Working in a place of survival

To be an artist is to be always aware. If I have learned anything over these past months… it is that I am constantly learning how capable my awareness is.

In both my personal life and professional, the tools I am crafting as an actor and creative stem from me. I am all the paint and canvas that I have available so that is where I began in this rediscovery of being an artist. I began with a rediscovery of me, which at this current moment has been painful.

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Source: Fanatic Studio / Science Photo Library

I’m sure many people understand the need a drive to be an artist, and many people have entirely no idea what that struggle is like. For me, logistics like surviving month-to-month or paycheck-to-paycheck used to excite me or give me drive to create with what I had. But, that wears on a person.

What is survival? You can think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs…

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Source: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs / Wikipedia

Many graphics display this need for survival as a pyramid or ladder, that life is a journey toward finding self-actualization. However, I feel like this is completely inaccurate. The above image feels much more accurate. If time is equal to personal development, assuming that a person is always striving to better themselves (which I feel like might not always be the case), then this need for meaning or purpose in life would likely grow as well. I used to think of this progression as a journey or path that one would go down to explore themselves fully and to eventually reach this idea of self-actualization.

That is unfortunately not the case as I have been trying to move my need forward toward love and belonging, but that path has been riddled with pain and suffering this past month. I had two emotional breakdowns of pure anguish that felt like my gut was being compressed into the size of a golf ball. These experiences allow me to feel things more deeply and more comprehensively, but when I am in the midst of the journey of feeling it seems like I cannot comprehend what is happening to me as it is happening.

Now that I am reflecting on these past experiences… one that happened in acting class and one that happened after a realization about a love interest… I realize that you never stay in any of these needs at one time. In an instance, you can come crashing down to the bottom of your need. And the catalyst for that drop is the confrontation of truth and yourself.

Do I strive for self-actualization? Sure. Why wouldn’t I want to. Would you?

There are moments when I feel like I have a glimpse of what that looks and feels like… in the most quiet and desperate reaches of my existence, but currently I feel like my core need right now is that of love. Of acceptance of myself by others and therein myself. But why would I risk my own personal definition of self on that of other people to throw onto me like a blanket of their own projected bull shit. With all the fucking blankets I’ve collected I could open an Etsy shop and ship all over the world for 43 years. So what are my options to survive as an artist? Isolate myself from everyone so that I can journey inward? Move home to Seattle and try to live rent free with my parents until I can get grounded again? No.

I think the answer lies in little steps and forgiveness of self.

Yes I have to pay the rent, feed myself, pay the debt, go to the show, meet the friend for drinks, buy that director coffee, but what do I do for me?

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Source: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

I think the rarest commodity I can give myself is time. It is something everyone wants more of, but I can live purposefully and prioritize myself. My fear with this choice is that I want a balance between letting people into my life / past my walls that obstruct my inner artistic expression and the personal freedom that comes with getting to know my self-actualized needs.

What do you think? Where do I find that balance? Asking for a friend.

Written by

actor, creative, and environmental activist. ryarmstrong.co

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