by Jason Wolfe
It was a crummy job and then a bad relationship, followed by another bad relationship, followed by another crummy job. Your body becomes a reservoir for collecting pain. You try diet and exercise and antidepressants and benzodiazepines, Eat, Pray, Love-style international expeditions and guided Ayahuasca retreats; whatever will provide your soul peace and answer all of your burning questions like: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Do you have to dope to win a gold medal? Are “chem trails” real? If they’re not, why does a portion of my property taxes go toward Mosquito Control? And why do they have pictures of crop dusters on their website? Is that what I hear every night before bed? What about the “organic” tomatoes in my garden?
Relief is elusive when the entire world seems to exist for itself, in the moment, chasing money to live out the life Madison Avenue has shoved down our throats for years, in between touchdowns and American Idol. Which wouldn’t be so bad, so long as it didn’t negatively impact me and my “career,” my heart, and my precious pseudo-organic tomatoes. Eventually, you reach the end of your road, or rope, or whatever chestnut that stupid idiom provides, and your life becomes a daily, neverending slog, as the wrinkles accumulate on your face and things start to hurt that never really hurt before, and your life becomes a slow ride on a Greyhound off the side of a cliff.
If you are young enough and have not yet been married or had kids, and happen to have at least one living parent that is indifferent to the idea of your moving back home, so you can “figure things out,” (which is millennial for “existential despair”), you should seize the opportunity and thoroughly collect yourself and plot your next move. Because this is your chance to do that Thing that you always wanted to do without the fear of becoming homeless.
You know those commercials that come out of Silicon Valley that showcase people from all walks of life, with dyed hair and nose rings, working vanity jobs in expensive cities; and you try to quickly calculate in your mind how many Frozen Kombucha Jars she would have to sell in order to make her $3,500 a month NYC rent and the math never really works, but then she has to be an honest representation of a real person, right? I mean, I don’t think a billion-dollar tech company with a firm on K-street would be dishonest? But you soon realize that these people are completely bogus, both in the ad, and the ones who devised it. (And you don’t even have to peep the racial makeup or average price of rent in Palo Alto to know that).
Forgetting these commercials, it is still entirely possible to do what you “want” to do and not what you “have” to do. The hard part is narrowing down your options and committing to that thing that you know objectively, you’re pretty ok at. Then figuring out a way to monetize it with the hopes that at the very least you’ll be able to purchase a yurt in Mississippi; forget about New York or San Francisco, that’s never going to happen for you and it’s a blessing in disguise, trust me. Those are the people from the commercials and they’re just as two-dimensional in real life. (Only more white with mysterious sources of income).
And what’s so wrong with Mississippi? I suppose because it’s actually a real life melting pot that exists dangerously outside the wire of social-media “freedom fighting.” It may be the last great place where poor people can actually afford to live, ever since Lamar’s General Store closed due to a sudden and inexplicable desire from brain dead consumers to have toothpaste shipped to their houses in less than 48 hours.
So throw away your televisions, throw away your mobile devices, delete your social media accounts, go to a death metal show on the outskirts of town, buy some moonshine from Lamar, carry a sharpened blade, tell that person how you feel without fear of judgment, learn how to make trap beats and pickled beets, read everything that the New York literati told you not to, try the poker tables for once, and enjoy Mississippi.
About the painter: Eric Sorensen is a medical student and artist who loves painting, drawing, and photography. After college he studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. Image: Painting, mixed media on cotton (2014), part of a series exploring the unexpected textures that arise when contrasting materials come together.