Monday, 5 December 2016

My Black Hole to Freedom

Remember in "The Shawshank Redemption", how Andy (played by Tim Robbins) escapes his life sentence in prison by slowly digging a tunnel behind his poster of Rita Hayworth? How he dug for years and years, a little spoonful of dirt out of the wall each day, quietly dumping  the tiny bit of dirt and stone in the yard? How he continued this until the hole grew large enough that he could finally make his escape, crawling through a tunnel of shit a mile long to emerge a free man?

Now you're thinking, "He's gonna say this is a metaphor for his life, and that creating comic books is his tunnel of freedom away from the prison of a stagnant, working-wage career...yada yada yada."

And you'd be absolutely wrong. Ha. Because, I used to believe this - that to be happy I needed to somehow escape my life, to scorch the earth and free myself from the invisible shackles of responsibility that come with a salaried job in order to fulfill my life as an artist. To suceed. And five years ago, I largely did that, leaving my safe but intolerable career in animation for the more uncertain life of a contract freelancer, understanding that this move would give me less money but more freedom to work on my own projects.

So five years later, I'm still struggling with balancing paid work and creating something meaningful of my own. And I'm slowly realizing that there might not be a magical moment of freedom, where I look around at my life and say "I've finally made it." And I think that's because when you get into a mindset where you struggle to "make it", and don't understand what that means exactly, you will be forever stuck, dissatisfied and struggling, because the state of "making it" is a fantasy. There is no moment in life like this because life is a slippery slope of expectation and achievement, so completely changeable and nebulous that any moment where you can say "I've made it" or "I've achieved something" is so fleeting that it seems almost pointless.

My personal journey these last few years has seen me constantly searching the horizon for that place, that special moment where I could be satisfied with what I have; some magical reality I could finally settle myself down into a comfortable life of pleasant routine, free of worry, free of doubt, creating meaningful things and feeling fulfilled. Needless to say, I was shit off my rocker to think I could ever achieve a sustainable situation like that. But this is an idea that's sold to us everyday, that somehow if you amass enough money, power, or material stuff, you'll find that G-spot of happiness to last the rest of your life.

So I've come to realize I've been looking in the wrong place for my tunnel to freedom. It's not out there somewhere, it's in here - inside my head. Because that's where my reality begins and ends. So I might look at my life and not be satisfied, or I might wish for something I might never attain, or struggle and fight and hate how little I seem to have while everyone else seems to have it so easy. Or I could stop - dig through the noise of what society tells me success means - and find my black hole to freedom right now. Because it's right there in your head. All you need is the courage to say "screw expectation" and crawl through it.

There's no such thing as an end point to success. Life will never settle down into something comfortable (not with two kids to raise, at least!) And I don't think I want it to be comfortable, because I know it would eventually become boring. I'm looking at my life and I realize I have so much, that in many ways I've "made it". So I've decided to try and calm down about the struggle, the striving for success, and enjoy all the good things I have. Because all of it is fleeting, and we should appreciate what we have now before it all slips away.

This is perhaps a bit deeper than I would have liked to go in this post, but I'm feeling philosophical of late, mostly as I come to terms with the reality that I probably didn't win the C4C grant contest (as I haven't heard anything yet and it's been over a month now.) So I'm trying to understand what it means to me, and realize it's not the end of the world, and that I'm lucky to even have had the opportunity to submit something.

Just a note of irony - at the end of Shawshank Redemption, we see Andy's friend Red released from prison, and in the final scene Red finds Andy on the beach in some tropical paradise, fixing up his yacht. So yeah, even that movie tries to sell us the whole happy ending thing. All I'm saying is that most of us are already there, even if we don't realize it. You don't need a billion dollars and a yacht on the beach to be happy. All you need is a roof over your head and a family that loves you. So get yourself into your black hole and out of the prison in your mind. That happy ending isn't as far off as you think.

From my black hole to yours,

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