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 reenacts 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?

 

I grew up in a culture that encourages practicality, emotional detachment, and humility. But I was raised by two dramatic, emotional, expressive idealists. I remember going to plays, musicals, movies, and concerts with my family every other day when I was little. I remember coming across a worn out copy of Hamlet in my school library in 4th grade, and reading it obsessively over and over again. That copy was never returned and still lies on my bookshelf. Art in general, especially narrative arts, has always been the air I breathe, which, however, was not shared by my culture. Culturally I was always taught “art is useless”. I have been on stage since I could remember, yet I learned from a very young age that wanting to be seen and heard is nothing but narcissistic, vane, and arrogant. Although performing gave me such ecstasy and euphoria, which meant so much more than those stereotypes to me, I tried my best to bury the urge to perform.

 

In the meantime, the craving for artistic expression could not be silenced in me. As I felt embarrassed for not being this passionate about something more practical 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 mental creative process of directing and writing, as opposed to the more physical process of acting, empowered me from the inside out. Against my family’s and other social expectations, I chose to study media, filmmaking, and theater in college.

 

But the real challenge hit me after I graduated from college in 2020. I was lucky enough to land a directing gig for a mini-series. But for various reasons, the project was impermanently halted in post production. Financial strain, a sense of helplessness towards adulting and facing the current chaos of the world, and the ever increasing guilt towards all the mistakes I have made, hit me all at once. The sense of responsibility and desire for recognition outweighed the simple joy to create.

 

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 understand my own 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. With that epiphany, my ego seemed to dissolve, so did my misery. Instead of repressing my passion for acting, I start to understand how liberating it can be. By pretending to be someone else in fictional worlds on stage, we find the truth to our existence. I am persisting with the scripts I have been writing, and the projects I have been producing and directing. I do not expect them to turn out successful anymore, because I am grateful enough for the joy to simply make shit.