Before we get into the meat of this piece I’d like to apologize. Apologize to the people I’ve let down, the family I’ve ignored and to myself for not trying harder.
I began to suffer from manic depression after being savagely attacked on a Mercy College Campus. I stopped feeling safe in school, I stopped talking to people and began to withdraw from relationships I had made.
What exacerbated these feeling was how Mercy never followed up after I reported the incident. They only cared about their culpability. I was was the victim of the machinations of a fellow student but because my attacker was not a member of the Mercy “Family” I was repeatedly told “it’s out of our hands”.
To make matters worse, I had confided in My PACT mentor about what had happened and as of this writing I am on my 5th or so mentor who only reaches out when the administration tells them with generic mass emails about events and “opportunities” I may be interested in when they nothing all to do with my personal and career goals.
Mercy has entire departments dedicated to mental health and the study of the mind but when a student needs this help so desperately it’s up to them, they have to go seek it out. I couldn’t set foot on campus, I cut class, ward money on trips to school only to get sick to my stomach and leave in a fit of cold sweat.
Mercy made me feel like I didn’t matter.
Unless it was about my bill.
I would feel this sensation again after the election. The constant jokes about Trump and the lightness with which his pres and would suffer a mental breakdown sending me on a downward spiral of self destruction and fear.
I’m a freelance photographer. I do that for a living. It’s essentially living check to check and hunting for new assignments like a mercenary and like that job there is risk of harm. I attended several Anti-Trump protests after the election (community upheaval is always good money and I had a stake in this as the firstborn of an immigrant)
I was spit on, called names, attacked by police officers and bystanders (touting their pride in the Trump Reich) and while there was a mass of bodies in the street these actions were directed at me.
By the time I stepped away from the assignment and sold my work I had earned my fourth concussion, won a cut on my wrist when an officer handcuffed “the wrong kid” and gained new painful bruises on my legs, arms, ribs and head.
I’m not happy about this. It sounds like I am seeing as how I’m a fan of the counterculture movement, the U.K. Punk scene of the late 60s and 70s and my wild white spiky hair (and those oh so positive trigger words like “earned” and “won”) but much like you wouldn’t say that a woman wearing revealing clothes deserves to be assaulted for her outward appearance I don’t deserve being beaten for not fitting into the clandestine image of America.
The following days after my coverage of the events I continued to work. Picking assignments wherever I could, not sleeping for 3-4 days at a time, distracting myself and neglecting my health. I was down to one small meal every day and my mental health was dissolving like the Alka-Seltzer I had half-promised myself to take so as feign some sort self-care.
I was devastated by two deaths that were too close to home. That had been the final straw. I couldn’t talk to people nor did I know whom I could turn to.
It was strange, that after an extended stay in Japan I felt more at home there with the strangers I had gotten know, whom hadn’t judged me negatively and seen me as a wonder (a 22 year old from the Bronx who had traveled clear across the world to fulfill a childhood dream) than a minority.
Then there was the money.
My debts were adding up. The bills from living expenses, the money I took out for my sister to have a birthday she was owed for her hard upbringing, and the price of being a young artist in one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
Everyone with an iPhone is a photographer now. Every pretty face is a model or god help us the next body sacrificed to the silver screens of cinema. Every liar on twitter is a writer and every doodler with iPad Pro money is the Walt Disney of this or that generation. I support all my artists, I love ever person who dares dedicate themselves to one of the most unsteady paths in life.
I would be remiss in my discourse if I didn’t think of Van Gogh as the perfect artist. He was ignored, hated his work, had terrible relationships and was driven to suicide as he could not cope with the way in which his fellow denizens of society and how society this unrelenting beast perpetuating itself through the ages. At times I feel like this but never have these sensations been so damaging, so crippling as they have been in these past months.
I think of Van Gogh whilst I work knowing he was was only worth anything to people after his expiration. My father used that the only good artist is a dead artist and now that I am an artist I finally understand. They only love you when you’re gone, when they can’t get anything else from you and in turn you become a number in a collection of other works in someone else’s gallery.
Seeing the people’s cries for justice and how the disenfranchised are still being crushed Van Gogh was right, “The sadness will last forever.”