Wednesday, April 24, 2013

All of these bourgeoning cultures, I too have left.

"Group Of Women — Horizontal"
From Neo-Japonisme
Acrylic, Anime Advertisements, Board

Now that I'm an artist in my early 30's I've been rather more preoccupied by musing (and stressing out) about what constitutes success.  One of the many thoughts I've had regarding my own life is that I seem to have missed a number of important memos about how to achieve and hold success. Aside from all the usual ones that plague most people (be charming, be lucky, be rich, etc.) I've come to pinpoint one particular problem that seems to have left me in the shadows of history again and again. There isn't a particular word that describes the phenomena that I'm aware of, but the basic problem was made clear to me when I saw an article on Alpaca Niisan, which is a surrealist video game. it wasn't the content of the article that sent my mind spinning to the outer orbits of anxiety, but rather the tiny bio of the author where she mentioned she was getting a PhD studying manga.

You, dear reader, may expect that my next step here is going to be to decry the stupidity of pop culture, or make fun of academia's hyper-specialization. Instead, what this comment triggered in my head was a strong memory of how damn fiercely and how damn long ago it was that I was on the front lines of the anime revolution. Sure, I was never a superstar, but I started five anime clubs (four at different colleges), helped start an anime convention, pushed anime as serious art on my professors (making many converts and writing many papers, a few of which got published), argued on the burgeoning anime academic forums about Nausicaa, edited a zine that published both comics and essays about the form, helped set up dozens of screenings of serious anime movies like Princess Mononoke, was a lecturer at the Schoolgirls and Mobile Suits conference and even traveled around the country to do a six year photo essay that explored the weird, hazy edge-spaces of anime cons. 

This essay isn't some more-hipster-than-thou bullshit rant about how I did it first and somehow have unfairly been denied success. Instead, what I find is that I can't help myself thinking about what might have happened with my life if I had just stuck with that first passion. Because here's my problem: I've been involved in a similar way with the rise of electronic music, New Weird fantasy/sci-fi literature, MMORPGs, eSports, craft cocktails, beer nerdery, poetry, Japanese street fashion, underground metal, and even this new-wave of American food culture. With each of these cultures, I've huddled in the cultural trenches and done a solid part to help get them establish themselves.  In all of these places, I've met fantastic people who are intimately involved in these scenes, publicly and personally promoted and loved these cultures, and advocated for them to be included in the broader American dialog. 

All of these bourgeoning cultures, I too have left. All of them too are no longer my home. I've picked up near-but-not-quite-expert level knowledge in each culture as well. Even when I was young I have been aware that I don't have that one massive passion that my whole life will revolve around. I've also always been hellishly jealous of people who just knew what they were put on this world to do and just did that thing with focus, dedication and passion.

What made me feel this way so intensely when I saw that PhD in anime/manga studies was that my head suddenly reverberated with all the possibilities that might have happened if I had just stuck with that one damn first passion. Or even stuck with any single one of those myriad of later passions that I helped get started then left. What might of happened with my success if I had just focused on going forward with my passion for anime? An additional decade and a half is a damn long time to advance in any of the worlds I've mentioned. All of those connections that would have multiplied and intensified; all of that infrastructure that I helped lay that would have born my stamp; all of the research and academic credit-hours spent amassing knowledge that I could have brought to bear. 

Perhaps it was inevitable that someone who hopped around between such a wide assortment of blossoming cultures, helping nudge them toward acceptance and maturation would eventually end up in the art world (especially photography). Certainly, on paper, art is the one constant, the one over-arching professionalism of my life. Certainly, art can be a phenomenal home for this wavering mirage of interests. Yet, on these gray LA days, I can't help but dream of what might have been if my life been less of an intricate web and had just followed one of those threads to the horizon. Daydream congeal in to dancing shades of Eron-the-musician, Eron-the-brewer, Eron-the-sommolier, Eron-the-game-designer, Eron-the-chef, Eron-the-editor, Eron-the-record-label-owner, or Eron-the-anime-oracle, then I shake my head, sip my coffee and go back to hashing out my notes on my projects that I get from my gallery meetings. Anyway, I suppose I should stop meandering the alleys of the past and get moving forward toward finding my new interest, right? 

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