A global pandemic that I never thought I would see in my lifetime inspired me to take my own journey into a new life. I recently quit all my steady jobs that I have had for more than 10 years, and moved out of my parents’ house, where I had lived for more than 20 years.
To move is a brave act for me, but the process brought out many inner emotions that I did not foresee. One of them is the feeling of burden. Now that I am seeing it in a much clearer light, I am approaching it head-on.
The burdens of being an artist
I identify myself as an artist, but it seems that I take every opportunity to doubt this. When people would ask if I am an artist, I would whisper with a doubtful ‘yes,’ as if I am an imposter.
The title is self-initiated, and the career is not a common one in my society. It becomes easy to blame the ‘society’ for not giving credit for what I do, when in reality, I am the only person who can validate my own title.
I have been praised again and again for my abstract artwork. It was even positively reviewed in an established art critic magazine. Yet, I remember the times when an ordinary stranger didn’t know how to comment on my work. It is as if I am choosing to degrade my glory, just to make my artist life suffer a little. With that, I am being like those ‘other artists,’ who suffer to make ‘good art.’
Seemingly, that was not enough. I then questioned the fact that I don’t sell anything. But, in fact, I have sold at least five artworks and numerous fashion art pieces I painted. Arrogantly speaking, I can say I did better than Van Gogh in his whole lifetime.
I am very into the idea that I am not earning as an artist because I am not selling my paintings. But I know that many artists in Hong Kong don’t survive by selling paintings. They work in art administration, art education or another field that puts bread on the table.
That is exactly what I have been doing for all these years!
While I have chosen to be in a niche career, there is still the weight of needing to fit in. This is an identity crisis I have had to work on. Right now, I am acknowledging my faults, and acknowledgment is the first step in the healing process.
The burdens of being a daughter
In Chinese culture, it is common for children to be living with their parents before they are married, and it is especially so for daughters. It is seen as the daughter taking care of the parents and vice versa. Like a lot of my friends, I am in my thirties, and I have been living with my parents for most of my life.
My work is steady and pays enough for my daily needs. I can also pay my parents an ‘allowance’ (a common practice to show your gratitude for them).
My house is huge, with my own room and an extra room as my painting studio, and my ‘stuff’ is all around the house. In a small city like Hong Kong, to live in such a house is more than a blessing. On top of that, I have a loving family, and they care for my every need. But … life is boring.
I was trying my best to ‘repay’ my parents by being with them, doing household chores, and actually giving them money. Yet, I still feel pressured to do more. The burden does not lessen when relatives and friends praise me for being a good daughter.
Even when my Mum truthfully tells me how blessed she is to have me as a daughter, I still feel the need to do more because I see that my parents are not happy, and I thought it was my job to make them happy.
When I suggest going for a picnic, buying them a meal or watching TV with them, and they are still unhappy, I have to realize that their happiness is out of my control. If I do something and expect them to be happy in return, I am asking them to make me feel better.
It is not until I moved out that I realized I have to feel good about myself too. Everybody has to deal with their own emotions.
The burdens of being
I moved into a household on a therapeutic island. In between working and looking for new jobs, I have spent many hours just chilling. It might be a lifestyle admired by many, but when given that much free time, I doubt whether I am doing enough to survive.
There are many moments that I check my bank account and see how much money I have, and then calculate how long I can live with the savings, as if I won’t be able to find new jobs.
I worry about things that have never happened to me, such as a car crash, COVID, or having to spend money I don’t have for a reason that I couldn’t even come up with. This lessens the fun I am having. It makes the moment feel a little more guilty.
Yes, horrible things happen to people, but now I am sitting on the bayside, watching the sunset, typing away with the calm waves crashing softly on the rocks. Am I in danger? No. To lessen my worries of being, I am learning to stay in the present. I have been meditating and reading to help my logical mind work less, and my heart to drive more.
When the world was feeling stuck, I finally took a step forward. We were once so sure of all the plans we made; however, the universe had other plans for us. My new adventure has only been a pleasant surprise. I don’t know what the future holds, but I choose the present: happy, content and calm.
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All art and photography by Vera Chiu