On jealously and other people's art
When I was in high school, I took a writer's craft class. It was my favourite class of all time. My teacher would bake us cookies before our exams, and we had poetry events where she brewed Chai tea as she told us about the lessons she experienced in Africa.
On one particular morning, after there was a death in our collective lives, we sat there in a circle and just talked about our feelings.
She is a teacher that we all deserve. When I was absent, instead of embarrassing me, she quietly slipped the pages I had missed on the corner of my desk. While she would make for a more comfortable topic to blog about today, I think I'll edge into territory we often fear dancing on -- other people's art and how to handle jealously. (And all those other feelings, such as am I good enough if HER/HIS work is so good and perhaps even better than mine in some ways?)
In this class, there was a rumour circulating around us students that ranked the writers in our group. Mostly, this was based on who got the highest grades on their assignments. We never directly told each other this information in a formal discussion, but it was understood in pairs of two. At least, the pairs I was apart of.
Eventually, I gathered that I happened to be the second best writer in this class.
I was told that I was just below an eloquent writer who wrote like Jane Austen and Emily Bronte had a love child. I wrote a little bit more like a mix between Chelsea Handler and Oprah.
I grew up in a house where we spoke mostly French. I didn't take an English class until the fourth grade, and here I was comparing myself to writers who had extensive knowledge about literature, while I was the girl who read Wuthering Heights on SparksNotes. I wish hashtags were a thing back in the twelve grade because I would be #TeamHeathcliff.
Yet, I loved writing and I loved reading to enjoy. I just didn't care too much about analyzing and ranking art as good or bad -- something English classes are in love with doing. Instead, I focused on which art made me feel good and I didn't say too much about what I wasn't interested in. Why bother if you don't like something to say it? I guess that's how my mama raised me.
When I was a teenager and my only job was a part time journalist one, I could write for hours about personal issues and I wrote when I was both sad and happy, which I felt was important to do. I will always love when people tell me they like what I've written and it will probably always hurt my feelings when someone tells me it could be dramatically improved.
Yet, all of it is true. My art matters and it will always have room for new and improved versions of it. And that's okay because I am creating just for the sake of creating. It's an innate thing within me. I can't live without creating. I get sad and bored and lonely and desperate if I'm not creating something. Even if that something is simply a new level of wellness in healing.
But back then... It wasn't okay to not be recognized as the best. I was creating in order to be seen. It will always be nice to be appreciated for your creative work, but I depend on it less these days.
I've stopped wanting to be another artist other than myself.
When I was in that class, I felt like her creations mattered more than mine because it received more accolades. Her work was indeed phenomenal. But for someone who wanted to be a writer too, I felt like because she shinned so brightly that I couldn't at all.
And isn't that silly that most of us have had this experience? We see someone shinning and getting the praise that we so badly want, and we get so uncomfortable with the feeling of rejection/ not being seen/ fill in the blank here that we stop making ourselves and our art matter.
One person's success is not the demise of your own.
The modern version of that experience for most of us doesn't live in a writer's craft class, but through things like Facebook likes and Instagram followers.
We compare ourselves to other people who have more number status than we do, and we completely forget that what makes art enjoyable is the impact it has on other people, not the numbers it draws in.
Plus, as if one person's unique lifetime would be enough time and energy to create all of the things that need to be created for the world to feel things and move forward in the way we all signed up for it to.
We need more than one person who creates. We need all of us.
So each morning, during that first period, I wish I had listened to her art just because it was art.
She painted pictures with her words, and I'll never forget how she made hallways sound romantic.
If I was me now then, I would of simply listened to her art because it was art.
I wouldn't of listened to her art to compare it to mine.
And I would of told my jealous heart that was beating faster than my admiring heart to remember that art is meant to be enjoyed. Not to be ranked.