A good friend recently took the time to scan and email me an issue of a zine1 I used to "publish." God knows how he managed to hold on to it for this long, but just seeing it immediately brought me back to a state of mind that I haven't experienced for some time now. Presumptuous, audacious, overconfident. Like most young people of a certain age, I often acted as if the planets revolved around me, and had convinced myself it was my duty to present my substantial gifts to a starving public. All I needed was my trusty saddle stapler, a stack of 6" x 9" envelopes, and a book of stamps.
It's not that there was anything overtly wrong with that. Taken in context, you can say that it was a good effort. Still, I can't help but to cringe a little. That blossoming creative phase can be so awkward. First, you start to develop a sensibility for artistic pursuits. Maybe start watching art-house films, listen to some independent music, discover the Beats. Something starts to click and you start to pawn some of it for your emerging identity. Strong opinions are formed. You regurgitate everything you read. You experiment. Maybe even pick up a movie camera, guitar, or a pen and boldly offer what's sure to be a fresh take. Then, fall in love with it. Next thing you know you've self-published an awful collection of short stories that borrow badly from J.D. Salinger, and have mailed them out unsolicited to people you know. Cough.2
Somewhere along the line you develop some self-awareness, thank heavens. Life delivers a few hard knocks. Wider competition and contention put you in your place. You begin to see where you really stand in the big scheme of things. With age also comes the maturity to deliberately step back, as you learn a little about humility and modesty. You try to listen more than you speak. Most of all, you just don't take yourself so seriously.
In my case, though, I think I withdrew too far. Even though reading that zine again may have been embarrassing, it also brought to my attention how much I have lost my voice. It's one thing not to blow a lot of hot air, but it's another to not chime in at all.
Take social media, for instance. If these networks were around in my heyday I'm sure I would've filled my channel with plenty of noisy rhetoric. Oh, there would be posts. And comments. And links. Lot of links to trendy things to confirm my cool. The truth is I don't even have a Facebook account. I kind of have Twitter, but I always feel a tinge of sheepishness every time I hit send, knowing that my random thought will be immediately pushed to every single one of my
29 30 followers, who most certainly will pull out their phones and mutter, "Who cares?"
The next phase, I think, is where you start to feel comfortable in your own skin. I think I'm finally getting there. You're not concerned as much with what other people think. It's not as important. You develop your own authentic preferences and tastes. You're not interested in standing out nor blending in. There is no drive to be impressive, but you're not intimidated to participate. Even if this renewed earnestness is met with snark, it doesn't keep you from active engagement.
So let this, my first entry here, be the beginning of a new relationship with creating and contributing to the universe at large. One where I can meander at will, and explore topics I find interesting. Where there is freedom to write in the first person, without any thought of affirmation by way of a star, favorite, or Like.
* A zine is small-circulation periodical usually created through cutting-and-pasting together various images with article text and then running off copies on a Xerox machine. The zines were then hand assembled and mailed out to subscribers or traded for other zines. The image for this post is from a back cover. ↩
* Please, please, please let none of these exist anymore. ↩
Back to the Life section »