What exactly, I wondered, as I watched a cake auctioned off for $1,500, are all these feelings?
The feelings were a lot, that’s all I knew for sure. I stood volunteering at the auction for Artists Trust, an organization that supports us artists, an organization I hope will one day support me, surrounded by tables of people who paid $250 a plate to be there.
I had fancied up, borrowed a $200 necklace from a jeweler friend of mine, done all the hair curling, put on a blazer. At a certain level of income, it becomes very easy to seem. Before the event, we mingled around the art with just our name tags betraying us. I ran into people I hadn’t expected, the novelist I knew, an artist who I think doesn’t like me, the poet Quenton Baker, with whom I had, just a year before, sat on a patio drinking beer and talking about pirating movies due to the condition called brokeness.
The next morning, I would read in my buddy Ross’s novel: “Art was never pure. Hadn’t ever been. Even cave drawings from thousands of years before made audiences swoon, and as a result, relationships and goods were won.”
Our words, our paint, opened the same door for us that $250 had opened for other people. Currency.
Then the auction began, and our places were set. The attendees sat, and I stood, working here. The auctioneer, a pisser in a big red bow, thanked them effusively. This is what they get out of the exchange. Not the cake, not really. They funded a Gap grant, $1,500. They kept an artist going. The distance between me to them, just a few feet, just a few million dollars, I’m sure it looks the same from the people I pass peeking out from grimy blankets. If I give them $1, I get to feel better. I don’t want it to be guilt, but that’s what it often is. That dollar is a payment, in some ways, to myself.
The auctioneer laid it on, because, of course. They are passing over thousands of dollars, she is passing back sacks of the feel goods. Grade A, luxury Feel Good.
Then here comes Quenton Baker, recipient of the Arts Innovator Award, with the Feels Bomb. Describing how Artist trust never made him feel like his stories were less than. How art is the way to tell the stories that need to be told. We can feel what they’ve done for him. Made a difference, and here he is. The hair on my arms raised and tingled. I looked over at a buddy who works at Artist Trust, saw him “Whoo” out some air as if that was the only way to stop crying.
The people at the tables seemed fun, nice. I was right near the Boeing table, near some men known by name, even from a distance of 100 feet, by the auctioneer.
Mostly what I feel is wanting to be them, and then the shame of wanting to be them. I think there are people who have gotten over this. I hate myself for caring. I hate myself for wanting, wanting to be the person to raise the paddle to go to that arts center in Bali, the hills of Tuscany. I wanted that glass sculpture, that painting, that photograph.
Lately, my art has been making me feel powerful. I’ve been investing in my account, each deposit of practice, each deposit of reading, of classes, retreats, degrees. It’s been happening like they said it would, giving me returns. I’ve been comfortable in that, confident.
But her, I feel weak. I picture myself among them.
We humans, we just want and want and want. Evolution didn’t give it an off switch. How small of a world we can hold in our mind at one time. We were never meant to calculate much about what we can’t see. My machine isn’t meant to feel globally. My machine calculates how I’m doing in this tribe, and in this tribe, I’m losing badly.
So what do I do, in general. I stay away from it. I don’t watch Rich People TV. I don’t follow celebrities on Instagram. Because I’m just not strong enough.
- Earned last week: $500 (Half of what I need, damn!)
- Saved last week: $200
- Personal Checking Balance: $732
- Business Checking Balance: $178
- Fuck Off Fund Level: $1,400 (YAY!)
- Weekly wins: I set up a weekly $500 “paycheck” to my personal checking
- Look at all bills due this week: RENT! AHHH!
- Update and review budget (I’m changing to YNAB)
- Look at any social events where I might want to spend some of my Fun Money: My friend Liam is playing in town to night, and I’m going to Spokane. So I have to cut any little stuff and save.
- Transfer 10% of money received last week: I can’t afford it this week. I’m scared.
- Transfer $200 to Fuck Off Fund: Done!
- Transfer 20% of earnings to Tax Savings Account: Transferred $118