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Artist’s Portfolio

It’s like a cold story
repeated over and over
in the winters of our mind

“When the tide rolls out, you find out who’s been swimming naked”
– Warren Buffett, paraphrased by me (badly)

The above is a well known business quote by the great investor. Specifically about people who seemingly run robust operations when the sun’s out during a bull market. But it isn’t until the bear markets and recessions pop up, when the shit really hits the fan, that you find out for real who (and what) is or isn’t actually fragile or sustainable.

With all that’s going on recently, it’s a thought that keeps coming back to me. And not just because I have one eye on the stock market (see: previous thoughts on changing my relationship with risk and money and proactivity).

It doesn’t matter how relatively unphased I am by the whole thing or how short this whole affair ends up being or how overblown the downside is. I still have to respect that the world probably isn’t going to be the same post-Covid, same as after 9/11. Certain surprising things have been laid bare and some genies are out their bottles forever.

Certain assumptions. About our ways of life or our cultures and values. About what we thought was important or what we scoffed at. Our institutions and philosophies. Our leaders and systems. Our relations to one another, both as individuals and as nations.

People will die in the fallout of all this. Others will be ruined financially. Many through dumb luck or pre-existing issues. But many also through laziness or ill-preparedness. Some of them will be people you and I know or even care about. That’s just the odds I suppose. But for the fortunate who are left standing afterwards, we should be pondering about how naked we turned out to be.

I think we’ll look back at this point in time and scratch our heads at how oblivious we were to so much. At how it took something like this to shake us up. And at how we got by for so long wearing so little. And I think we’ll be doing it for decades to come.

Stay safe.

I watched the Korean hit movie Parasite last weekend. Was great. There’s no secret that the movie’s got something to say about class. The characters we follow in it are likeable shitty survivors. We want them to win. The people they leech off are the clueless wealthy elite. Who don’t really do anything wrong, other than be kinda hypocritical and sheltered.

This post isn’t about the movie. But (mild spoiler warning) it does point out how oblivious and uncaring our betters can be of our dire situations. They hold their noses at the whiff, not realising what people have had to go through just to survive. What can be a home-ruining storm for us is a cancelled holiday for them.

Having said that, why would they not enclose themselves off from us? Our paparazzi chase the visibly successful like vultures and we feed on their personal lives like vampires. Perhaps they had greater fortune than some on the climb up, but you better damn well be sure they were clawed at by the crabs too. And they still won.

I came across this clip of Jay-Z speaking at a University recently too:

And it got me thinking. He says the seclusion and sacrifice is worth the opportunities he is afforded. Worth the access he is granted to certain company solely due to the success he’s achieved. Access to rooms where he feels comfortable being who he is, as a man. In his own words, “as himself”. I’m happy for him, as a fan who grew up listening to him.

The kicker is, as a long-time fan, I always felt like Jay-Z always looked a little uncomfortable in the halls of rap. In his ascent, his peak; alone and amongst his friends; as rapper, el presidente and mentor. Always. Why? Do you know what this man did for us? Did for the culture? The place he holds within it?

Jay-Z wrote The Black Album and The Blueprint and Reasonable Doubt. He has well over 10 #1 albums (I can’t be bothered to check how many) at this point. He was a King of NY: the man threw shots at Nas and took heat from Tupac. Friend to The Notorious B.I.G. and married to ‘the hottest chick in the game’. He birthed a dynasty and record label and grew a net worth of over $1B USD. The careers of Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T.I., Lupe Fiasco and untold others spin out of his own in some shape or form.

Even after accomplishing so much (which benefitted the people as much as himself)… this man still didn’t feel comfortable growing his hair out until he fully ascended us. He survived the Marcy projects, shootings, 90s rap beefs, label discord, and boardroom dramas. This motherfucker shot his own brother as a child: don’t tell me he doesn’t have ice running through his veins.

And yet. He still had to extricate himself from all the crabs… from all the parasites, before he felt comfortable enough to grow out his hair. So maybe he and his ilk might hold their noses at us from time to time. Maybe they are a little detached. I think maybe I don’t blame them so much any more.

Oh sweetest spacegirl

We thought our love to be one for the ages
that the stars themselves beat for us
that the heavens played and the angels sang
for us

The beating heart that is the universe
– time’s accordion –
contracting and expanding its pockets
little Nows in their little trajectories, present everywhere
and one of them once ours for a lifetime

Oh foolish young love

Perhaps these are the final thoughts of a dying starman being torn apart
shredded memories of a lover twisted infinitely thin
into cosmic spaghetti
Do you remember the first time we went for Italian together?

or maybe I’ve already gone beyond that black veil
how to process such a notion?
that you are inaccessible to me and I am lost to you 

And I promised you the heavens
Oh foolish starcross’d love

Hugh knew exactly where he’d find Stevie when he opened the door. What he hadn’t yet figured out though was how to broach the topic with her once he did. He put his phone in his mouth as he fished around for the keys, careful to bite with his lips. Fridays he always finished work early, but purely to buy her a little time he’d decided to do additional grocery shopping. If she isn’t doing what I think she is… maybe we can cook together. Like how we used to.

He turned the key and stepped in. The thick stench of body odour and old sweat knocked him back. ‘Jesus Christ Stevie,’ Hugh said, jerking his nose away. Dropping the phone – and then the groceries as he tried to catch his phone.

He should’ve been used to it by now. The smell. But it had intensified again. This morning when Hugh had left for work, it was far worse than every other day this week. But in the space of half a day it had become more potent again. The stench growth is non-linear, he couldn’t help thinking.

‘Hey Hughie. Back so soon? Hope there wasn’t any eggs in there.’ Stevie stewed around on the couch but didn’t bother to get up.

‘Stevie. We need to talk.’ Hugh left the bag and phone where they fell.

‘Here we go again.’ To her credit, Stevie sat up now and made space for him to sit beside her. Hugh opted for the table instead, windshield wiping a forearm’s worth of mess off it first. He made sure to block her view of whatever game she was playing. He knew it would kill her.

‘Please tell me you’ve sent off an application this week. Just one.’

Silence. ‘Just tell me you’ve started one then. That you’ve found one opening and got a tab open.’ Nothing. He loaded up the laptop beside him. ‘Give me something to work with. Please.’ There were no such tabs to speak of.

Stevie rubbed the back of an arm. ‘Well. I only just woke up.’

‘And last night? Yesterday? It’s three pm, Stevie and you’ve not so much as sniffed a shower. I gave you a whole bloody week. You promised me.’

‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I can’t seem to do anything. It’s like… it’s like my health bar won’t fill back up.’

‘It’s a soap bar you’re missing. Mum would be horrified. You’re a grown woman Stevie.’ It was too much but Hugh had held back for too long. Perhaps in being so patient and kind he’d even enabled her sloth. ‘You used to go on and on about carving poetry into stone. What happened to that girl? What happened to that fire?’

Stevie shrugged her shoulders. Her eyes cast down to the control pad on the floor. ‘I’ve been wondering that myself.’

This is how I win

The greatest bang for your buck in personal development is probably to develop your parent function, which in my case is Ne, or extroverted intuition. I always thought I used it pretty well. I use it well enough to get along with strangers in one-on-one situations. It’s exciting in small comfortable house party settings.

My siblings (who’ve been looking into MBTI typing much longer than me) originally had me pegged as an ENFP because I express my Ne-ness a LOT more around them. And then I realised they have a skewed perception of me, which is kinda interesting but whatever. I’m always trying to align schedules to pull off some new event-type activity. If I don’t, who else will? (Genuine answer: probably none of them) I just took it to be my duty as the eldest sibling. Somebody has to open up the game.

My sisters recently said they couldn’t wrap their heads around my Ne function and how it pertains to me. Moreso than reigning in my hero Fi (introverted feeling), it seems to operate in its own little disassociated bubble. And they’re… sort of not wrong. It’s like I have my general personality, and if somebody engages optimistically or indulges me, I switch into this giddy alter-ego. Like I switched up a few gears. Doing it feels powerful, and energising (and later, also exhausting). It’s me at my best. You should see me on fucking holiday man.

I’m definitely good at using it for the things I use it for. Brainstorming. Learning and theorising and understanding. Making connections. Deconstructing stuff. Making things align. And I use it a fair amount.

But I’m starting to wonder if I’m actually developing it though. Using ≠ maturing. Janna said developing your parent function is supposed to be difficult, because the orientation of the function is the opposite of your preferred hero function. But I don’t find what I currently do difficult anymore.

I need to push out more often again, out of my comfort zone. I did the first hard part in nailing myself down to a schedule. But now I need to make greater space within it for more spontaneity and new ‘new’s. Specifically in the uncomfortable ways I’ve considered but never bother with. I need to put myself out there. I need to work on public speaking. I need to compete. I need to stop stopping every time people bail on the things I want to do.

Quite frankly, I have to make my peace with the fact my loved ones don’t need to experience all the world’s interesting goodies with me. Especially when they don’t seem to appreciate the efforts or seem to need the experience as much as me. It gets tiring generating fresh enthusiasm and being shot down when the constant effort doesn’t feel like it’s ever reciprocated. And usually it’s me footing the bulk (or substantial portion) of the bill to boot.

In the same manner, I used to organise things with old groups of friends too, but I got tired of working around constant pushbacks, set-asides and excuses. So I stopped bothering, to my own detriment. Now I let others plan and I just make sure to turn up (and turn up 🔥 ).

But I digress.

The point is my Ne is dope and useful but I need to push it to mature it further. In common BJJ parlance, I have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s how I beat failure-to-launch syndrome. It’s how I push back against the shrinking comfort zone. It’s how I get a handle on risk. It’s how I win.

These are not really new year resolutions. They’re not even statements of intent at this point. More like the broad strokes that I’m using to tailor the systems and mental processes I’m slowly building. I’m quite pleased with what’s happening on most of these fronts already.

* Developing a healthier relationship with risk and money and commitment.
* Giving myself greater permission to be mean, or at least indifferent, when required.
* More deliberate practice, and deep work where needed. Fuck the amateur hour dilly-dallying.
* Complete first draft of Untitled and get some works self-published.

* Bonus: new job ples. This has been a bottleneck for too long and I should start addressing it as such.