Usually around this time I tend to reflect back on the year to sort out what went wrong or right, what I learned and what lessons might stand out enough to give me new fuel for the next fire.
I don't know how it's possible, but I always end up saying something like, "This has been the most incredible year so far," no matter how great or heinous it was. There's always a takeaway that's filled with meaning, and this year has proved to be nothing less than jam-packed with the stuff that has once again changed my life for the better. And the interesting part is that everything changes my life for the better, even the sharp and oft-times poisonous flavors of negatively infused emotions.
This was the year I came to terms with the fact that if I am to live as a happy person, I have to live my life my way. I started seeing the difference between the actions and lifestyles of other people and my own and I see that in certain regards I am unique. But my uniqueness is not the default individuality that we're all privy to...what makes me 'special' is that I really don't do what I don't want to do. It's not about being stubborn; it's about knowing what I want and what I don't want - and if I don't want something, it will never be a part of my life.
It hit me earlier in the year that I really don't want to listen to the world, and so - I don't. The world is way too concerned with things that I'm no longer interested in. What I'm interested in is what defines me. My interests both simplify and intensify me. I refuse to be someone I'm not, and that means I don't do any of the things that are expected of me by people I couldn't care less about.
I don't want to work a 9-5 in an office because I would find that soul-destroying - and so, I don't. I don't see the slave labor of making great money as something I have to do just because the mob does it. I want to work as an artist and a writer, and so I do - and I work hard at it. My feeling is that, on some level, we all suffer somewhat for our jobs and our need to create money. What I've done is chosen the more pleasant path for my suffering. I make very little money as an artist and a writer. But at the end of the day I go to bed knowing that I didn't waste the day making money and hating my life, and that tomorrow, when I wake up, I won't just be one day older and stuck - I'll be one day older and equipped with the knowledge that I live my life my way and plan to do so until I die.
In being myself, I decided that with very little money I could still create and have adventures. While I may not be traversing Europe on a Ducati dressed in warm leatherette, I can still attend little events and conventions -- which thrill me, as I am a big fan of things like Comic Con and Monster Mania. This year I threw myself body and soul into being a fan and in doing so, I allowed my adoration of a few celebs to vault me front and center of their attention. I got to meet and experience an extended moment of quality conversation with someone whom I believe will go down in history as one of the world's greatest's actors -- Danish superstar Mads Mikkelsen of Hannibal and Casino Royale fame. In my long life of mingling with the stars, this man is by far the friendliest and most easy going. As flawless as he is at playing cold-hearted bad guys, his kindness and good-natured generosity override everything that would make a person believe he is anything less than an angel.
And no, I didn't have the money to go meet the actor at the convention - but I did get it done. Because I truly believe that if you really want something, you can make it happen. And I really wanted to meet Mads Mikkelsen. I made my schedule work because opportunity did knock, and I knew that I had to open that door. I met him because I remained true to myself and my dreams. I didn't let the noise of the world get in my way. I also knew it would be fun, and fun is a thing worth manifesting.
As for things that were once a ton of fun and have of late become less so, I realized that, sadly, it isn't as much fun as it once was to write for the Huffington Post - simply because it's not inspiring to write essays for a public that doesn't appreciate your story. One can only receive so many death threats, insults, challenges and disgusting comments before it all becomes redundant and uninspiring. So for those of you who read only to skim and leave hurtful comments for the writers, understand that one day, there will be no quality writers left because nobody wants to write for a gladiatorial pit of snakes. I write to tell stories and entertain, but no longer do I have the need to write just because I have the privilege and esteem of a Pulitzer Prize winning publication to float me - if the end result always ends up in the throwing of verbal rotten tomatoes, where is the fun in that?
And so, to thine own self be true. I spend every single day of my life painting - there is no day when I'm not being creative. Art is what makes this planet beautiful, and yes, it's a shame that artists live lives that are mostly unrecognized and underpaid - if paid at all. But this is my purpose.
People talk about finding their purpose, their meaning in life. I found mine, and I recognize it as my bliss, my totality. Rarely can anyone actually name their purpose, but what if we do know it? Should we suppress it so that we can fight for money doing things we hate doing? If in this small life we can actually put a finger on that which we recognize as our true essence, our vital nature - shouldn't we grab it and make the best of it? Yes, we should and that is what I do.
Sure I could be working at a job that would make me hate every second of my life - just to pay the bills, and that is what my life would be. Year after year of paying the bills with money earned off the pain I inflict on myself. I love money just as much as the next person, but I will make it my way or not at all. I can't be your slave. If not being rich is akin to suffering, then I choose to suffer my way instead of being in a job that will make me want to kill myself.
All I want to do is art - and thankfully, I can do it. So, why on earth should I do anything else? If you knew your purpose and were told to pursue it forever, would you argue not to? And why? Is it because there's a slave collar out there with your name on it that demands you use up all the good years of your life being something you're not while doing something you hate? Is the pursuit of money worth forgetting who you are in order to get it?
If I died tonight, I'd die doing what I love. And no, I don't have that vacation in France or that Ducati or even the warm leatherette...but I met Mads Mikkelsen, and that to me is an experience that cost me nothing and ended up in my creating hundreds of paintings and drawings. And I do have the knowledge that in this life - I was true to myself and I lived my life doing what I truly love to do. While the money might have been scarce, authenticity-wise, I was the richest person in town.
So, you talk the talk and you walk the walk. Now try to live the life.
Be yourself, no matter what they say.