I put a lot of pressure on myself to have an interesting, creative, fulfilling career that also pays the bills. This pressure often manifests as an amorphous anxiety that gnaws at the pit of my stomach and makes me eat a lot of Haribo Fruity Pasta.
I burden myself with expectations of making money, making a name for myself, and making my mark on the world. Whenever I think about doing anything creative, there’s always a voice in the back of my head saying ‘How can you sell this? How can you make this into a viable career? What will so and so think of this?’ It’s exhausting, and counter-productive. I’m pretty confident that the majority of great art is not created with this mentality.
As a kid, I felt free to just create. There wasn’t a ton of ego involved, it was just something that made me feel good. My formative years were spent in the suburbs of Boston in the nineties. Every kid knows that living in the suburbs sucks and is endlessly boring. Back then, my options for dealing with it were limited. I couldn’t spend five hours watching The League on Netflix. The boredom would wash over me until I reached a place where I would be so frustrated, I’d go out and make my own fun. For me, this always meant doing something creative. I wrote short stories, filmed movie musicals (thank you for humoring me, childhood friends), made goth paper dolls, and dug pits in my backyard to store fictional food in my fictional life as a wild woman of the woods.
When I get bored these days (a classic defense mechanism, thanks brain), I default to watching hours of television and doing lots of mindless browsing on the internet. I no longer have to sit through that uncomfortable boredom; I just stay suspended in quashed-emotions-technology-land. I compulsively click on links, read listicles, browse on Facebook. Anything to avoid just really being with myself.
I’m tired of this technology-fueled purgatory. I want to push through that feeling, through the boredom and fear and uncertainty, and make it out to the other side. And hopefully, once there, my brain will go “Fuck this shit!” and I’ll start writing a paranormal mystery novel or sew myself a laptop case or have a two hour dance party by myself in my bedroom. Whatever it is that’s going to make me feel like I’m expressing myself in the moment, regardless of if it’s something “for my career” or just for my own sanity.
So, for the sake of my mental and creative health, I’m going to time travel back to my life in the nineties. Minus the eye rolling and angst. Mostly. Here’s how I’ll do it.
1. Get a crappy cellphone.
This one I’ve already implemented! I know, I know, if I were really committed I’d get a landline. But signing up with Time Warner is tantamount to making a pact with the devil, so I’ve made do with getting the dumbest cellphone possible. I’ve canceled my monthly plan and am going rogue! I’m using a pay-as-you-go phone, which will discourage texting and interneting as it’ll cost me dearly.
2. Get off the damn internet.
My job requires me to spend eight hours a day on the internet, so why in god’s name do I need to use it when I get home? No more aimless browsing. No more Facebook tunnels of shame. I’ll use the internet the way I did in the nineties, to look up essential information. And look at pictures of Ewan McGregor playing the French horn.
3. Get off the damn TV.
My television usage was pretty restricted as a kid – no more than an hour every night, and never past 9pm (I fought tooth and nail to extend it to 9:30 on Tuesdays for Home Improvement, because duh, JTT. Almost as great a victory as convincing my mom I should be allowed to eat white bread). Mysteriously this rule would fly out the window during spring break when my brothers and I were permitted to watch Quantum Leap marathons and guzzle microwave burritos. Scott Bakula binging aside, TV was seen as a treat. I want to bring that feeling back, where instead of numbing myself with hours of House Hunters International, I only watch things I actually care about (Cary Agos, I would start a law firm with you anytime).
4. Listen to a lot of Paula Cole.
I don’t listen to music the way I used to. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and listened to an entire album by one artist. I miss all of my nineties favorites! No, I was not a Hanson/Backstreet Boys/’N Sync fan. My tastes ran along the lines of, as I’m sure you can predict, Alanis, Sheryl, Meredith Brooks (you know, “I’m a biiiitch I’m a loverrr”), and yes, Paula Cole. You played at Lilith Fair? Chances are I had your CD. I want to get back to that album-worshipping style of listening to music. No more downloading single songs and discarding them after two weeks of obsessive listening. Hopefully this more focused, less frenetic way of approaching music will take me back to the calmer state of mind I was in then. So let’s put on some Lisa Loeb and get down to business.
5. More tree hugging.
Growing up, I lived across the street from a conservation area. I was constantly going on adventures in the woods, stomping on skunk cabbage (man, kids are jerks), ice skating on treacherous frozen ponds, or just lying in the grass looking up at the way the sunlight streamed through the trees. This time by myself in the woods always brought me back to zero. To a grounded, peaceful place from which I was able to do whatever the hell I wanted without worrying about what other people might think. Now I live in Brooklyn, where the parks are few and far in between (and the pervasive attitude is to care desperately about what other people think under the guise of not caring what anyone thinks). Also, trips to the park are anything but restful. The experience is not that dissimilar to attending a massive BBQ with a bunch of people you don’t know. Somehow, I’m going to carve out more solo nature time in my life. Whether it’s day trips out of the city, or getting up at 8am on a Sunday to hit the park before the hung over hipsters start trudging in, one way or another I will get in my tree hugging dammit.
I’m curious to see if these methods will successfully recapture that easy creativity I had as a kid. One thing is for certain: I’m definitely on my way to becoming a crotchety old miser who grumbles about ‘these kids and their newfangled gadgets’.