Art Is Useless

When I was seven, my parents took me to see Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. I do not remember the whole experience, but my mom always likes to embarrass me with her reenactment of how I bawled the whole night and kept asking “Why did Anakin turn to the dark side?”

 

That “why” turned out to be my creative drive and philosophy in life: why do people do the things that they do?

 

It's no secret that, stereotypically but also truthfully, the culture I grew up in encourages practicality, emotional detachment, and reservedness. But I was raised by two dramatic, emotional, expressive idealists. We went to plays, musicals, movies, and concerts every other day when I was little. A worn out copy of Hamlet I came across in school library in 4th grade, that I read obsessively over and over again, was never returned and still lies on my bookshelf. Art in general, especially storytelling, has always been the air I breathe, the safe haven I go to when the world seems a tad too overwhelming, and the one thing I can hold on to no matter how chaotic my life can be. Despite all of its obvious lifesaving functions, the negging voice in my brain (I call it Terry, from the Terry in Soul) still tells me: art is useless. Art is how you go broke and starve.

 

As I felt embarrassed for not being this passionate about something more practical and useful like engineering or medicine, I could not help but dive into reading and watching everything I could get my hands on about filmmaking, theater, creative writing, acting. The process of directing and writing empowered me from the inside out.

 

But the real challenge hit me after I graduated in 2020. Covid. Financial strain. A sense of helplessness towards adulting to the current chaotic world. The ever increasing guilt and shame towards all the mistakes I have made regarding my career choice. They hit me all at once. The desire for recognition and "success", whatever the hell it means, slowly came to outweigh the simple joy to create. Making art became... work. 

 

Even though I expected such “quarter-life crisis”, experiencing it still sucks. An internal storm led me to many dark nights of the soul. To cope with such misery, I turned, as always, to movies, plays, music —— art.

 

As cliche as it sounds, I came to learn that the only thing that can triumph over the politics, racism, and all the hate in the world, is humanity. Art is the most powerful tool to remind people of it. By pretending to be someone else in fictional worlds and telling stories, we find the truth to our existence.

 

Terry still yells at me from time to time saying "why couldn't you be a doctor instead of a 'filmmaker'? You're not even making films." I'm still navigating through this chaos that is my 20s. But I guess I'm learning to enjoy the journey instead of pining for the success. I'm tracing back to why and how I started out in the first place. I'm learning to be bold and brave again. I am learning to be grateful for the joy to simply make shit.