I stifle myself. I nervously chuckle. I shrug. I hope that the question will linger in the air long enough that it withers in strength and falls to the floor in ignored irrelevance. I dance around my true answer for one that is only partly true.
Or, I say it quickly in a skeptical offhand manner as if disregarding it as being ridiculous myself. My inner voice screams otherwise.
You know the question. It’s a small-talk, get-me-out-of-this-conversation-ASAP staple. Most have no problem confidently declaring their classic ambitions of being a lawyer, doctor or businessman. I, along with others who have aspirations in arts and entertainment, am not so lucky. The question: “What do you want to do with your life?”
I want to be a screenwriter. I want to be a creator. A director. A producer. A novelist. A humorist. A columnist. All of them.
That is my answer. That is what my mind shrieks within the soundproof walls of my skull. Shh, quiet down in there. I smack the voice into obedience as I respond with some noncommittal answer that portrays me as a a wide-eyed boy traveling through an unknown forest by candlelight — afraid and unsure. I have received concerned glances or skeptical inflections in the form of the word “oh” during the times that I have expressed what I truly want to do.
A near-cliche about writing is Ernest Hemingway’s quote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I have found that the times I have placed my fingers on the keyboard and allowed my mind and heart to be painted onto the page without any self-imposed barrier are the times that I have produced some of the pieces I am most proud of. But, it is also terrifying. Giving your thoughts and emotions concreteness for others to consume is one of the hardest things I have done. You supplant yourself onto the page and then someone can grasp it, crumple it up and throw it back into your face with a few negative words.
The subjectivity involved in art restrains me from declaring my love for it to others, because they could so easily think I am the worst creative mind in the world and discard my dreams as foolery.
Furthermore, monetary stability is hard to obtain in the creative field of entertainment — hence the concerned glances. There are a select few who are talented or fortunate enough to make a substantial living from producing art. An SFGate article shows that the cost of attaining a four-year art degree is very similar to the amount of money these grads will earn over a 20-year span. The image of a starving artist is firmly planted into our minds, and it appears to be a somewhat accurate depiction.
But, to hell with all of that. Forget the self-doubt, the fear, the money.
As I look over my columns from this semester, I notice a thread that runs through many of them: how people connect with arts and entertainment and how it affects our lives. Art is vital to who we are as humans. It gives us inspiration, pleasure, understanding, company, romance, laughter and countless other emotions our bodies yearn for — need, even.
So, what do I want to do with my life? I want to create something that directly affects someone’s life on a deep level. I want to be a producer of the beautiful works that give our world vibrancy and meaning, regardless of someone thinking my work is awful or the meager number in my bank account. If you want to join me, be proud. State it confidently. Pursue it. Because it is truly a noble dream.
Therefore, as this running column comes to a close, I hope at least one of my pieces this semester has affected you in one way or another. Whether it be laughter or thoughtfulness, I aimed to reach out and stir that intangible, emotional something inside of you.
It’s been a pleasure.