Q: Hello Miss Bastian. I'll start simple; how would you describe yourself?
A: Generally I wouldn't. I find it difficult and unnerving.
Q: O.K. Would you? For me?
A: I'm me. You're myself.
Q: For myself then. Or for I, even.
A: Um, sure. The metaphysics of this particular conversation are going to get confusing. But I'll give it a shot. I tend to imagine myself as the pretty/ugly girl. You know the one. She's all gawky and awkward, the girl that everyone mocks, until Freddie Prinze Junior or whoever comes along on a dare to prove to the world that she's actually a babe. Except that in my particular life, since I don't actually live in a late 90's teen movie, there was never any Prinze come to swoop down and rescue me from the refuse pile. So eventually I just learned to sort of save me from myself.
A: Nothing personal. I did once date a guy named Junior though. Anyway, other than that, I guess I'm an "artist" and a "writer". I've always felt a little bit homeless, and I have this thing with birds because they're also at home everywhere without ever really having a home. I'm the product of wildly dysfunctional and overall not the most parental parents, who nevertheless managed to keep me alive and who love me to bits.
I usually feel like I'm about five years behind in life - on whose schedule I'm not really sure, but it's a feeling I can't get around. I also tend to feel like I've had more than the average share of messed up things happen in and around my life - "average" I guess just being based on, probably, people I went to school with or something. My realm of experience. Not that there aren't plenty of people that have much worse lives, because of course there are. I've never understood why that's supposed to be comforting. Just that I've seen some stuff I guess. I dunno.
Anyway, overall, at this point, I've done the work and I like myself.
A: No problem.
Q: You never say you're welcome...
A: Rarely. Been like that since I was a kid. Never knew who or what I picked it up from.
Q: Why do you use air quotes when you refer to your writing and art?
A: You know why.
Q: Yes, but our audience doesn't.
A: Mm hmm. Fine. I have a problem with labels. Or, well, with flattering labels. Or maybe with labels that I feel like I don't deserve. Those words describe someone who really makes art, who really writes. I just play with images and color and paint and paper, smash words together, and no one takes much notice of any of it. I know it's wrong to look for validation in the opinions of other people, but I do anyway. I can't help it.
Q: You don't think that the people around you perceive you as an artist? Or as a writer?
A: I don't know how they perceive me; what I think about that changes with my mood. Sometimes I think they think I'm brilliant and beautiful. Other times, I think that I aggravate the living hell out of everyone and they'd all rather not look at me. It's weird, with a lot of labels, a lot of roles, I feel like I'm just not normal enough or not stable enough to live up. Like when I was a paralegal. Or how I struggle with "wife". I think, no, that's not me, that's for people that like offices and eat animal products and wear underwear. Nevermind the fact that I was a damn good paralegal.
But with this, the creative stuff, it's sort of the opposite. I'm not enough artist, I'm not enough writer; I'm too stale, too stiff, too scared. Not weird or beautiful or unhinged enough. I went to college for Geography. I didn't spend my teenage years sleeping in European hostels, or doing copious amounts of drugs. I'm thirty and I still haven't had a show or published anything. So I'm "artist", I'm "writer".
Q: You know thirty isn't any kind of old, right?
A: Yes. And I haven't given up. And I don't want to talk about it.
Q: Subtlety is not your strength.
Q: Other than a paycheck, do you see any virtue in taking a desk job like the one you've just started?
Q: I wasn't supposed to phrase that as a yes-or-no question, was I.
Q: I'll try again. Other than a paycheck, what virtues do you see in taking a desk job like the one you've just started?
A: Ah. Better. Well, there is that paycheck, though with this particular job it isn't much. But it'll be regular, and that kind of stability gives a lot of comfort. I crave stability of almost any kind when it comes down to it. But yeah, there's more than that. During my twenties, the concept of self-discipline became very important to me. When I was younger I had none at all, and I realized that that's a major part of why I got so little accomplished. I frustrated myself constantly - there was so much that I really wanted to be getting done that I just refused to make myself do. It's something I've had to learn, and it hasn't come easy, and I'm still working on it.
There's a very specific kind of discipline that comes with getting to a job every morning at 9, especially when it involves work that you don't necessarily love doing. So it's a good way of learning some self-discipline. (Of course, so is hunger if you ask Hemingway, but I've never been any good at that.) Unfortunately, when it's a full time job and you hate it, you end up feeling like you're being punished for doing something that was supposed to be virtuous and strong.
Q: Can you explain that?
A: At my last desk job, my whole life and self got sucked away. I learned the discipline of going there and doing the work, no matter what, yes. But I also dried my soul out because it took up ten hours of every day at a minimum, and often much more. The work was stressful, the workload ridiculous, and some of the people were completely out of bounds, which all added up to emotional exhaustion. So instead of being strengthening it became a huge drain, despite the money. That's why I quit. While I was there I would criticize myself for not finding time to create, but after I left I realized how crazy that was. How could I leave that environment and then go create something beautiful? Creation requires having something inside of you to pull out, put forth. That job left me empty.
I'm optimistic about the new job; I'm thinking of it as my "writer's job". It's only five hours a day, plus I can walk to it, and so far it seems low stress - I have very little responsibility really. So I have the structure and the discipline, but I'm still allowed to walk away with enough time (and enough of myself ) left in the day for myself.
Q: And again, thanks. So, what do you see happening, over, say, the next year or so?
A: That's a tough one. Of course there are the wedding preparations, and that's always at least at the back of my mind if it's not right up there at the front. But I'm really hoping that this is the year that I get my shit together.
Q: Care to be more specific?
A: I want to find galleries, or at least maybe coffee shops or something, that will show my stuff. I'm sort of kind of almost on the trail of this already. And I want to write a few polished pieces that I can actually send out to journals and magazines - at least give myself the chance to be formally rejected, instead of just living with the unfounded assumption of rejection all the time. (Laughs.) There's the classes too - I want to take a billion classes, in graphics, in printmaking, in journalism. But those require money, so we'll see.
Q: So maybe this is the year that you move from "artist" and "writer" to artist and writer?
A: Anything is possible. I'm not making any promises.
* * * * *
(At this point, the interdimensional portal which had allowed me, myself, and I to simultaneously occupy different seats in the same room all at once snapped shut, and we were abruptly coalesced back into one. Something went slightly awry, however, as these things so often do, and for a good ten minutes there I / we had six toes on my / our left foot.)