This week I watched the first episode of Girls. I know, I know. Desperately late to the party yet again, but in my defence, I don’t have Sky Atlantic and selfishly, it’s not on Netflix. Plus, I wasn’t really that desperate. I feel like cringey has been done, and I’ve had enough bad sex of my own to not feel the need to watch someone else’s.
Of course everyone was right, as usual. I did have to hide behind my paws more than once, but despite that, I am keen to see more.
For those of you, like me, who haven’t made the leap yet, the story is set around a group of young people living in New York who are living off their parents whilst pursuing creative endeavours. Now, while I don’t believe I know anyone sponging off their parents, I do know a number of people who prize creativity and artistic freedom above actually earning money, and regard being unable to pay their rent as a regrettable but necessary consequence of their commitment to said integrity. This is not an attitude I have ever been able to get along with.
But Laura, you cry, have you not just packed your job in to write and edit things? Yes, my friends, I have, and I am strongly resisting the urge to get a part-time job just to have something stable. I am all for living the dream. However, this cannot come at the expense of your financial commitments. I know that ideas of paying your rent and your bills are basically tantamount to loving THE MAN, but seriously. You have to be able to pay your living expenses. If you can’t, someone else, somewhere is losing out, be it your landlord, the friend who subs you or even your parents.
Inexpicably, people that choose this route often seem to emanate a glow extreme superiority. This is also in full evidence in Girls. Apparently, making these artistic sacrifices qualifies you to look down with pity on anyone with a normal job. This generally doesn’t include skills based jobs such as plumbing or electrics, but office jobs. For some reason this is seen as selling out, to that most dire of individuals, THE MAN. I encountered plenty of job-based snobbery when I was still working in an office, most memorably from the mother of an acquaintance that is still unable to pay his rent on a monthly basis after nearly a decade in his chosen field. Evidently independence and being able to take care of yourself are nothing compared to being able to thrust twelve sides of A4 at your parents and call it your memoir.
Maybe you want to be an artist. If you do, that’s brilliant. However, in order for it to be your full-time function, it has to serve a purpose. That is particularly the case in the UK, where the welfare state exists to help people. The healthcare is free, education is free, and if you really can’t afford it, housing is free. I think this is fantastic. However, in such a system, we all have to do something worthwhile. If you aren’t being paid for your art, you may be an artist but you are not a professional artist. If no-one buys the novel that I am DEFINITELY writing this year, that won’t stop me from being a writer but it will stop me from being professional writer. If I am not a professional writer, then I need to be earning money from another source. I cannot expect anyone to pay my bills, the state included, because I have decided that I prize something above supporting myself. That may look like freedom to some people, but to me, it’s just skanking off others.