Falling With Style: All Art Is Equal (But Some Is More Equal Than Others)

Helen Laroche is making art… or is she?

A few years ago, when I quit my job in sales because I was burned out, I set an intention for myself: I’d mentally finger-paint for a while, listen to whatever interests came my way, and build on those until I became an artist. Simple.

At the time, I thought I was going to become a writer. (I still have goals of publishing a book — no particular thoughts on the content.) But in this early period of unemployment, still far too grateful for the free time to be freaking out about money, I didn’t navigate towards writing.

I navigated towards baking bread.

Really. I spent my a month or so testing bread recipes — loaf bread, dinner rolls, pizza dough; white, wheat, cornmeal. With all the free time at my disposal, I could let them leisurely rise for a few hours before punching them back down. I could, for the first time in my life, afford to make little errors in my cooking in the name of experimentation, swapping out one ingredient for another to see what happened. I came from a pretty processed-food kind of home, and in comparison to anything you can get at the store, homemade sandwich bread is the shit.

I was puzzled — or more accurately, troubled — with my change in vocation. Sure, I wanted to be an artist, but that meant performing arts. Always had. That’s what I quit that high-paying, low-rewards job for, right? I felt the grip of guilt close around my throat: I jumped off the cliff so I could follow my bliss. And now I’m not even following through! Isn’t a career in the performing arts what I’ve always wanted? How could I give that up?

Cut to the past few weeks.

I haven’t been auditioning, haven’t been singing much outside of the shower, which the guilt grip continues to give me a little pressure for. But I have been doing a lot of event management for the company I’ve recently started working for. And it’s intense, and it’s stressful, and I love it. And I think I’m good at it, too. It’s definitely a creative outlet. (Today the whole company is recording a music video in Golden Gate Park. Mullet wigs, inflatable guitars, airbrush tattoos — guess who thought that up?) But is it art?

And this is where I start to go cross-eyed: if I sit and admit to myself, yeah, maybe the whole singing-and-dancing thing isn’t for me right now, am I being honest or am I just weaseling out of a life goal? How do I honor the goals and aspirations of my youth (“When I grow up, I’m going to be on Broadway!”) while also recognizing what feels good — not just hedonist-avoidance good, but truly in-my-soul good — right now?

And if I am drawn to what feels good and right in this moment, flitting every which way my bliss takes me, how will I ever achieve success, which I assume is a state that takes years of single-mindedness?

If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

Helen is a sentient multi-cellular organism with the ability to convey thoughts through mutually-agreed upon symbols, which if you think about it, is pretty bad-ass. She strings together symbols elsewhere at <a href=”http://www.sayshelen.com“>SaysHelen.com</a>.

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