In today’s world of mega corporations and super-sized success, it’s fair to say that art is thrown on the back burner. If you’re not convinced, we have the recent demise of art-oriented papers The Hour and the Mirror. This comes as a surprise in our city, which is more creatively healthy than most other metropolises in the country, not to mention the western world.
I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in a stable community, where those around me didn’t have any serious financial challenges — but consequently most people tended to follow static paths: high school, university, career, family. Before going to college, I had never met anyone whose art wasn’t considered just a “hobby.” Due to its weak financial return, artistic pursuits were only side projects.
But I’ve been writing ever since I learnt what writing was. When I was barely out of the first grade I started penning my odd and fantastical worlds of castles and thirteen-year-old heroines. By age 6, I had pegged writing as my lifelong passion and imagined myself a celebrated writer, pledging to have a book out by the age of twelve and become immeasurably famous. But while this dream has stuck with me, I never did publish that book at twelve, and I’m miles away from famous.
Needless to say, with countless teachers in high school harping “just wait till you get to college,” and my Dad’s repeated references to the “real world,” I began to worry about whether or not my dream would keep a roof over my head. I started formulating Plan B. And while I still wrote as much as I could, the notion that writing would be relegated to a side project started to settle in my mind. There was no way I could write all day with no worries of survival.
This isn’t an uncommon story. I can’t claim to say that I’ve seen much in my life, but I’m beginning to understand its brevity. I’ve recently graduated from Cégep and am on to the “real world” portion of my life. I’m trying to save up enough to get an apartment in the winter to make travel time to university less brutal. To meet this goal I’ve been taking as many shifts as I can at work. This, of course, leaves little time for writing, and little time for contributing to this very site, which brings a new reality to this “back burner” business.
Still, “success” is rendered insignificant when I think about what makes us human. I’ve always loved being close to the action, picking up on vibes and understanding how others see the same world as I do. I think the one place where I’ve always felt these good vibrations the strongest, vibrations of understanding, has been in a crowd at a show. It’s in the synchronized claps, the cheers, and the lighters setting fire to the sky right above our heads. It’s in the complete silence before the buildup of more emotional, transcendent songs that require one’s full attention. This very feeling is how I found music and event journalism, and The Rover. I wasn’t going to settle for anything else; I needed the fire, I needed the passion and I needed to keep writing.
We all know to follow our dreams, but how many of us actually became firefighters or rock stars? Are we living each day feeling completely alive, or are we coasting, waiting passively for “something” to happen? And can this “something” even realistically happen while we insist on conforming to a narrow concept of success?
It’s hard to find a balance. Sometimes to get what we need (including what we don’t know we need), we have to just jump into it and leave everything else, all other important obligations, on the legendary back burner. Because I see now that life isn’t about being the kid who gets to be a firefighter. It’s about remembering how much you loved to ride your bike as you followed the fire truck – and seeking that feeling in everything you do. The path to dreams is probably longer and more confusing, but every little thing you see on the way can become a reminder, an inspiration, something uniquely beautiful — even if you’re the only one to recognize it. And if it takes my whole life to find this place, to climb up into my own, personal fire truck, that’s fine.
I went to the Jazz festival last Wednesday night. It was local MC Narcicyst’s final show in Montreal before leaving for Dubai. Towards the end of his set, he asked the audience to raise their hands in unison in recognition of each person’s personal struggles. The result was grounding. Thousands of spectators waved their arms together. There was no hostility, no distance. Just each person feeding off of one another, total peace.
That’s the best place I can suggest for those lost and wondering where to start: a crowd. Surrounded by others, it’s the great leveler, where fear and uncertainty can just dissolve, where you can float with the rest of the good vibrations. What remains is what matters: the excitement, the art and the very pulse of being here, one of many. And seeing an artist up on stage helps me remember why art is so important to me; how it strips me raw, wakes me up, and allows me to breathe just the way I need to.
We live in a city that comes completely alive in the night — with endless possibilities of free shows and collective experiences, especially over the summer. So if you find yourself wandering into a crowd, don’t panic. Maybe it’s time to let go and remember what it is that makes you feel so alive and so at peace at the same time. In other words, remember your dreams.