born of frustration
September 19, 2012 1 Comment
A month or so short of my 32nd year and I still struggle with the whole ‘life not being fair’ thing. This is a warbling blog post about that.
A favourite response of my Mum to my whining as a child was: “Life isn’t fair, never has been and never will. Get over it.” It was usually in response to something my brother had done, how I had felt wronged by him, the victim. And he was almost masochistically superior in childhood, often psychologically bludgeoning me into surrender, convincing me I never would be good enough, I could never compete.
Enough time has passed now, but residue embitterment at the general unfairness of life remains as strong as ever. I still shirk competition.
While the traditional whinges of this blog have been based around being hopelessly lonely, over the past 6 months or so that has mercifully changed. Someone happened along and it’s been fantastic.
But there are still plenty of reasons to whine about the depressing struggle with perceived unfairness. On numerous occasions I’ve queried myself on this blog about being worth more than a corporate voice-piece for a total idiot. Why do I still do nothing about this? Laziness and comfort zones, I guess.
More than the things which make money and allow me to live in comfort, I am still apparently unable to resign artistic ambition, as much as I feel it would be kinder on myself if I did.
Early ambitions, pretensions, efforts – whatever you want to call them, were based around the written word. Not inconsiderable efforts achieved no return. In more recent years the written word has been displaced by photography. For a couple of years now it’s been a deep passion and something I work tirelessly at, but which also doesn’t feel like work because I love it so much. I pour hours into it, like I did into writing and still do into reading. It can make me excited and make me spontaneously smile. I carry a camera with me everywhere and try to learn, although the technical stuff doesn’t lodge easily in my innumerate brain. And secretly, while I don’t make a habit of saying it out loud, I think I’m sort of ok at it now – better than writing, where I was challenged by plot, structural coherence and monotone. I have a decent portfolio and with the right backing, a little self-belief and a bit of appropriate support I could pull off a decent enough exhibition; in the right place and with the right people through the door maybe even make a few quid from it.
It’s a shame that it’s one of the most ludicrously popular ambitions, hobbies, past-times. And I don’t know anybody worth knowing and have no meaningful support. At any event worth photographing, there are scores of people wielding bulky, nicer, more expensive looking cameras than mine – two-thirds of them not even official; just chancers like me.
This would be fine, or at least more acceptable, if big media controllers were more thoughtful and selective about the images they use. But when they select poor images from people whose shoulders I rubbed, and use them in a BBC slideshow – as happened last weekend, that makes me angry and infuriated and even more frustrated. (Poor images in that they weren’t even cropped straight, or in focus, not poor in that they were just boringly standard).
I find this in my paid work too, when very occasionally trying to pitch nichey trade stories or content with a little more depth than usual. If editors of a widgetflobble magazine have to think harder than usual about something, they will click delete. It appears media folk rarely go out of their way to seek difference and higher quality and creativity. They simply rest on what they know and what is easy because that’s how it’s always been done and nobody ever complains. This mentality is cited in the Soccernomics context of how football clubs are run, today in a world of richer data about players and transfers and statistics, but it’s wider spread than that.
While I know life isn’t fair and it’s foolish to go seeking reason for the majority of heavy stuff that happens – as mentioned in my last post, you still can’t help but feel you deserve a break from time to time. You actually can’t help but seek reason, an equation, some logic for why things do or don’t happen, as much as you know it is nonsensical.
That handyman you half know from the gym and casually recommended to someone on Facebook: he thanked you because he got a load of work from it. That was nice. What goes around must come around, you found yourself hoping. You hold open doors for ignorant fat people, you pick up things dropped in the street by oblivious old people, you dedicate a wedge of spare time to voluntary work, some of which helps people. It will come around.
When will it fucking come around?!
Is the recent appearance of a girlfriend.. it? I mean it’s great, fantastic, brilliant. Or is it the continued reasonable health of my small business? That’s something to be grateful for which could be pulled from under my feet tomorrow. (I sometimes both fantasise and fret about that, having the puppet strings severed to that main idiot client; the intoxicating liberty and worry of my main revenue pipeline being cut). Should I now want for no more? Because my life isn’t quite as boringly pathetic now, with her it’s more fun than it was. Where should hopes and expectations end? Should hopes and expectations end?
Her struggle with an offensive third sector salary depressed again on the subject fairness. It illuminated an issue I’d never experienced first-hand before, about women’s pay and how it’s horribly disproportionate to men. Challenging this salary necessitated the supposed managing director of a charity (female) to report to a board of crusty old men in suits named Bob, who sneered at the idea of a significant raise for a longstanding and key member of staff above an already pitiful rate. When you consider this alongside the number of public sector old boys clubs, the amount of private sector corruption, it sickens. But at least it’s a job.
Fairness can often feel like it’s in short supply, given a time of squeezed budgets and in an atmosphere which doesn’t and maybe cannot reward smaller-voiced creativity. Knowing the right people and having the bollocks to confidently bluster bullshit to whoever will listen is as vital as ever. Even if it makes you look like a twat. Like many, I am sickened and bored by the number of social media muppets out there guffing away, the number of social media conferences and the broadly contentious rhetoric spouted. And for every one of them there’s also a photographer or a video producer or a writer, each of them infinitely more assured than you, or so it seems.
These could be the words of a bitter man fumbling and mumbling away from young manhood and into middle age, comfortably childless, painfully aware that he’s never achieved any significant amount of recognition for anything he’s done. (For many I imagine children are a good antidote. The stunted ambition-soothing balm of offspring, the potential to enjoy success and recognition through them, however big or small. Nothing wrong with that at all, but probably not for me).
A man aware the chances of this recognition are growing ever slimmer with the bulging populace of this island.
A man who has spent most of the last three years sitting in small office rooms of residential flats on his own, writing mainly about software and spending a lot of time on the internet.
A man who really doesn’t want to crave that recognition anymore – it’s sort of crass and distasteful and horribly popular; but still, despite himself, does.
He is no different. Perhaps he should try to finally accept that life isn’t fair.
There was a warbly warning right at the top.