What bothers me more is that it’s still bothering me. That I’m letting it bother me. They say to only let good tenants rent the space in your head. But here I am leasing it out to a douche bag on TikTok that made fun of my Harley Quinn drawing.
Ugh. The awkwardness. Super cringe.
Jan and I were talking with my 13-year-old the other day about so-called Internet “fame”. In a day and age where social media stats can quantify the very word “famous”, more and more kids have “stars in their eyes” on a whim that could actually come true. If the likes are enough, the reactions are a plenty – if the follower count grows exponentially high enough to justify the blue check mark of validation – you could actually end of up in the internet hall of fame. For better or for worse. And she wants to be famous.
Jan looked up from his phone and said: “Your Mother could never handle that type of fame.”
At first, I was super defensive. I crossed my arms, tossed my head back, narrowed my eyes and stared him squarely in the face. “And why not?” I asked defiantly.
“Because you can’t handle being criticized,” he smiled back.
I let the words roll around in my mind. I let them swirl, and churn. I soaked them in, and analyzed them. I chomped a bit at the word “criticized”. And then I swished around “can’t handle”. I tasted the flavour of the entire sentence. They danced like air bubbles across my head. I could pluck each word down from the clouds and scrutinize them one by one. Because. You. Can’t. Handle. Being. Criticized.
In that very moment, in the moment he criticized my ability to handle criticism, he had – in essence – killed two birds with one stone. He made me aware of one of my fatal flaws by channeling it to make a point.
But it didn’t fully make it’s way to fruition until I took a stab at sharing my art.
I have always wanted to be capable of drawing, and painting, and sketching, and creating pieces. I have yearned to be an artist. My head is always swirling with ideas. About plans. Salivating over art supplies. Craving to lighten walls, and windows, and empty pieces of paper with doodles and drawings, and colours. Since I was little, I’ve always wanted to be a great artist.
It wasn’t in the cards for me.
Some people are naturally talented. They have a lilt in their voice that reveals itself as warm vibrato as they sing. Some can see pictures in their minds they are able to translate to canvas through paints and charcoals, and coloured pencils. Some can find stone and rock, and clay and find ways to transform these mixed medias into the beautiful sculptures that adorn our cities and streets and skylines.
And some people need to work at it. People like me. People like me who were the children that didn’t know how to see more than what was presented to them. Who had to design ideas in their minds through hard work. Who weren’t naturally born with the artist gene. But instead had to develop it through time and work and learning.
And I am still learning. I was really proud of that silly Harley Quinn piece. I have sketched and drawn photos and coloured and painted. And not everything has been great, and in fact, much has been thrown in the trash. More lay scattered on deserted pages of old paper books, discarded canvases. Crumpled up remnants of the desire to create something worth looking at.
Of course, when you’ve just given up, a six year old from another country half way across the globe pops up with a masterpiece they drew with their toes. That’s how it feels, right?
But regardless. I took a silly video, and I time lapsed it, and I showcased the final product in the end. And I was proud. And I thought it was a snapshot of time and effort put into learning a craft I was not born to do. And yet, someone took the time and energy out of their day to shit on it. And I was embarrassed. Humiliated. Down came the video. Down came the photos. Down came the Instagram post and the Facebook story. Down came the evidence.
Because I recalled a woman who painted over the face of Jesus in Spain who’s now become internet famous for desecrating a priceless piece of art. I remembered the dude who sent Rihanna a graphite drawing he’d worked on and how Twitter melted his self esteem into a steaming pile of gloop that resides now only in the walls of internet fame. How many more people will have the work they’ve done, the art they’ve created, the songs they’ve written, the words they’ve penned, the choruses they’ve sung churned into comedic fodder for the assholes of the universe?
Jan was right. I couldn’t be internet famous.
It’s less about how I can’t handle the criticism – which, for the record, I’m aware I can’t – but moreso, I don’t want to summon the courage to try.
Let’s create art in the dark, for ourselves, for our loved ones. Let’s paint, and draw, and sing, and dance, and make art for the sake of being happy for those few precious moments we brought from our minds the pictures we see to the pictures we create on the page. On the stage. Through the mic. In the book.
I don’t need to share on the internet what I wasn’t born to do. But whether or not I’m a terrible artist, or an amateur with a potential, or just a kid with a pack of coloured pencils, creating has offered me a peace I can’t fully express. And no troll, no asshole, no mean-spirited jerk on TikTok can take that away.
— c ☆