There have been so many artists that have left everything behind to follow their dreams. Though much of the experience is a waking nightmare through reality, there is the necessity of a free spirit that keeps driving them to new destinations. Without a lot of foresight or planning, they uproot their lives as if they are shedding a cocoon, in search of a vast and comfortable place for their talent to flourish.
No matter the cost (that many can’t afford) they come in droves to the prestigious metropolises not suitable for the meek. All that is valuable is stored tight in their aspiring minds, with no need for the past, only the almost certainly better future. Leaving home is not about home at all really. Comfort and happiness manifests itself in other ways when ambition is your soul mate.
So many of the greats have set out on this journey, freeing themselves from the confines of desolate, bourgeois societies. It is hard not to feel trapped if you are not suffocated by aesthetics and culture, this affliction withstands the test of time. We are all the proverbial moths looking for the bright sweet heat of the flame, though it seems – many of us are sperm fighting over an egg.
It was a little over ten years ago when I first had my heart set on New York City. I was rife with young wisdom and obligatory naivete and so desperately wanted the clichéd dream. On one hand, the timing was perfect, after half finishing college and blindly seeing the world as my oyster. There was nothing holding me back. I had arranged for a cheap place to stay and I got hired to work for the most meager of wages at a thrift store, the bridge was opened. I didn’t cross it.
I can’t say if I regret my decision or not. To this day I still feel as though New York is a big challenge, primarily for the competition and the obvious monetary demands it takes to succeed there. Even with the dreaded and inevitable nails in the coffin to the resilient city, it has not lost the luster in my eyes.
Many years later, I thought again, “It’s time.” But when I was ready, I faltered and I couldn’t help but to succumb to doubt. Again, I had the opportunity to live in a reasonable place and find reasonable work, definitely a fortunate square one, but I wasn’t convinced that this was the proper way.
I have wondered how and why artists torture themselves with this ever present need to be “where it’s at”. It is no secret that in this genre of business it is 40% who you know, 20% talent and 40% who you know. Networking is key in most industries and with the newest bout of technological revolution, a keen understanding of new methods in communication is vital to survival in almost any field.
It is amazing to me that so many people just do it. They get up and go at a moment’s notice, and even if they don’t attain the hype they crave, they are still happy and most importantly, they survive.
I have never been a fan of living outside of my means which is why I am infamous for having 2 or more jobs at a time in order to fulfill my penchant for enjoying some of the finer things in life. I enjoy fine dining, having a nice apartment with nice things, the more than occasional glass of wine, and a fair amount of entertainment. Without this, I would not have the flora and fauna in my life to make art.
When I visited Berlin last year, I fell in love with the city, just as I did when I first met Manhattan. There was a cultural comfort and the way of life as told by the locals was alluring in so many ways. The manifest destiny of opportunity and affordable living catalyzed my desire to be here and after much ambivalence and arguing with id, I made the journey.
Everyone here is from somewhere else. The native Berliners are a rare and precious breed and they too have captivating stories about how they never want to leave. The stories all sound the same. Having met a plethora of artists, I am convinced and confused knowing that I made the right decision, but wondering if the historic lifestyle is fit for me.
Without income but with an unruly zeal, I have managed to survive in the most conventional definition of the term. Most everyone is living without much money and are desperately scrambling for the next gig in hopes of just maintaining the necessities to life in order to keep playing in the big pond of little fish.
I hear about the struggles and the intrigue but everyone is so happy to be here. The joie de vivre that spans across most of Europe is infectious and though many live day-to-day there is still that looming question of “What are you doing with your life?”
There are things that I miss about my American life. I will never know how I managed living the way I did, with two jobs, a healthy social life, a burgeoning artistic career and a time consuming commitment to be a slave to my writing in the background. Though there was the evolving proximity of success, there was the augmenting effects of growing up; many of my long-term friends were moving away. My support system has always revolved around them. Luckily in this day and age we have the internet. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t stay in contact with them.
Berlin is like a time warp in a way. It seems as though everyone is here for the obvious reason and despite the concern of worldly possessions, no one has any desire to conform to the rat race life that kills the ambition of American artists at an alarming rate.
I have been fortunate enough to find a new support system here in Germany that has been most helpful to me in making arrangements for my survival. There are fair but strict rules set in place regarding the legality of residency and work here, and it is a daunting process.
Regrettably (or not) I have been spending way too much time on this film that I won’t see a return from for at least 6 months. Though I love the project and it has been a great experience, it has kept me from seeking out more sustainable means of income and professional advancement. In the past two weeks I have had several things fall through that have made my future here look almost impossible, but still, everyone has faith in me.
Perhaps it is time to move on to Paris, or maybe back home. This disposition of mine is something I am not accustomed to. Though it was a tumultuous struggle back home, having to do so much for so little but still having just enough room to keep going, I am starting to reconsider toughing it out for a few more years until I can make it to New York City.
Everyone I meet believes in me and thinks that it is great that I did this. I think about the folks back home I have met over the years while working in stuffy offices and dead-end customer service jobs. Their eyes would light up with envy and admiration for my expressive resolutions to be a consummate artist. “Don’t give up on your dreams like I did,” they would remind me. Over and over again.
There is always someone I should meet here and the networking opportunities are great. Though sometimes my days are filled with being disappointed by empty promises and harebrained suggestions, I know everyone has my best interest in mind. It has always been my way to depend on myself, so reaching out for help is not the most viable option, no matter how much I try not to alienate the kindness of others.
I have a week left of shooting and some things working in the background. It will very much be the 11th hour next week when I am scrambling to try to make this venture work. I really don’t want to leave Berlin but I don’t want to live and work like this. I am not the kind of artist that is fine with living off of bread and cheese and box wine, going to bars bumming cigarettes and beers, working on projects that I don’t really believe in…I’ve come too far to go down that path.
There is good news, though at times it is hard to realize. I am thankful for my friends here. Many of them are quite accomplished in their own right. After a stint of art openings I went to the week before last, I was inundated with an abominable depression spawned by envy. There are so many talented people here. It is inspiring.
There are all these things that we crave in life. A great career, good health, and love. Let’s not talk about love. I’m distracted enough as it is.
There is still a wall in Berlin.
It does not split the city in two.
Yet still a structure built for destruction.
The vast concrete partition,
Lies between the life and death –
The entity that is ambition.
So they say the sky hangs low.
And there is no cold like this cold.
Still the warmth remains.
You must look hard enough,
From inside and from outside.
Never knowing what you seek to find.
The smiles are downturned and true.
Everyone is happiest here.
And they want to know the best of you.
The music sounds louder.
The food tastes more pungent.
The life is more amorphous.
We are all from somewhere else.
There is no other place here.
As so it is in rather land.
Pushing up against the city –
The overcrowded nest.
Fall get back up again. Repeat. Repeat.