Yesterday while I was working a guy from another Forest Service office came in, sporting large mutton chop sideburns and a sheen of sweat.
He seemed fairly nice and conversational. After he had met with one of our timber guys he was talking to me and casually asked me what I studied in school.
He chose to reply with “Would you like fries with that?”
My ideal reply involved me being very much the Judith to his Holofernes, except instead of saving my people I would just save the world from an unnecessary asshole.
Below is Artemesia Gentileschi’s c.1614 version. She is an incredible artist. And Judith’s expression is perfection.
For a moment I felt very embarrassed, but then that was immediately wiped out while I felt anger seep into my veins, slowly saturating every part of me.
Who the hell even makes a joke like that?
What actually happened is I gave an angry stare and didn’t move until he noticed I was really not amused, and quickly said he was joking. But he refused to apologize. And you know what?
Neither will I.
Right now, I feel like every time somebody asks me what I majored in or what I want to do and I discuss Art History or History as being my great loves, a lot of people make a lot of assumptions about me. I’ve written posts about it before, but never from a post-grad point of view, where I’m swimming in the world of “real” jobs, “real” work, “real” things.
I consistently feel that immediately people think I’m a pathetic, romantic dreamer who was too stupid to wake up and smell the stink that the economy left everywhere. People assume that I’ll never find a position in my field, that I will never contribute anything useful, anything of real value to society. They want me to apologize for still trying, for being steadfast in the belief that I’ll be okay.
I’m so sick to death of these poor souls feeling sorry for me.
Save that poor soul! He’s an Art History major! (John Singleton Copley, “Watson and the Shark”, c. 1778)
I have found out that it’s a lot of people who themselves are stressed, who are worried, and who are nervous about their own ability to climb whatever ladder they want to that need to step on somebody in order to feel as though they will be alright. Well, at least I’m not that stupid as to get a humanities major! Yes, pat your back, stand up straight, because you’re contributing and participating, you good productive creature.
People think that because I’m holding down a job in a field that isn’t my chosen one that I’ve admitted defeat or fessed up to the fact that maybe interning at a gallery won’t pay the bills. Instead, what I’m doing is quietly building up reserves of money to later spend on keeping myself alive in a way that goes beyond housing, food, and the bare necessities.
Sometimes I definitely wish that I had chosen a path that was a bit more lucrative in the monetary sense, where it would be much easier to find a position. Programming, engineering, working in health fields, etc, would all be much simpler, and because they’re in high demand, I could move and travel and do some of the things I want to. I could still go do those things- I am 23, the world is my oyster.
Instead, I refuse to stop loving and researching and pursuing my quarry. I sleep better, I radiate energy in a way I don’t normally, and my soul keeps a steady pace when I am doing these things. I take night walks and look up at the clear Montana night skies and feel at peace with my smallness.
Art is humanity. Art is inherent to the human condition. Nobody can exist without art, because we live in it. We have placed ourselves here voluntarily: as long as humans have existed, they have created. They painted animals, gods, devils, and put their fears, hopes, and dreams into the world in this way, injecting art into our DNA. I feel this when I paint horrible paintings that upon my death will be sold at garage sales for 50 cents. I feel this when I study a picture of the Virgin Mary from Cuzco, Peru, in all her gilded glory. I cannot imagine living without art because nobody, as long as the humans have existed, has.
I will be okay. I am a strong, fiercely intelligent, competitive young woman who will do whatever I want and will do it well. I have never compromised on my dreams- I may have to restructure them but the basics remain the same. I work towards my goals and do it with an upward slope.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Lady Lilith”, c. 1867 + text
End note: A lot of the people who doubt that I’m going to be useful will later enter museums or galleries where my hand and the hands of my peers have decided what they’ll see and where, and what information they are fed. These people will enter my world and will feel more intelligent and better about themselves for it, after they’ve been carefully controlled by the architecture and layout of the space in a way we knew they would. They will talk about it later and feel more cultured and whole.