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What life-hacking really means

I’ve been a full-time broke-ass artist for nearly 10 years, and yet somehow I never put it together in one sentence: poor people aren’t supposed to enjoy anything. We’re either arting and starving, or we’re scrambling through three part-time jobs and not arting. If you are not suffering, if you have time for anything else, you are not trying hard enough, either at being an artist or at not being poor. You should not have the time or the resources to be doing something that you love.

I catch a bit of this blowback any time I have to argue with someone over the phone about, say, why I can’t pay back my student loans in the amounts that they want, or why my taxes are so damn weird. The people on the other end ask, like it’s the natural question, why I’m not making hand-over-fist money if I’m touring. Surely touring artists must be rich, right? And if I’m not, then I need to get a different job. I need to give up. Poor people shouldn’t be trying to do this stuff; we shouldn’t be trying to do anything other than struggling and striving for more money. Talent and vision and desires and joy are not for the likes of us.

I shouldn't be out here doing this, I said to UK Muse, when I realized--within the last week, why did it take me so long to realize this?--how very much my desires clashed with my economic footing. Who do I think I am? I shouldn't be performing. I shouldn't be traveling. I shouldn't have met you. Clearly we shouldn't be together, I said to him, otherwise it wouldn't cost so damn much to get residency there.

UK Muse is also poor, and his committing to bringing me to the UK is going to cost. "I should have married a nice English girl," he agreed quietly, "and be doing DIY improvements around the flat on the weekends." But he has other dreams, bigger dreams than what he was born into, dreams of succeeding in his own solo-preneurial work, and now making the minimum income to buy my residency requirements and then take a vacation to an ocean-front cottage in Wales, because we both want some time away. What do people call that? A vacation. Holidays, in the UK. They call them holidays, I think.

Anyway, as poor people, we are not entitled to holidays, we are not allowed to do that, to take time for what will basically be a honeymoon. Poor people don’t take honeymoons or holidays. They maybe go sit in the park on a blanket and eat sandwiches they made at home and think about when the next bill is not going to be paid.

I have nothing against sandwiches in the park. But I want more than that. In spite of it all, I want to tour and create, and I want that goddamned vacation to that cottage in Wales.

Under the current rules of the game, we aren’t supposed to have room for holidays or working on one’s art and not starving. It’s unseemly, it’s debauched, it’s inappropriate, they say. Suffer for your art, or give it up and slog away in the trenches of capitalism. You are of the suffering class. You do not get to choose anything else.

I say fuck that noise. Monkey-wrench that machine. This is the original “life hack”: when you are jumping off the grid in pursuit of Someone or Something You Want/Need, well outside the bounds of what you are expected to do in your life. This is not finding a new use for an empty 2-litre bottle; this is not learning the fastest way to fold a fucking tee shirt. This is actually hacking your life, tenaciously shaping it into something that this world never meant it to be, something that perhaps the world is actively taking steps to keep you from doing.

The great part is, it’s the poor people who life hack the best. We have lifetimes of making do, and jerry-rigging, and scraping together, and pushing through. Putting all of that in service of creating, or going to the person you love, or both? That’s easy. I will totally hack the fuck out of that.

*****

Something that helps me hack through this creative jungle is Patreon. Your small per-piece financial pledge becomes part of something larger, which enables me to keep making the good stuff. If you read my stuff and like it, consider becoming a patron!

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