2 December 2013
It is Day Two of the #GraceAndGratitude workshop, and that part about bickering sounds just like my day. In an hour or so we are about to go to my youngest sister’s event. She has a work up as part of an exhibit, something that she and her classmates have organised as the culminating activity for one of her subjects in design school. I am excited for her, and can’t wait to see it, as she has been working hard for months now. My parents, however, are another story. The whole evening has been full of how this was all a waste of time, and I can’t help but be disappointed and frustrated.
It is almost three in the morning now, we got home around one. It was a disaster, this trip, and I’m mad as hell.
The gallery, it turned out, was held at an underground club. It was the only venue that they were able to get, and by all rights it looked fine. I mean–it fit the event, and I’ve been to these things before, so I knew what to expect. My father and mother though looked like fish out of the water. When we got past the doors and the bouncers and the smokers, and entered the place with its rotating lights and loud music and bar–it was only a matter of time before their heads exploded.
They took one look at my sister’s work. My father said, “Is this it?”
And–I swear, M., I wanted to hurt something.
They went out after a few minutes. I couldn’t bear to leave my sister like this, so I ordered a drink and asked her to give me a tour. I looked at each and every one of her classmates’ works, went up the stairs to look at more art, and every now and then told her how proud I was of her and everything that she’s achieved.
In the car, while waiting for the event to finish, we had an argument. I resented the fact that my parents think that this is all shit. They even said that if it was up to them they could do better. Um. What the hell?
I said, this is not nonsense. That just because they don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that it is stupid. That how could they possibly even know what amount of work goes into this when they don’t even bother to ask my sister how this all came about? I mean–they don’t have to like it. They don’t even have to accept it. I get that. Art is subjective. But they don’t have to be dismissive of it. Would it kill them to stand there for even just five minutes and show support for my sister?
They scoffed when I mentioned “hard work.” They said, what is hard work if you’re just pasting things on boards and twisting metal wires into sculptures? I wanted to ask, what if I say that being an accountant is basically just pushing buttons on a calculator? But I didn’t want to derail the argument, which was already perilously close to becoming a shouting match. Instead, I said, how can you be moved by talent show contestants that you see on TV and feel nothing at your own daughter’s achievement?
And because, ultimately, the reason why all of this chafes was because I am reminded so much of how they treated me and my writing, I said: This was supposed to be my life. This was going to be my life, if I hadn’t turned my back from it. Would you tell me that my work was meaningless, too, that this was not important?
And–I should have kept my mouth shut, really. Because the answer was yes. Yeah. Of course. Fucking yes. What did I expect?
How you frame your world depends on what you choose to see, says Sarah, from the workshop. I understand that. I actively work towards that. But how can I influence other people to do this, too? How can I make my parents see that a life that leans towards art and poetry is not for naught, that it is significant, too, that it has worth?
To give balance to these thoughts as I go to bed, here are things I am grateful for today:
- A continued conversation with D. about Bram Stoker and Walt Whitman
- Tinola (chicken soup with green papaya, chili pepper leaves, and ginger-based broth)
- A funny program on the radio
- Black Russian
- People who continue to write and make art despite not having a strong support group