Culture & Conversation

Remember to Breathe

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 of this, we have the recent demise of art-oriented papers The Hour and the Mirror. This, of course, comes as a surprise in our city, which is considered 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, one where people don’t really have any serious financial trouble — but consequently one where people tend to follow rather static paths: high school, university, career, family. Before going to college, it was rare to meet anyone who had serious artistic aspirations that were not considered “hobbies.” In other words, valuable only as side-projects due to their weak financial return.

I’ve been writing ever since I learnt what writing was. When I was barely out of the first grade I started penning away my odd, disjointed and yet fantastical worlds of castles and thirteen-year-old heroines. I pegged writing as my lifelong passion at age 6 and imagined myself as a celebrated writer, pledging to have a book out by the age of twelve and become immeasurably famous. This dream, unlike many other of my elementary school ventures, never left. But I never did end up publishing that book at twelve, and I’m miles away from famous. Luckily, fame has lost its importance in the grand scheme of things.

Needless to say, with countless teachers in high school harping away, saying “just wait till you get to college,” and my Dad’s repeated references to the “real world,” I started to worry about whether or not my dream was enough to keep a roof over my head. I started thinking up alternatives. And while I still wrote as much as I could, the notion that writing would have to become a side project for me started to settle in my mind. I couldn’t live the dream of spilling my thoughts out on to paper all day with no worries of survival. Not even the bare essentials seemed attainable anymore.

This isn’t exactly 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. Again, a pretty universal realization. But this being said, I think obvious things are worth repeating, right? You often forget about what you think you know. And this is one of those instances where I should be reminding myself.

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. This is a goal that I’ve been struggling to meet, picking up as many shifts as I can at work. This, of course, leaves little time for writing creatively, and little time for contributing to this very site, which brings a new reality check to the “back burner” business.

Still, this whole stable, “success” notion is rendered insignificant enough when I take a step back and think about what makes us human, what wakes us up in the morning, and what makes us shine brighter on one day as opposed to the next. I’ve always loved to be close to the action, to be around other people, to pick up on their vibes and understand how they see the same world as I do but through their own, different perspectives. 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. I feel it from the synchronized claps, the lighters held aloft, and cheers. And from the complete silence before the quiet buildup of 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.

If I’ve kept your attention for this long, I’m sure you’ve found some kind of connection with what I’ve had to say, and realized that I’m not writing this for myself. I’m writing this to make a point. 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?

Sometimes it’s hard to find a balance. Sometimes to get what we need (often what we don’t know we need), we must jump full-fledged into whatever it is and leave everything else, all other important obligations, on the legendary back burner. Because life isn’t about being the kid without training wheels and the shiny new bike; it’s about making it as close as you can to that firetruck so that every little thing you see is a reminder, an inspiration, something uniquely beautiful. Even if you’re the only one to recognize it. And if it takes you your whole life to find this place, to climb up into your own personal firetruck, that’s fine, as long as you know that you were honestly looking for it and making every day as alive as it can be.

But I have to admit that it’s pretty hard to even know where to start. But maybe that, too, is okay. I went to a show on Wednesday night at the Jazz festival. It was local MC Narcicyst’s last show in Montreal before leaving for Dubai. Before one of the last songs 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.

So, for those lost and wondering where to start, that’s probably the best place I can offer: a crowd. Surrounded by others I have felt the leveling, and I’ve been able to let some fear and uncertainty go and simply float in the good vibrations. I can unlearn stress and just be myself. What’s left is what matters: the excitement, the art, the pulse, the one of many. We live in a city that comes completely alive in the night — with endless possibilities of free shows and collective movements, especially over the summer. You may just find yourself wandering into a crowd, and once you’ve made it this far, you might remember what else makes you feel so at peace and so alive all at the same time.


Photo: The Crowd at The Narcicyst’s show as part of the Montreal International Jazz Fest on Wednesday, July 4th, 2012. By Frédérique Ménard-Aubin.



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