What money says.
Most days, I wake up to a silent scream inside my head. It’s like I have the Macaulay Culkin aftershave scene from Home Alone stuck on repeat. The lack of sound means that I can push past it with relative ease. But whenever I turn my attention inwards, there’s the scream. I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. As creatives, the resistance can be especially pronounced, even when it’s not saying a word.
Beside the silent scream inside my head is the nagging suspicion that things aren’t going to work out. That I’ll create the art I’m longing to make and then it will choke. And when it does, I’ll be back to square one. Or worse, I’ll be kicked right out of the game. It doesn’t seem to matter that my theory has yet to come to fruition. Because even though I’ve been met with the unexpected and challenging on numerous occasions, I haven’t had to stop playing yet.
One of the sticky things about capitalism is that it teaches us to equate money with what gets to define us. Inside this model, our work becomes the thing we make money off of. To put it another way, we can’t claim a title for ourselves unless there’s some kind of monetary exchange happening. Because what better way to silence the disruptors then to dismiss them because they’re not getting paid for their work.
My silent scream and nagging suspicion wouldn’t be complete without the fear of being called a fake that keeps them company. Some folx might refer to this as imposter syndrome. Others might experience this as a kind of anxiety around the authenticity of their work being called into question. Whatever the specific semantics, it’s a heady cocktail that can leave even the most resilient among us feeling ill and unsure if we should proceed with making our art.
While I have yet to find a magic antidote to these ailments, I have found that a heavy dose of taking myself seriously helps. Just the other day, I added something to one of my social media profiles that says I work for Rae Kess. Before it said I was self-employed. Both are true and one feels more true now. Because the latter option feels like me validating myself; it feels like me deciding to commit more fully to the work I’m doing, regardless of what money says.
Money can never paint a full picture of you or your creative work. And while you may always struggle to separate your identity and feelings of worth from capitalist narratives, you can choose how you hold your value outside of that limited lens. It’s possible for you to claim the mantel of a creative now. For you to take yourself and your work seriously and to make it a priority, not because you’re getting paid to do it but because it matters. Because it’s you.
So, how does money paint a limited picture of who you are?