First off, thank you to everyone who read, shared, and commented on my post earlier today! I am so grateful for the creative communities I have here in, as Jojo calls it, “Bostosomedfordville,” and I’m glad that my piece resonated with many of my fellow Bostonians.
Second, throughout this post I’ll be using a few pictures that I dug up while working on the original post, but didn’t have enough space to use. Enjoy!
This morning, I tweeted the link to my post to Sarah Kendzior, and she responded, “Thanks! I’m not sure we disagree that much. Boston has great things to offer, I only wish daily life were more affordable.”
I appreciate that she clarified her position, and I think we do agree more than we disagree when it comes to art, money, and cities. I still wish her original essay hadn’t made such sweeping generalizations, but I’m glad it started so many conversations and inspired me to write about why I love my Boston so damn much.
Sometimes I get sick of living here–not because of anything wrong with the area itself, but because I have cravings for adventure and new places to explore, and Boston can get pretty small after a few years. So it was great to have a reminder of all the things I love about living here: how amazingly creative my friends and communities are, how there’s always something unusual and fun (and often geeky) going on, what a wonderful big little city this is. Or is it a little big city?
Kendzior’s piece definitely tapped into something in the national–maybe even international–zeitgeist, as is obvious from how many responses she has received, and how many other people have written posts either inspired by hers or reflecting on similar issues.
I especially like one that I read today, “I am not my job: Why I left New York City” by Alicia Lynn Eberhardt. Some of her conclusions are so similar to Kendzior’s that Kendzior initially accused Eberhardt of plagiarism, before finding out that Eberhardt’s piece had originally been published before her own.
I can understand why Kendzior jumped to the plagiarism conclusion, since her work had been plagiarized before; but I think this kerfluffle goes to show that a lot of people are thinking and writing about the intersections of art, money, the ubiquity of unpaid internships as the cost of entry to creative fields, and the rising cost of living, especially as they play out in New York.
Ebenhardt’s piece resonates with me much more than Kendzior’s–mostly because she writes directly from her own experience rather than making generalizations about the experiences of others. She describes the way that NYC’s high cost of living forced her and her friends to choose between taking non-creative jobs with long hours, which left them little time to create, or working corporate “creative” jobs, which were inaccessible to many due to the unpaid work required for entry, and rarely utilized actual creative skills.
This led to all sorts of problems:
The identity you apply to yourself, in the United States and especially in a place like New York City, is unfortunately but inevitably tied up in your money-making methods. I am a doctor, I am a journalist, I am a receptionist. In New York, the question “what do you do?” is everywhere you turn….
In light of this, it’s easy to feel like a failure if your job (“receptionist”) does not match up with your ambition (“writer”). I often found myself feeling like an outcast because my job wasn’t exciting, because I wasn’t a “mover-and-shaker,” because I wasn’t fulfilling the role that many picture when they think of a “creative New Yorker”—a role that has all but vanished here. In a community where everyone asks about what you do and no one asks about what you love, it’s easy to become discouraged and uninspired. Many of us cease to think of ourselves as “artists” as our minds and our days are consumed with the tedium of the jobs we take on to afford living in New York. So what’s the point?
I’ve never been so glad to live in Boston as I was after reading Eberhardt’s piece. I’m grateful that people here–or at least the ones I know–don’t take themselves seriously at all. My friends are a motley bunch of goofballs who are both incredibly passionate about the things they love, and aware that most people’s jobs don’t reflect their true interests, as so many of them are in the same boat. There’s a sense of solidarity here: a sense that the economy sucks donkey balls, but at least we can complain about it together.
I can’t speak for all of Boston; it’s entirely possible that people who run in different circles have had a very different experience of the city. But I keep meeting new people through my friends and interests, and they’re uniformly creative, funny, smart, and down-to-earth. Boston is definitely not perfect–and I’ll be the first to criticize the high cost of living here–but in my experience, it’s a good place full of good people.
On a related note, I’ll be going to my first Arisia this year, and I’m super-excited. I’ve only skimmed the schedule that came out today, but it looks amazing. I’ve heard great things about it from friends who attended in past years, and seen so many creative things come out of it–like this TARDIS dress that went viral after last year’s convention. (Because Boston is a ridiculously small world, it turned out that the woman who made the dress was one of my then-coworkers. Also, +1 for fabulous fat cosplay!)
When Steve and I were talking about Arisia this afternoon, he sent me a link to this framed Charmander cross-stitch, made by one of the vendors who will be there. How ridiculously adorable is that?
I barely even need to look for examples of creativity in Boston. They just keep coming at me.