Today’s post is a guest blog by Trishna Patnaik, a self-taught artist, art therapist, and healer. She writes about how you should be as serious about your fun as you are about your work—something that many of us need to incorporate into our lives.
Even though you are growing up, you should never stop having fun. —Nina Dobrev
When it comes to work, most of us tend to be highly strategic and thorough in our approach. We think extensively about where our talents and opportunities lie, we spend years (and maybe a fortune) on training, we devote extraordinary energy (and our most vigorous decades) to progressing up the ladder, and keep a vigilant and jealous eye on the progress of our rivals.
Our leisure hours promise to be, by contrast, quite easy! We do not expect there to be a particular complexity in this section of existence. We want to completely relax and have fun and tend to think that the only obstacles toward such goals might be time and money. We adopt a welcoming, unsuspicious manner and readily take up the suggestions of others without gimlet-eyed scrutiny. Sometimes, without thinking about things too much, we end up at a water park or hosting a barbecue.
What we may thoroughly miss for many years is the real price of our negligence. We forget that our lives are much less than they might be because we insist on being haphazard and disorganized instead of choosing to be devotedly analytical. We remain in the rut of being guided by hearsay and muddled instinct when we should harness reason and independent reflection. We are a lot more miserable than we might be, because we cannot take our own fun more seriously. We do not do so because we ruinously and poignantly lack in vigilance about our individuality! We assume that what will work for others will work for us too. It doesn’t readily occur to us to take our uniqueness into account.
A corrective measure to this highly costly absence of mind comes from an unexpected place: the history of art! What we call a great artist is someone who, first and foremost, has learned to take his or her pleasure seriously. To become an artist in this sense is not first and foremost about the technical discovery, it’s about the strength to stay faithful to one’s self. Most young artists do not do so; they like art for sure, but they don’t drill too deeply into why they, as unique beings, are passionate about it. That is why the very chief characteristic of inexperienced artists is derivativeness: their art reflects what everyone else around them tends to like and make in their particular era and circle.
Most of us are not making art. But we are involved in the business of getting to know and please ourselves as any artist must. For too much of our lives, we assume we may be like everyone else. Only gradually, if we are lucky, do we come to see that our characteristic way of drawing pleasure from nature, books, films, dinner parties, clothes, travels, gardening, etc. bears the imprint and distinctive timbre of our particular individuality. To lean on an associated example, we learn how to be proper fetishists.
The fetishist is akin to the artist in having the stubborn presence of mind to defend his or her own tastes, even and especially when these depart from the mainstreams. Great fetishists, like great artists, know the power of details to generate happiness.
Using the power of details to make us happy
Most of us are, by contrast, fatefully modest about what we enjoy. We don’t dare to foreground our own discoveries. What we do with our leisure hours is therefore marked by a dispiriting uniformity. We go camping because we hear that’s meant to be fun. We invite guests around for dinner and talk about what everyone else talks about and have an orange for a starter. Our weekends unfold a bit like those of all our colleagues. We die with our particular appetites and intense sensations tragically unexplored!
To save ourselves, we need the equivalent of an artistic breakthrough. We must draw outside the lines in our leisure pursuits and be prepared to be weird. If we were to use only ourselves as a point of reference, what would a dinner party look like? What would we want to eat? What would we talk about? Where would we sit? What might a holiday specifically geared to our tastes and proclivities be like? What bit of the standard tourist itinerary might we ditch? Which of our guilty pleasures might we dare to bring to light and anchor our days around? What might we learn to say no to and contrastingly, emphasize going forward?
It’s been drummed into us that we may be selfish and should learn to relinquish our interests for the sake of the community and society in general—so we fail to notice an even more horrific possibility: that in many areas, we’re not selfish enough! We fail to pay any appropriate attention to our fragile, extraordinary and scarce nature. We don’t give any outward expression to our true sensations. We don’t give our weekends and our spare time the imprint of our own characters! We kill our uniqueness out of politeness and a fear of being odd. We spend far too much of our brief lives defending an impossible idea: that we are much like anyone else!
Questions for developing an independent, pleasurable self
Harness your pleasure and take your leisure time seriously by asking yourself these questions:
- What do you like to eat? In what order and at what time?
- What do you like to talk about? What bores you deeply?
- Where do you like to travel to? What do you keep doing only out of guilt?
- What do you like to read?
- Who would you like never to see again?
- What would you do if you only had five weekends left?
About the Author
Trishna Patnaik, a B.Sc. (in life sciences) and M.B.A. (in marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice, is a self-taught artist based in Mumbai who has been practicing art for over 14 years. After a professional stint in the corporate world, she realized that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion for painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, "It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to every day." Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.
Trishna is also an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai.
She fancies the art of creative writing and is dabbling in that as well, to soak in the experience and engage with readers, wanderers, and thinkers.
Cover Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash