This is a very personal rant, with very vivid recollections from my past at times. I know I said I don't do trigger warnings, but I might as well put one here for severe child abuse, as well as the current abuse towards migrants that's going on.
The theme of these past few months has been precisely that for me, graft. Working through what seems to be a complete distaste for everything in life. And like any other artist I will have questioned exactly what I seem to be doing with my life.
Seán has encouraged me to watch The Matrix recently. I know there is a whole juxtaposition between redpills and bluepills -- those who fight for their lives, versus those who seem content to take the shit of this world lying down. It may be cliché but we've found it true in a lot of circumstances. And at several points in our lives we hover between these states of mind -- sometimes it is a joy, sometimes we find it drudgery but are willing to go on, and sometimes we just don't want anything to do with our lives at all.
The way I had been raised made me think for myself and fight for my life. I refuse to go down without a fight, whether it be for my freedom, my dreams, my desire to be with the man I love, whatever. And if I should die, I want to at least know I died trying my damndest.
I've been compelled to write this rant because of the attitudes of people around me. Well, story time. Turn off your lights, turn off your radios, tellies or YouTube or whatever, and listen up. I don't normally tell this to people but I think it's about time I shook off that mantle.
When I got interviewed by @TheInterviewer some time back I only scratched the surface as to what had gone on. The trouble about these things is that so many questions are left unanswered. I mentioned my earliest memory there, being beaten up until I blacked out at the age of 2. I mentioned being beaten up and consistently abused for being a musician. Having my sheet music torn up. I mentioned emotional blackmail. These things happened frequently in the house and I had no one to turn to, not even any authorities. It didn't help that I was a second-class citizen where I grew up. I was born and presumably destined to be a nobody. I get bad flashbacks and nightmares about it. That's the way I am.
But being dragged by the hair time and time again for a second round of beatings after crying alone, pleading to God for mercy and a way out, how would you see a way out?
Short of being held at knifepoint but threatened with death by the very people who could kill you, if you went along with your musical dream, how would you see a way out?
Every death threat, I took as very real, very serious. Every time there were severe beatings and bruises, they were always covered up -- but I always feared that each episode would be the last in my life. My dreams would be cut short, so what's the point of fighting anyway?
That was the kind of reasoning people around me -- my parents, the state where I grew up -- wanted me to have. They wanted me to capitulate and follow their moulds. The only artists that exist here, they said, were people of a certain ethnicity, a certain background and a certain affluence about themselves. The first-class citizens.
I was meant to do something that my parents had predestined for me. They were only perpetuating the moulds.
But outside of the survival mentality that I developed on my own, I couldn't help but think, what was in the minds of my abusers? My parents, by their ethnicity, would have been second-class citizens like myself. They knew what deprivation really meant. Both parents went through abuse in their own right. You would think that being in such a background means you wouldn't want this to happen to your children. This was not the case with my parents. And this was most certainly not the case with the vast majority of people around me either. In my mind, I felt there was something more sinister afoot.
Cutting out 370 or so pages worth of Southeast Asian historical skullduggery, there was a heady mix of racial tension and class struggle everywhere I went. People wanted me to excel so that I could be on par with the first-class citizens -- but on their own terms. Not mine. Theirs. They just wouldn't fucking grow up, get over their prejudices about which race was better, what people were meant to do when they grew up, what girls were meant to do when they grew up. And the problems in question really run deep.
I mean, try to picture Victorian England without the charm of Charles Dickens. It's hard, solid graft with very little to no pay. Your rights as a human being aren't gonna be respected unless you toe the line, or unless you're part of the genteel upper class. An Inspector Calls, a short play I really enjoy, written by J.B. Priestley, puts it all into perspective. But minus the supernatural element, it's hell. And that sort of mentality, that's where I grew up.
No, I'm not taking that shit anymore.
I'm not just a migrant. I'm not just a nobody, not just a second-class citizen, not just someone who is bound for a mediocre job. I'm not a sponge, nor a leech. I want to give back with every skill in my bones. I want to work my sinew so that something can be made better, however small. I'm fucking made for more. My life has value, for fucks sake.
Composing for me has been (and still is) hard graft. Criticism came aplenty. Inspiration ran dry. My coffers are empty. But the criticism and the upheaval and the setbacks and the failures and the extreme lack of pay are still a million times better than the alternative, having to toe the line with my abusers. And it all started when the music of Kingdom Hearts captured me and I felt this strong feeling within me that I could do the same.
But I must not be the only one to do so. Thankfully, I am not the only one, but there needs to be more.
You see, without the extreme hard graft of art, there is going to be none of it. None of it worth appreciating anyway. Retrospect can teach us the difference between commissions and personal outpourings, and when the lines between the two are blurred. It can also teach us just how far we have come, in spite of everything. I always used to look up on Wikipedia or somewhere and look for stories of artists who have had PTSD or something, who have been badly abused as children. I hardly hear these tales -- but that doesn't mean they don't happen. If everyone were to be hindered from pursuing art for the same reasons as I have been, and didn't fight... what would the world come to? A world without art, a world without self-expression, a world without dreams, is not a world worth fighting for. And that is why I fight. Art, music, self-expression, these are lamps to me that should never be snuffed out, or hidden under a tub. They should be out there for all to see, and even if someone were to try and snuff it out, its flame will likely burn anew.
I have lived the last 25 or so years of my life knowing that my freedoms, my liberties, my rights, are so fragile and they have been infringed many times. One day, they may even be completely taken away from me because of some frivolous reason, like my brown skin for example (God forbid). Every day has been frightening. I feel like a sword dangling over my neck, biding its time to finally cut me off -- far more so than most anyway. A life without love, a life without Seán, a life without dreams to work towards, a life with no graft and passion, is worse than death to me. And every day I run the real risk of losing everyone dear to me, because some pen-pusher thinks that I don't have the right to all these people I love.
Life is hard. There are no two ways about it. Only death can take you out of the hardship. But at that moment of death, what do you want to contemplate?
"I did my absolute best. I regret the mistakes I have made, but otherwise I am more than happy with the road I have taken, and I will not need to ponder about the road not taken -- because I have worked hard. And even if no one knows me or everyone abuses me to the point of death, what I have done cannot be taken away from me."
"Oh fuck, what if?"
Right now, I am doing my best to live, for myself and for Seán, if for no one else. But if I die, I hope to die with no regrets as to my intentions, and how I carried them out. I don't care if no human being on this planet right now is proud of me. It is only right that I desire to achieve more -- but if I cannot, then I should only be proud of what I have done to this point, whether it be finished work or otherwise.