The purpose of a scarecrow is to, obviously, scare off crows. The idea is that a human presence will make the crows think twice about invading the fields of corn and flying off with stolen plunder. Whether it's ever been effective is questionable - perhaps in the short term it is.

Lately I have been thinking about perception - how others perceive you. How much is true perception and how much is expectation of your behavior? The fact of the matter is, people like to label you and need or at least expect you to be consistent.

But what happens if you change and the perceptions of others do not?

Social Media. It seemed like a good idea, and maybe at its heart, it is. But the state of it now, the sheer presence of it in our lives, feels vaguely corrosive to me. I am not a technophobe, I am not a luddite, but lately, I feel it would be a good idea to scale back on it entirely. I know some people online only - I have never met them, yet I've known them for years. This is not a bad thing, but it is somewhat odd. Other friends I haven't seen for years, some in decades, and through the bizarre lens of social media, they become abstracted, approximations of people you once knew and now are distilled to a few lines a week.

The most egregious thing about it all is, despite its moniker, it is anything but social! It does not bring people together, it keeps them isolated, more often than not. It maintains a level of familiarity with anyone you are connected that becomes "sufficient" and so personal connection, literal socialization is not as vital or wanted as it used to be. I have friends I used to see, to be with, who now only write through social media. If I pulled the plug and took myself off this grid, they would likely disappear from my life entirely.

I write this on a Friday of a really awful week, awful because of reality, awful because of stress, awful because of others and their interactions with me. It is nearly over, weekend is coming, I am almost free, but it was the kind of week where the interference patterns of stress, discord, fear, and exhaustion effectively killed my artistic output this week. At first, I was deeply resentful of this expense – how dare the mundane part of my life exact such a toll on what I love to do in my meager spare time? But, there may be some favorable outcome to all this after all, and while I do not intend this blog to be advice, or motivational or inspirational at ALL, ever (I just find that a little forced when others do that), I will say perhaps some of you out there will relate, and maybe find some comfort in knowing you are not alone.

So the week of hell was mainly a bad week at the day job. The day job is 8.5 hours a day, and to drive back and forth is another 3 hours added on. As you can imagine, that leaves very little time Mon-Fri to do anything creative, and even less mental energy to do it! On top of that, I have a dog and a partner, and so, a lot of basic life stuff takes up most of the day. The only reason I am able to do anything during the week towards my art is I make a very stubborn, conscious decision to not allow work to claim any more than it does. That means no overtime, no being “on-call.” No vacation days where I am monitoring emails just in case. To any of you out there with an office job, you can imagine this makes me less than desirable in that world, even though I get my work done entirely and on time and accurately, it still would “look better” for me to put in overtime, just for show. But I don’t, and when I tear out of that parking lot, it is with a mind completely flushed of the day’s issues, and I start the long ride home thinking about my next piece or whatever I have in the works. But this is the norm, and this week was not the norm.

I had a confrontation with my manager this week – for weeks she’s been snapping at me, and I wanted to find out what was going on, to resolve it. She essentially told me, mainly in the things she did NOT say, that she did not like me at all, and probably has my end in sight, in other words, I may be fired. Most of me would love this to be the case; imagine how much I could do with these miserable 11 hours a day removed from my life – but practically speaking, there is no way I can do this, and I need to make money in this way, for now, as awful as it is. You can imagine the stress this terrorism tactic can unleash on a person – I was waiting for the inevitable ball to drop all week, had a panic attack yesterday at work, and was just angry and tense all week. This was during a week where I had to write a long tutorial for an upcoming publication, as well as write answers out for an interview piece being done about me and my artwork. Most nights I would go home and not even try to create anything – I was fried, and the daily toll of all this office hostility amounted to me falling asleep in front of the television earlier than usual.

But here is where the silver lining comes in…

This week has sharpened and redefined the void and chasm in my life between reality and artistic pursuits. I found out how delicate the artistic world is and how susceptible to outside invaders it can be. I not only have to shore up the defensive shields around it, but I also have to find a way to make this chasm smaller, or gone altogether. In other words, I am more driven now than ever before to make what I was meant to do, what I want to do, my career, and not this horrifying, unattractively surreal, soul-sucking corporate world, which was never a good fit for me. It needs to go away. I need to find a way out of it. And I also have some new, sharply focused angst to translate into imagery. Sure, I have always had these thoughts, these fears, these complaints, but a good dose of high-powered misery can really get the metaphor engine revving, and I can unleash all this pent-up aggression into some imagery, hopefully soon!

Michael Bilotta

August 23, 2013