I bought a painting: my first gallery purchase was delivered to my dad’s house early last week. It wasn’t much of a plunge, meaning I had a lot of time to consider the memory I had embedded of it before actually contacting the gallerist, who then told me (like a good salesperson) to “get it while it’s cheap” – cheap being relative in the case of average collector/clientele, and myself, the currently unemployed student.
I have never been unemployed by choice, at least not for this long. And even if people have told me that my current status as a student counts, the lack of urgency to my schedules attests to the contrary.
Back to this painting: I have never been one to make expensive purchases, even as “investments”. As a design graduate, I’m conscious of material components and construction, but I can’t bring myself to justify an exorbitant price tag. Not even as an indulgence. For a time, this was fertile ground for growing my insecurities about belonging (even remotely) to the fashion and retail industries. I could not argue on behalf of a product that was meant to be perishable, to sit close to the skin and both distinguish its wearer while signifying belonging. There were levels of uniformity and standardization that just did not merit a 5-figure price tag, even with the justification of it being an “investment”. There was no point in working to cultivate a product or a practice that I disagreed with so fundamentally; yet, the production process or the entire economy surrounding clothing still interested me. I was just in the wrong place when it came to cultivating that interest.
And so I quit.
And now I have this painting.
If there’s anything I’m thankful for, it’s having had the creative process as a constant presence. My whole life was spent around people who made things with their hands and put their hearts and minds into the work. Sometimes you see the effort sometimes you don’t, but the products themselves are so loaded with myths about creativity that distract from other arguments for their existence. Right now, the only reason I’m turning to for having it is that it exists because the person who made it exists and I want her to keep making things because I like what she does. I’m not writing this as a critic, but as someone who just bought something that can grant some level of comfort, or some way of making a space a home by reminding me of the things I value about continuing to exist and trudging forth in a largely thankless profession.
Still, I wouldn’t trade my work for anything else.
And now it’s nothing but embarrassing admissions about the damage that comes with unemployment: I wake up late. I only get out of bed when I can no longer put up with the kittens pestering me for food. There are days when I don’t write anything even if the whole point of having time off from full-time employment is to write full-time and obtain my degree as soon as I can.
On the days when I’m not writing, I draw. What is kind of embarrassing is that I just keep drawing the apartment I reserved that I have yet to sign a contract for or move into. I’m uneasy with the fact that I’m genuinely happy living alone and that for so long, it seemed like such an unattainable goal, something that came with relocating abroad or getting married – two things that I have no plans for. Then it became something I ticked off a list, along with other things that got did dis yr YEAH! SELF-FIVE!
I forget who, but someone wrote that the greatest labyrinth is the desert. And even with all of this, with the tiny apartment with my name on the door and the thesis that demands my attention and the promise of another degree, I’m bored. And of course I’m bothered by my boredom and with feeling ungrateful because of it. It’s a boredom borne of being busy, of having a job you can’t escape because I’m my job. And rather than gently nudging myself from step to step, I see me violently dragging myself around, and for what? What happens after you have trouble distinguishing one happiness from the next?