Milestone - 2.
Yesterday was a big milestone for me.
If anything is worth noting it is milestones in one's life, they may be personal or of global scale.
Here I'll endeavour to relay one of those days.
Hopefully it will be interesting to others at some point...
I spent the day alone and was perfectly calm. Often I'm alone, physically or mentally. Sometimes I'm happy but calm, not likely. I went to buy insulation for the windows. Our windows. This is the first place I've ever lived where I feel completely welcome, secure and motivated to stay. Even on the bad days when shuffling a few meters, to oblige basic human necessities, takes grit and sorrowful determination. If it wasn't for nicotine and bladders I think many of us could decompose before the spirit fires again. It is more than the simple realism of being trapped that now spurns me on. It is a horizon's reluctant belief in progress, for the first time in a long time, beyond mere obligatory optimism where I feel the warmth of an alluring new chapter drawing close. A time soon after could snatch it all back so I'm not entirely relieved but I've began to accept that maybe I'm not doomed. Supposing I am one of the people who succeed at times. Not relegated to suffer disappointment and guilt perpetually. The pendulum seems to swing higher than before and supposing the proverbs are tried and tested beyond theory. Beyond my historical practice thus far. At length I found the insulation and on my way out saw the plants I'd fantasised about having. My oldest and in fact only aspiration was to one day have an apartment that I could feel content in. A sanctuary worth the outside world's barrage to hold dear and hold me dear in-turn. A place to unwind and embellish without fear of losing it and the subsequent guilt that comes, like clockwork, to punish me for believing I was safe like others. I found my apartment and further beyond comprehension my feminine counterpart. The first things in my life, besides insignificant tattoos, that I trust to consider mine and happy to be mine and happy to have me be theirs. My highest aspiration, the only honest aspiration I recall (my family may recall others but I myself perceive consciously) was always to have plants. That was the absolute paramount dream of mine. Books came later. The constant fear of dropping out and forfeiting responsibility altogether is bound by the tearjerking prospect of abandoning my books. My self respect and supposed 'potential' list much lower. As demonstrated it's unfathomably challenging to carrying out any task without the iceberg baggage. An upbeat memo becomes a depressing tirade. A harmless conversation between cherished friends becomes a characteristic damnation of the human race. A passing social observation can and will mutate into churning confusion, overwhelming dismay, and suddenly retreat. As anyone who knows me has witnessed. This is now unwittingly an entry about self esteem and being truly lost. So, lets jump back to the initial external POINT of presently recording the day. Leaving the hardware shop I had my €6.00 window insulation in my pocket, I was excessively proud of this purchase because it exacted revenge on my last two places. Or more accurately my state of mind within them. They too were built unconventionally and as such were draughty. I stayed a year in each. How I didn't drop out I still don't know. How I didn't seal their drafts sooner is beyond logic. Ultimately, how I mined the will power to seal them eventually is beyond relativity. Proud of my purchase and apparent progress I saw the house plants by the sliding doors. Let's temp fate and suggest that if I accelerate my sudden positivity there will be repercussion. Without the half-life of an unskilled, entirely inconsequential shift, with colleagues who have NO idea how much of an idiot I'm not, chewing my mind - the blinkers of self deprecation were loose. I supposed that MAYBE if I accelerated my returning positivity there are other statistical outcomes. It's possible that keeping up momentum is not so reckless after all. On the contrary a more psychologically sound presumption let's hope. So I browsed the houseplants with uncertainty and felt uncharacteristically responsible like a proper family surveying their first pets. Yes the plants may perish from neglect but so too may I, along with or aside from, our apartment and these same plants if I in fact don't adopt them.
I wasn't sure why two were twice the size of their counterparts and half the price, perhaps they were plagued like me or a sign from somewhere beyond that yesterday was the day to fulfil my long awaited, startlingly unambitious, childhood dream. The day before, I got up with Aurélie when she went to work. I didn't smoke until 7pm. To my knowledge that may be the first time in my smoking life that I managed to abstain the best part of a day without ferocious withdrawal. The emotional dependency on momentary relief far outweighing the biological illusion of necessity. Despite my remarkable will power in other practically useless departments, until now I haven't possessed the justification to not smoke for a day. My understandably dismiss-able self deprecation goes far beyond public image. Unlike George Orwell I am not above smoking dog ends or involuntarily asking strangers for a cigarette moments after screaming in my mind that I don't need one.
Knowing that other people (furthermore some I respect) are earning their respite, and I've escaped foreseeable winter labour, I kept myself busy with selling unnecessary bits & bobs. I'm sitting on free funding that no one is going to materialise on my grateful behalf. That day I remembered the questionable working class remedy of earning salvation through perseverance, be it on a scale nonetheless. The remedy I preached a few years ago, following the London riots, and later used as part of the Futility essay for Vicious Collective. I also heard the echo of my poem God (which I wrote in triumphant rage whilst my spirit dissolved in the hell of freelance prop building) jeering at my fleeting wisdom. The next day, of this Milestone, I purged myself out of bed and because Aurélie is my saviour I ordered myself constructively OUT. It was raining hard when I bought our divine plants. As usual I took pride in comparing myself to others who don't cope so well with rain. It's not because I'm competitive at all. It's just because, whether we can admit it, we feel a need to be better than others in some way to configure. I wondered if the new plants, the plants I wasn't responsible for two seconds ago but were now of immense significance, would be ok in the heavy rain. What if they catch a cold and die? What if they're institutionalised and aren't cut out for twenty minutes of downfall? Often in life one is at a crossroads. It's not until one gambles on a direction that one can know if it was the right decision. We’re often snagged by analysis paralysis. Well, I'll speak for myself here. It's counterproductive to say the least so by this token I stepped out of the sliding doors and made back with my prizes in arm. Observing people's reactions to anyone doing something sincere, as Louis CK put it, is perhaps not interesting as such but worth contemplating. Why on earth would I be upset to see a person walking towards me with two plants? Why others might smile is not a mystery, plants are nice everyone knows that. The paradox of a young man with crude tattoos carrying two flourishing plants in the rain is amusing perhaps but provocative? My imagination falters at the possibility of why this would make one's bad day worse. Because you're too tired, busy and wet to briefly add and remove stepping aside in advance of scaffolding to the long to-do list? Because you're not too tired, busy and wet to conjure up a light-speed assumption about my personality based on my appearance and the addition of two flourishing plants only further provokes you? Because I'm too misanthropic, conflicted by an astonishing combination of imagination, intuition, debilitating dyslexia and psychological trauma to realise when I've once again gone off on a barbarous tangent? I negotiated my way home, into the building, to our floor and over the threshold. Put my childhood dreams into the shower to drain off, experimented with their positions, then genuinely startled myself by laughing harder than I have laughed for a very long time alone. I occasionally snigger and well up when I read. I guffaw and weep to comedians home alone. But since a time I couldn't specify, I haven't laughed a good laugh like I did at the sight of those plants in their places. I thought of the triumphant scene in Castaway where Tom Hanks celebrates his primal fire (Anyone who doesn't grasp the resonance of that moment is likely a sociopath and arguably doesn't deserve Cinema.) As I said I was startled so tried to compose myself, terrified of the subsequent punishment for letting my guard down. I tried to stifle it but every now and again, throughout the afternoon,
it would flood out.
I spent the rest of the day scraping the window frames clean. Our two windows are on the Western length of the apartment. From the skirting it slopes up and overhead into the ceiling without transition because it's an old 'Chambre de bonne.' The windows open upwards & out hinged at the top and catch on a stilt in the middle. If you're clumsy with the stilts, whilst smoking or hyperventilating for example, the windows could smash over your head. I once dropped a wooden spoon out trying to keep one ajar, to avoid clearing objects from the desk beneath in the event of summer rain. Such is the angle of the windows. I'm a firm advocate for Murphy's law so this time I tied the screwdriver around my wrist and scraped the solitary afternoon away with glorious music and more barrel laughs. I finished and tidied in the nick of time as Aurélie got home and revelled in the suspense as hours elapsed before she finally ventured into the bathroom. The surprise was heightened as she fumbled shortly before illuminating our new additions.
This second milestone coincides with my second ascension into 'professional' photography. The first being the sale of my “Bordeaux” print to Joost for his new house in Normandy. Following my miracle trip to Ibiza with my Frankfurt friends (this flippant umbrella term does not do them justice) I paid the bills and invested in a new SLR and compact camera so that when an opportunity arose I was prepared. My loyal MjuII is finally faltering.
Today, following my second Milestone day we went for a very large, good and astonishingly cheap sandwich in the market. The vendors were mouthy but it's a fair deal for the honest food. I woke up with a cold sore which is very rare indeed. My immune system is in near constant turmoil but cold sores are not my trademark. I put it down to the obvious drop in temperature, scraping with the windows open, and most obvious to me the physics and cosmos- Of course. Still, it didn't get me down because no one said life would ever feel flawless, not even for one day. I was fidgety queuing with my cold building and observing the vendors' misguided cockiness so I went to check the photography shop. It was splendid as always with new display pieces. I asked the owner if he was still interested in photography out of hours. He said yes so I gave him my card. Without pause he asked me if I wanted to work on Saturdays! I said I don't speak French well yet. It's not important I'll check your website and email you next week, like the two were related. My favourite shop in Paris, furthermore a photography shop, may want me to work there based purely on first impression. It could be a sick joke but with the mere possibility, on top of my recent progressions, I was delirious and feeling a tail end of what breezy elation must feel like.
Once more out the blue, Frankfurt provided an opening but more poignantly an exit from what's known as blue collar work. I'll attempt to briefly elaborate on my feelings toward the subject of manual labour. Like one's heritage I believe it is neither to be proud nor ashamed of. In the grand scheme of things it's irrelevant. One's character is defined by their volunteered actions. Not their appearance, thoughts, projections, or delusions, but their actions. My first boss preached “If you look like an asshole and sound like an asshole, you're probably an asshole.” He has 'a point' and you can guess what kind of character he was. I've consciously relegated him to was because regardless of his extant he is no longer within my solar system. I'm not of the camp who prefer to believe that hard work, to put it diplomatically, is a capitalist manipulatory conspiracy tool designed to oppress its subjects and prevent them from seeing the truth. Another theory is that 'They' don't give a fuck if you see through the propaganda and behold the corruption and agony, behold that one's rights as a first world citizen exist only to the extent of one's compliance. Subversion is another can of worms though. What I will divulge is that my brain is a muscle like any other and without exercise it deteriorates. Sometimes running for a bus can leave you feeling insecure suddenly but imagine, if you haven't worked too hard already, the utter outrage of having your only true liberty's intangible source sabotaged or vicariously interfered with.
Can you imagine the loss and disgrace of having your one true salvation dangled in front of you and periodically hidden out of reach? One's self esteem and proclivity. I'm talking about the dignity and opulence one can only taste from knowing that they appreciate life so much more than the majority. The FACT that no matter how much you endure, how much you have to tolerate, despite anything any insecure, arrogant, spiteful, deluded, jealous or cowardly idiot can throw at you that you know more than them. Furthermore you feel more than them. You see and grasp, behold and revel in life's rewards beyond any comprehension they like to think they might have. I'm talking about the gift of beauty. Not the congratulations you were born with a face that others can fantasise about and commercialise. I'm saying beauty. Unstigmatised internal ravishing beauty succintchronised with the whole comprehensible world far and wide. The glory of knowing, despite any philistines you're forced to associate with to get by.
Despite any snowballing bad luck and futile optimism. That sooner or later, without fail, if you grit your teeth and clench your fists and pump your soul full of as much inspiration as you can pilfer. In-between those dead end shifts and dead end years and dead end regrets and lash in wildly at the negative conscience we were blessed with telling us to be guilty for the gift we squandered and ashamed of the arrogance excusing us from noble mediocrity. Not the philosopher, pay attention, the enemy of creativity! If you can find the guts to accept that you're a product of something beyond society and irrelevant to it and it's real and you can bear it and thank your lucky stars and cherish it then you are living. Not surviving Comrade but living. Not living out your inflictions through superiority but living the life that only you could live and living it in secret and living it in broad daylight amongst the masses of defeatists and ignorant lifeforms that are NOT your race. Know that there is an overwhelming might somewhere within you that will not be suppressed and bludgeoned into submission. You have everything to lose because you know the gravity of loss. Because part of every precious day you are forced to be a revolting spit of your potential just to appease the terrified and spiteful and the cowards who don't have the guts to admit that something horrifying deep inside them aches to be MORE alive but couldn't bear the weight of it on their deploring souls. Never, ever, be fooled or fatigued and crushed into believing that only one kind of person is superior and it is not your kind. Their kind takes pride in the despondent knowing that their mind is sparse and their goals are attainable because they are selfish and numb. They can only feel alive through the shallow approval of their own inferior breed and when they feel your unmistakable presence they want to drown it because it embossed their howling insecurity. They want to feel alive but they can't ever fully appreciate life so they outwardly kid themselves that you're a lesser person because you flood with passion and wonder and kindredness and all the things that are worthless in a worthless environment. A job that falls to me and I to it because I was too distracted by my demons, imagination and the beckoning of the real world to digest the nonsense that passes for qualification to work in a world of lunacy and repetition and depression and starvation of culture and the fortification of ensuring that your mind gets the least exercise and thereby you forget that you ever had the self esteem or capability to transcend your colleagues. People who refuse to have any aspirations beyond being better than their peers in some contorted way that only applies within the framework of the occupation that they unconvincingly relish and I despise because no matter how much discipline I force upon myself my spirit downright refuses to accept a life without substance and positive consequence. Do not, I emphasise on your life, waste the beauty and valid potential to pass your time blissfully in fulfilment - Whatever your soul desires. Do what you must, if it's at no one else's expense, but resist the devils who will try to coax you into believing that success and worth is reflected by your ability to do something that is alien to your nature. Do what compels you and do it for your own independent wellbeing. Not for an untrustworthy approval by others and not because you're compelled by an inadequacy and guilt that's strategically stapled on us with peer pressure from the day we're cognizant. Too many times I've crawled abysmally into the mould of someone else’s warped ideal of productivity. Only to inertly thaw with yet another epiphany that it was all another futile period of life elapsed between exhaustion, reticence, dying and the eventual uncontrollable upsurge of ardent retaliation. I left school ten years ago and did things that a lot of my financial superiors couldn't stomach. My mind performed anomalous feats that defy average scientific parameters.
I never wanted a single thing but to be left alone to think things over and not have to drown in a current that convinced me a better life wasn't worth striving for….
My second absolute wildest dream, to not having to work for ingrates at all, was to live in a place where I don't feel compelled to pummel inanimate objects to regain composure. Where I can concentrate and be myself, with a feminine counterpart that I trust, and have some plants and LEARN. It was an awful lot to expect but a decade later I attained my sacred objectives.
Now all I have to do is keep them...
I wish you all the very best.
Words: Ben Palmer
Photography: Ben Palmer