I am I: and must follow that furrow, not copy another. That is the only justification for my writing. Living.
–Virginia Woolf’s diary, 29 Dec 1940
I said a week ago that my friend’s bachelorette weekend in Santa Barbara gave me some new thoughts I wanted to share. Having done very little today, I finally have a chance to share these! — and I’m glad for it, because they’ve been much on my mind since last weekend.
The getaway weekend was very pleasant. The Southern California sunshine was welcome after the East Bay’s long, rainy spring, and I found I’d missed the landscape and the general atmosphere of the region as well. We rented a comfortable house, visited the spa and a fancy restaurant, walked along the beach, and did yoga together in the morning. And not least, I was surrounded by eleven smart, kind, interesting, talented, strong women, all of them dear friends of one of my dear friends. It sounds idyllic, no? And as I say, I enjoyed it, but on some deep level it made me fidgety.
Compared to most people, I live a peculiar lifestyle. I work from home on projects of my own choosing, and so does Erik (except for his current consulting gig). We don’t have a TV. We grow our own sprouts, and I nearly always carry around my own utensils, a cloth napkin, and a food-storage container. We go to bed around 10 every night. All of this is a little odd for people our age, but it’s not unheard-of; on the basis of our activities alone, we’re hardly weirdos (well, not in this part of the country!). But the key is — and this is what I realized in Santa Barbara — we made this lifestyle ourselves. We’re doing exactly what we want to do, exactly the way we want to do it, and we wouldn’t change that for any amount of money. Our activities aren’t extraordinary, but the sum of the parts comes out to something highly individual. How many people can say what I say: that I live exactly the way I want to?
This lifestyle is something I brought into being, but spending a weekend away with others (with my activities mostly dictated by others) made me realize just how much the lifestyle has also shaped me. It’s not that I want to be a spoiled brat and insist that we do things my way… but since the way I live is an expression of my self, to act otherwise makes me feel inauthentic. In fact, I’m starting to feel that it’s actually impossible to act in discord with my lifestyle; or, at any rate, it’s wrong, the same way it would be wrong to destroy one of my drawings or just cut characters out of a story for no reason.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve come to regard my life with the same critical, creative, individual perspective that I bring to my art. I’ve noticed more and more these days that around others I feel, well, eccentric. I don’t want to just do what everyone else is doing, and if there’s any way to do what I want — without offending or inconveniencing others — then I will go ahead and do it. One night in Santa Barbara, everyone was going to see Sex and the City 2. I didn’t; Wei-Ling and I walked around, and then I drew the sketches I showed you. A year ago I don’t think it would have occurred to me to bow out of the movie, even if I hadn’t wanted to see it. Moreover, I find that these days I have no qualms about being eccentric — even if intellectually I’m not sure I should be doing what I’m doing. At Sephora I bought an expensive eyeshadow palette, purely because an earlier conversation with Dana had made me want to play with colors. It wasn’t a prudent purchase, but I didn’t care. I haven’t even used it yet, but its presence in my bathroom gives me anticipatory joy. When it comes to choices like this, there’s no way to distinguish what I’m doing from just being a self-indulgent brat — except that I feel I’m doing the right thing. It’s the same as painting a single dot on a piece of paper. I can’t tell you why I place the dot where I do, except that it feels right.
Naturally, it’s possible I am being a self-indulgent brat. I feel much more ruthless these days, to be honest, though also more compassionate; I feel simultaneously more confident and more humble. In being truer to my authentic self, I also have to be firmer about cutting out everything else… but in doing so, I have infinite freedom and space to reach out to others. To put it differently: since I know who I am, nothing and nobody can threaten me, but I also won’t stand for letting myself be cut down. I feel fierce and tender at the same time; oh, so infinitely so!
The Santa Barbara weekend brought all this home to me, and it’s been a very interesting discovery. I guess it’s just what I’d hoped for a couple of years ago, when I first started on this path and wrote uncertainly about it in my LiveJournal. I’ve begun making my life, and the further I get into it, the more it makes me, too. It’s all quite reassuring, really! I used to think I’d never be a real artist because I wasn’t weird or eccentric enough, but now I find that being an artist is making me more eccentric. Who knew the waters flowed in that direction?!