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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Johns

End of 2021/Beginning of 2022

32 was a great year. 33 is pretty great so far too. Really looking forward to 2022.

This year, I got lost in the redwoods.

I hyperbolically almost died climbing the Great Smoky Mountains.

I gorged myself on gorges, on breathing in that good oxygen.

I kicked my 28-year-long nail biting habit shockingly easily.

I got my first (and second) tattoo, and it feels like they should have always been there. (I’ve already got at least 12 more ideas for what to add next.)

I lucked into the best thrival job I’ve ever had or could ever hope to have, working remotely, with my best friend, for a team that has each others’ backs, for a boss who cares about us as people and values work/life balance above all else.

I’ve spent the majority of my year side-by-side with the love of my life.

I got vaccinated and boosted.

I unlocked a love for pro-wrestling I always knew existed but never had an accessible promotion to get behind. Never had an ethical, thoughtful outlet for my enjoyment until now. (Shout out to AEW on that one.)

I continue to fine-tune what I believe, what I know, what my boundaries are, what I’ll put up with, and what I refuse to tolerate.

Going to stop using almost all social media. Facebook is a fucking toxic platform and we all know it. Twitter is a structural nightmare. TikTok makes me feel like an old lady yelling at neighbor kids. I’ll be using my website to blog and post announcements of all the shit I’m up to, and until something better comes along, I’ll still keep my Instagram to document what I’m excited about. (Hate that it’s owned by Facebook, but it’s a good photo app if you use it responsibly, and I think I can do that, so it is what it is.) Still gotta comb through and save the things I want to save, so I don’t know when my official “out” day is going to be.. will probably Irish Goodbye when I’m all set. So if you want to keep in contact with me, go follow me on Insta @ToriJ9. Or text me if you have my number.

I’m continuing to define my relationship to art and performance, a quandary that started well before COVID times, but strengthened immensely after the events of 2020. For a brief moment, when everything first shut down, when the world was united in empathy and concern for our collective well being, when the rumblings of a racial reckoning were on the horizon, when our economic collapse was imminent…I thought that maybe our creative industries would pivot, would use this extraordinary moment to change. And maybe there’s still time. But 2 years later, and we all appear to be wasting our opportunity to do better. We’re falling back into old habits, old structures, old systems. We think we’ve done enough. (We haven’t.) We think appealing to capitalism will save us. (It won’t.) We think having a Democrat in office again will make up for the last 6-7 years of our society devolving into chaos. (I mean, they’re trying. But that’s not saying much, considering the work that needs to be done.)

I was already fed up with the hamster wheel of trying to get hired to act for ultimately very little money or forward momentum, but then to have this periodic COVID wrench getting thrown into the mechanism, throwing us all off the wheel, just for us to climb back on again when we think the threat has passed…It’s ludicrous.

The Industry was broken from The Art well before the pandemic started. I’m not terribly optimistic about our prospects as working class artists now that society itself is crumbling down around us.

Which seems like a super bleak note to start the year on…I know.

Careers have become a meaningless mechanism of capitalism. We’re tired of breaking our bodies and souls in jobs that we don’t want to do, so we think that if we break our bodies and souls in pursuit of a career we love, we’ll one day get to stop breaking our bodies and souls and actually get to enjoy our lives.

It’s fucking gross.

And I’m not talking about putting in a hard day’s work, or becoming a leader in any particular field you want to be a leader in.

I’m talking about missing family holidays, missing recreation, skipping medical attention, not taking vacations/days off just because we’re made to think that if we stop for even a second, we might miss out on THE opportunity that turns everything around. The “hustle” is a toxic capitalist lie our idealism wanted to believe.

So here’s why this isn’t bleak:

Giving up on pursuing a career as an artist has given me back the freedom to have a full life as an artistic person.

Do I still want to earn a living doing what I love? Sure. Money is an unfortunate reality in our world. Would I like to collaborate with others and support them in their creative endeavors? Absolutely.

But I don’t know shit about marketing. I despise trying to sell another person on something they don’t already know they want. I hate being the commodity I’m trying to sell.

I’m a whole person who can interpret text with emotion and nuance.

Who can use her body and voice to draw an audience into another world and offer them escape when they need it.

Who can sing and dance and fight and land a joke.

Who can paint canvasses that give a home something interesting to look at.

Who can construct those canvasses with actual trash and make it beautiful.

Who can add jokes to a virtual sketch just by how I edit clips together.

I give absolutely no fucks about how many followers I can get on social media.

I just want to live a full, conscientious, creative life, and I don’t need anyone else’s permission to do that. Will anyone other than my family come see my shows or buy my artwork? Maybe. Maybe not. But I get to create what I want to create and learn what I want to learn with the people I want to be creating and learning with.

My time and energies are my own.

I’ve always had do-it-yourself, anarchist punk tendencies, a ‘take care of yourself and others’ mentality, a ‘fuck any system or person who wields cruelty’ sensibility. The older I get, the more comfortable I feel embracing a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none kind of mediocrity.

If lightning never strikes for me, my life will not have suffered for it because this broken capitalist system no longer has power and control over my creative life.

After these past couple years, I have finally become fed up with complacency. I will continue to strive to live and behave and consume and experience with greater intention and focus. And this isn’t a new year’s resolution — this is just the culmination of several years of rage and exhaustion and heartbreak vying for my attention, and I’m choosing to move on and do better.

It just so happens that the beginning of a new year is a damn fine time to do so.

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