Tea Reflection: Fear, Me & My Art

I’ve had a very important revelation recently, and I think it’s very worthwhile to write it down somewhere — to make a note of it for me, but also to inspire anyone else who might be reading. Plus, it’s a rainy Sunday night here — the perfect time to cosy up with a cup of tea and write a blog post. As the title of this tea reflection says, it’s about me and my relationship between my art and fear.

Premise: I am a very anxious person. I am scared of many things. I have many common human fears, including spiders, but I am especially scared of not being able to accomplish everything I want to accomplish during the course of my life. This is partially in relation to my career dreams, but mostly it’s in relation to my art: my photography, my writing, and, in a way, also my youtube channel, which I see as a way of communicating my opinions in an artistic way.

My art is so important to me, that sometimes the thought of not making worthwhile art and not being able to show it to people is honestly soul-crushing. It keeps me up at night and makes me truly scared for a few seconds before I placate the thought by distracting myself with something else; but if I focus too much on it, I am very afraid that I will go into a panic.

But I end up stressing about it, even subconsciously, more often than I’d like. More specifically, I am afraid that my chances at going somewhere with my art are fewer because of circumstances I have no control over, namely: my poor financial situation, which then ends up impacting my opportunities and my experiences.

Let’s talk about those: experiences. What is “an experience”? What does it mean to “experience something” or to “have a great experience”? Whenever society talks about ‘experience’, it irremediably ends up being about something ‘objectively quantifiable’, something everyone can comprehend, or even (and sometimes more commonly) put a price to: a trip to a faraway country, a get-away weekend with your loved one, an extreme sport. With ‘experiences’, it’s implied that they change you, or that they are non-ordinary: they’re different and often provide a change of scenery, of people, or of activity. There’s very much this idea there that they do not and probably cannot happen on a regular day.

Peter and I celebrated our 4th year anniversary two weeks ago. When we say that to people, the most common question we get asked is: “What did you do?”. It’s implied that we should do something special, something extra-ordinary to celebrate such an event.

So what did we do? We stayed in and talked, and we enjoyed each other’s company.

We asked each other if we should do something special, but more importantly, we asked if we could afford something special. The answer was clear: neither of us had enough money to “do something special”. We are poor full-time students who rely on student loans to pay for rent, bills and food — of course we couldn’t really afford anything that society would deem ‘special’ for the occasion, even asking the question itself was silly. We were both very aware of that fact.

Nonetheless, we asked ourselves that question, because of the pressure society puts on ‘special events’ and ‘experiences’. We couldn’t book a romantic getaway or a holiday, which is what couples (with money) normally do. But why is this the norm anyway? What is wrong with staying in on your anniversary and just talking to each other, being aware of and grateful for the other’s presence in your life? Absolutely nothing.

Society constantly puts pressure on everyone and everything to do ‘special’ things and to ‘experience’ things, but only in a very shallow way. Society has a very narrow view of what counts as ‘special’ or ‘an experience’. Who’s to say that having a long conversation with your partner isn’t ‘special’ or ‘an experience’? Who’s to say that ‘an experience’ can only be had outside of the ordinary?

Here’s the thing: an experience can happen anywhere, at any point and any time. You don’t need to be anywhere fancy, or to be doing anything extreme. You can have a revelation, a cathartic moment, something can change deep inside of you… and it can just be Tuesday. It can happen on an ordinary day. I find that humans are often so scared of the ‘ordinary’… when there is no reason to be. Any day can stop being ‘ordinary’ at any point, even a few seconds before you go to sleep at night.

Society looks at ‘experiences’ as very much something that only people with money can enjoy. But not everyone has the money to do so. What about the people who can’t afford to go on a trip? Can’t afford to do x or y activity? It’s unfair that someone should be excluded from experiencing something just because they can’t afford it monetarily. All it does is create barriers for the poorest people which are completely unnecessary and unjust.

I live for art that transcends that; I live for art that gives you ‘an experience’ without those barriers in place.

I found this music duo today, they are called Lullatone. It’s a couple who makes and releases their music on Youtube for everyone to enjoy. Their songs are meant to evoke certain nostalgic feelings, even for times and places you’ve never seen or been to, and the song titles reflect that. So far I love Falling asleep with a book on your chest and Finding a leaf in your girlfriend’s hair. The latter has a music video, which is just their memories of a trip they took to The Netherlands in autumn.

This song makes me feel many things. It’s sad, but it’s also warm. I can feel the happiness in the moment; then the sadness knowing that this moment is gone and is only a memory now; it makes me want to make my own memories; it makes me sad knowing I can never have the same memories as these people, but it makes me happy to see this video and listen to this music, because it’s a window into their memories and their feelings, and they are choosing to share those with me.

I think it’s safe to say that this song, and many others in their repertoire, are gifting me with powerful experiences every time I listen to them. They either evoke particular memories and feelings that I have lived myself, or they create new ones, in a special, unique way that I don’t get to experience very often.

And this is all completely free and accessible. Music, books, movies, any type of art that gives a worthwhile, amazing experience — I absolutely adore it.

It doesn’t care how much money you have, it doesn’t care about your material situation, it doesn’t put up barriers and say “you need to be x person to get this” or “you need to have x amount of money to enjoy this” — all it wants to do is just make you feel something, stripping away all the boxes and the labels and everything extra that doesn’t matter to who you are deep inside.

And I live for this. It’s my favourite type of art. Art without barriers; art that makes you actually experience something; and that something can be experienced on any regular, ordinary day, without pressure for it to be ‘special’.

I feel so grateful that this art exists and that there are people out there making it and that it’s there for people, no matter what their situation might be.

This music, and thinking about art in general, made me realise something very important about myself: that is, I want to make this type of art, too. I don’t necessarily know how or what kind of (hopefully deep) content I want to make, but that’s my intention as an artist, with whatever medium I want to use. I want to make art that makes people feel something, and also experience something. That’s my “artistic vision”, if you want to call it that.

I felt that coming to that conclusion was still important, even without knowing specifically how to achieve or with what. I think I’m still figuring that part out. But I can let my artistic intention guide me, to permeate and be at the centre of all the art I create; and I feel that’s half the battle won.

It probably feels like I’ve gone all over the place in this entry and you might be asking: how does this relate to your fear? It relates in two ways: firstly, knowing I can get powerful, worthwhile experiences in my ordinary life is extremely comforting and stress-reducing for me; and secondly, realising my artistic intention just gave me the confidence to fight my fears over showing my art to the world.

I haven’t uploaded a youtube video for the longest time, because I let fear stop me. I let fear get the better of me, and I ended up sabotaging myself many times by not working on my videos or not uploading them.

But no more of that.

I want to create art; I want to share art. If a photo I take, a story I write, or a video I publish can make even one person happy, can make even one person feel something, then it’s achieved its purpose and so have I as an artist. But if that’s what I want to do, I can’t let fear stop me.

With my art come my feelings, my hopes, my fears, my dreams and my memories. I want to put it all in, to create something worthwhile, create something that will make people feel and experience something. That means opening up a little; putting a piece of me in every photograph, every story and maybe even every video. It’s a bit frightening. But what scares me even more is to not do any of it, to not open up and put myself out there at all. I know I would regret it if I didn’t do it, and I wouldn’t be true to my purpose if I let fear get the better of me.

I want to do this. For myself, but more importantly, for the people who will enjoy my art.

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