAT DO I WANT TO DO? All day every day? Nothing specific! I want variety! I want excitement! I want to learn and be useful in a way that isn’t petty.

I have ALWAYS envied people with a laser-focus. The musicians I know, for instance…that is all they do. They obsess. The people who obsess are the ones I see succeed. They know what they want and fuck all the rest.

As a teenager, I wanted the same thing, though my confidence was exceptionally low. I tried starting bands with no luck. I was in one for 2 weeks, I think…I joined a group of girls in their band Bitter Honey – we’d practice one or two songs and then they’d want to watch TV. I felt hopeless, being in a small town with people who didn’t take what I loved seriously. I tried placing ads up in indie newspapers and up on bulletin boards in the alternative record stores. I was just young, and again, no one took me seriously. This included my parents.

My interests were still supported, but never as a career choice. I was told to be realistic. Teenage me was like “Yeah right” and didn’t listen, but deep down, I did. After so many failures, and lack of being pushed in the direction I hoped for, I had to scramble for something else.

I ALWAYS DOUBTED MY ABILITY TO MAKE IT AS ANY SORT OF ARTIST. A musician, writer, photographer. Those were my main focuses. Be realistic.

Where has being realistic gotten me? 20 years later, I am still scrambling, wondering what random job to take just so I can get by and spend only my free time doing what I love, if I can figure it out. Other people make livings doing this, why not me? What separates the people who make it from ME? Drive, luck, practice. Mostly drive and passion, and nerve. Putting yourself out there.

I am slowly figuring it out, but I still question my ability to do it on my own (“Should I go back to school? Should I teach myself? Should it be university, or is just college okay?” etc etc). I don’t think I am too old. Debt is something that absolutely petrifies me, as I don’t want to be a slave to money.

About a week ago, I laid in bed after waking up, depressed and lost (but still better than the previous day, where I’d been in utter despair) and started questioning myself:

If I had a year to live, what would I do?

I thought about asking myself what I’d do if I had a day to live, or a week – but you can’t accomplish anything in that time, really, though I guess the answers would also be illuminating.

This is hardly an original question, but how many of you have actually REALLY thought about it? And taken it to heart?

Here are my answers:

~ I would travel, as much as possible. Even if I couldn’t afford to go to anywhere super exotic, I would sell all my things, trade in my car for a van, and road trip all over North America, visiting all the people I know and admire. Then I’d sell my van, go back to Thailand (I’d make my boyfriend come along too – hell, if I’m gonna die, he is gonna figure shit out to make it happen!) and also go to the Maldives, where I’ve wanted to go for years.

~ I’d surf, even if I am shitty at it. I’d do it as much as possible.

~ I’d have lots of sex, crazy sex, adventurous sex, loving, gushing, Richter-scale sex.

~ And I’d WRITE. A lot. All of it. It would be like blood coming out of my fingers instead of ink, because my fingers would be almost broken from having so much to say, to share.

What did this lead me to realize? That my ideal job would be to be a travel writer.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about 8 years old. And I have been. Not professionally, but I have always written, and often. Stories, yes, but mostly memoir. Zines. Comics. Snail mail. Blogs (I’ve been blogging for 14 years….) Countless beginnings of novels. My old pseudonym was a character from a novel I was writing at age 16. Anything to play with words.

So what do I have to do to make this happen? I guess, like anything, practice. Write out a map.

Above all else, I must remember and take to heart that time is limited. Even if you believe in reincarnation, an afterlife, whatever – you are only THIS you once. You only have this life experience once. And there is no absolute proof, so don’t take chances. Do it now.

Don’t wait until something scary or bad happens to you in order to make a change (though sometimes this is the only thing that really works…having a breakdown is what led me to my lifestyle changes I’ve assimilated into my life for 6 years). Figure it out now. It doesn’t matter if you’re 36 or 96. Do it.

So, what would you do if you had a year to live? How would you LIVE? GO LIVE NOW. Don’t just exist. LIVE.