Have You Been Saved (by art)?

Art has been a toy to me, like an extra-dimensional rubrics cube in the mind. I didn’t know that I was an artist until my 30’s, after years of actually being an artist through writing, photography, and other mediums. Art is a compulsion, an impulse inside the body that manifests itself when we wake up from the auto-pilot of day-to-day life and realize that the world is 10,000 miles away from how we actually feel inside. It’s an attempt to get hold of the wild horse called our life and steer it in a direction that accurately expresses who we are or at least how we feel about who we are.

When I wrote those first screenplays in high school, I thought I’d be Spielberg by senior year. What the heck did I know about life and setting realistic goal? I thought the answer was a grandiose level of success. What I didn’t realize is that I was doing the most fundamental and bravest thing. I was saving my life.

Art saved my life. Not necessarily in the literal sense, but at very least psychologically. And psychological survival is often overlooked. I would have cracked inside as a teenager. I don’t know how this would have looked, but I had a steam pipes inside my mind and it needed release. Nothing else could do that for me those days. I barely knew how to talk to people, and I thought that being noticed and liked was everything. And for something that was everything to me, I barely felt that I was noticed at all, sitting at the lunch table by myself.

This thing called art, this puzzle in the seat of the creative mind distracted me from suffering, self-inflicted suffering, as it always is self-inflicted. Art became a place. Like a child going to her or his grandparents in order to relax from the overbearing nature of parents. Except myself and my value system were the overbearing parents, believing that if everyone loved me, all would be normal.

Art snapped me out of this. It was a long drawn out snap, one where I fought back, but art eventually won. “Who do you think you are?” it said to me. “I’ve been here before you and will be here after.” And then you see the greats. Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Mozart, Kubrick, Mary Shelly, those people that wrote on cave walls in France. Death didn’t care what they did for art’s sake. Death took them as quick as Death takes everyone else. Time doesn’t care either, because everything they did could one day be gone, will be gone when the universe ends.

We must treat ideas as though they are real and can grow if we feed them thoughts, positive or negative thoughts. “Art saved my life.” It’s not the hungriest idea I’ve ever conjured, but it has had the power to humble me. But I’ve come up with a better idea since getting older. “Art had and still has the power to save my life.” There’s a big difference, and I won’t insult your intelligence with an explanation. But I will tell you to find something to be a nerd about and geek out over it. Knit sweaters, catch crawfish, paint a portrait, collect coins, race go-karts, anything as long as it’s positive. Do it well and know it well and do it again. The skills that we gain through practice is the empire that we build within ourselves. Practice often and practice well. It may save your life or at least your sanity.

©2019 Marc Alexander Valle

Letter To My 15-Year-Old Self (from my 38-year-old self)

Dear 15-year-old self,

You are cooler than you think.

You ask the teacher to use the bathroom just to wander the high school halls. You peak into classes, wondering what the popular kids are up to like they’re having some kind of a party in class. You think they have something special that you don’t, but the reason why they cling to popularity so much is because they’re scared they have nothing at all. And they’re right to feel that way about themselves. You’re not right to feel that way about yourself at all. You’re already cool. It’ll take years for you to see that.

You are spectacular.

Wait until you’re 35 and see what you can do with any writing tool. Most people won’t be able to express their feelings and ideas the way you’ll be able to, and your hardship will be what allowed you to get to this level. There’ll be few friends and girlfriends and party invites and social circles. You’ll have little to no financial success, but you’ll reach depths of thought and emotion that most writers would kill to get to. And it will fill you up inside.

You are wonderful.

No matter how discouraged you’ll get, you’ll never give up on your dream, because it’s no dream. It’s a reality in your heart and in your mind. And you’re heart and mind is your greatest asset. Not something to be ashamed of.

You are an artist.

Nevermind the ones that dress, walk, talk and body modify the way they think an artist is supposed to. That doesn’t make you an artist. Bleeding makes you an artist. Practice makes you an artist. Love makes you an artist. Everything else just makes you artsy. And that’s not cool.

You are beautiful.

People might not look for you on your phone, but they will trust you and the fact that you do not change for the worst. You are a rock. People you know will express this to you verbally and through their actions. They’ll admire your honesty, compassion and consciousness.

You are industrious. 10-word poems, 15-minute-plays, 100-word stories, 120-page screenplays, you’ll try anything, you’ll fail at most, you’ll succeed at some, you’ll be proud of it all. The skills you’ll develop as an artist, a writer and a human being will be the empire that you build and that empire will be glorious, until you say it is no longer is.

You are perfect the way you are.

I can’t tell you if you’ll have the success that you think you need. I still have more living to do on this end. I’ll tell you that you’ll not be Spielberg by age 30 or have a wife and kids and plenty of money to buy video games with. But you will love yourself more. You will feel more valued. And you will know that you are cool.

Not that you play video games anymore. They’re way too immersive these days, and you have more art to create. So keep producing. But you already known that. Don’t you, Marc?

Sincerely, 38-year-old self

The Chestnut (Longer Version)©2016 by Marc Alexander Valle

The old man contemplated suicide. He would walk the park. Maybe change his mind.

Children played.

Mothers talked.

Dogs barked.

Fathers caught baseballs.

He still wanted death.

He turned to the creek and stepped on its bank. An object floated towards him, a squirrel clenching onto a chestnut. The old man bent down and held out his cane.  He leaned in as it neared. But the squirrel kept holding on to the chestnut.

The creek pulled the squirrel downstream. Then, submerged it.

Children played.

Mothers talked.

Dogs barked.

Fathers caught baseballs.

“Stupid animal,” a boy said. “Why do they do that?”

“Everybody’s gotta eat,” the old man said. “No matter how stupid you are.”

“I don’t get it.”

The old man turned away. “Sometimes you’re not supposed to.”

Both story and image by Marc Alexander Valle ©2016.

For the shorter, one-hundred word version of the story, click here, and please click ‘Like’ if you liked it.