Is It the Young People or Is It Me?

Is It the Young People or Is It Me?

I was talking with some mothers I hadn’t seen in ages, due to the pandemic and because none of us live in the same state. We were enjoying the pleasures of in person engagement while sitting together at an open-air food court. Of course, we talked a lot about our teen age kids. I’ve known one of these women since our kids bonded in preschool, we’ve done this journey together.

As we were catching up, I was having a bit of that what is wrong with kids today feeling. I am never sure if this is because kids have changed or because I am older and in the stage of life where I would feel this no matter what kids were doing. It’s just that at some point in life you start to be old enough that young people freak you out. It’s really hard to know if it’s your fault or their fault. 

I am telling myself that it is my fault and not to indulge this impulse. I see it all around me and I don’t like it. I think it’s the first slip on the downward slope to curmudgeonville. For the love of all that’s good in the world, don’t let me end up there! I’d rather die young. Too late for that but you get what I am saying.

Watching my child become an adult feels so intense, like the most challenging experience of my life. But is it? Or does everything feel like that because everything is always in the now and the now always feels more intense than the future or the past?

I suspect the later. It’s all intense and challenging all the time. It was intense and challenging when I was young. It’s intense and challenging now. I think worrying about young people being different than they used to be is wrong. The difference in perception is more attributable to different developmental stages then different cultural moments. We freaked our parents out and now it’s our turn to be freaked. 

But being freaked out is a choice, it’s a reaction we could adjust. I am mostly freaked out because I want to know my kid will be ok like I am ok. I want to sort of bypass all the decades of learning from experience and know my kid will be where I am at. But that makes no sense. Do I want my kid to miss all that interesting stuff just so they can be worrying about their kids?

Worrying about other people is just a way to take the heat off of ourselves. Maybe I wouldn’t be so scared if everyone else was perfect. But I am the only thing I have control over and so I am going to assume I am the problem in the question that is the title of this essay. I am going to look for the good. There is plenty there.

What I have noticed is my kid is better when I am better. That could translate to, the young people are better when the older people are better. So, get your act together older people. The young people need us!

If you don’t like your art, you haven’t made enough

If you don’t like your art, you haven’t made enough

If I’ve made three duds in a row, I get irritated and start to doubt myself. A terrible cycle is likely to start. Space opens up to make art, but I’m not so sure I want to spend my time creating more proof of my mediocre-ness. I do something else instead and then I feel bad I’ve wasted the opportunity. Can you relate to this? Does this ever happen to you?

If you look at your art and feel discouraged, don’t give up!

Giving up will stop the production of disappointing art but it will not stop the disappointment. The only way to get satisfying art is to do more.

If you make one hundred of something, and then look closely at them, you will notice a number of things:

You can see quite clearly what you gravitate to. That’s good. You need gravitational pull. Nobody can stand to work hard on something that isn’t interesting.

You will like something more than something else. Become very consciences of that and try and do it more. Go as hard into that as you can. See what it is about. Not just once but loads of times. So many times that a dud barely even registers. Let yourself experiment, let yourself play. It’s not precious because you are about to make forty more!

Give yourself permission to go so hard and get so weird that you are almost positive it’s going to be crap. Safe choices will always be disappointing in the end. You may not hate it, but you will also not love it. You are going to love it when you look at it and know you escaped danger, you were on a knife’s edge. You almost fell but, no you actually stuck the landing. The little wobble you can still see in the work, that’s the magic, the thing that makes it yours and no one else’s.

Here’s one of my tricks to get myself to get weird. I listen to my favorite music as loud as I can. I get super pumped up noticing how cool the music is, the lyrics, the melody, the production, the whole vibe. It took so much creativity on the part of several artists to make something this delicious. There is no way that any of the music I like was made by people not being brave. Music is deeply weird, deeply personal, very risky. When I am grooving hard on music, I say to myself, I want to do this in my art, I want take chances, I want to be vulnerable, I want to be bold, I want to send a message.

Sometimes what I end up with is a total mess, but at least it is a mess and not a blank piece of paper or a duplicate of something I have done before. I am here to make the art that only I can make. That’s my personal goal. For me. To please myself. To leave this lifetime, with a lifetime of art made. I am unhappy with a lot of it. And I am also very happy with a lot of it. Because I make a lot of it.

Sidewalk Face 168

PS – The sentence, if you don’t like your art, you haven’t made enough, was booted from another post but so obviously good I made it a title. Kind of like when one of the contestants on the Bachelor is rejected by the suitor but becomes the next Bachelorette. It sat in my drafts folder waiting for me to write all this text and I finally did it.