Veni, Vidi, Artsy, Fartsy: Continued

A year later, I have mixed feelings about the changes I’ve seen in this part of the city over a short amount of time. First, my rent has doubled. I’m now living in a new-construction townhouse 1/2 mile away from my former digs on Poquito—yes, it’s one of those hideous mini-McMansions. It’s not without some guilt that I realize I’m an agent of that price inflation. I can imagine what it must be like for the people who’ve lived here for a generation or five, financially unable to keep up with the property taxes, and forced to sell their homes because of the market’s demand. This is Amurkuh, and if you can’t suck it up (or pay for it) – tough. But unlike the longtime East Austin residents, we aren’t homeowners and can move away without leaving a great deal of memories and community ties behind.

My husband and I both work for very small, struggling yet growing companies, but our standard of living is firmly lower-ish middle class. Bourgeois even. (I guess we’re members of the “creative class,” but that’s an entirely different issue. Somehow being viewed as a commodity to attract bigass global companies to plant their 100-acre campuses and polluting factories here doesn’t sit well with me.) And realistically, most of us practicing artists will never get above middle class. You can look at that two equally pessimistic ways.

One: You’ll have a lot of guilt in life, especially if you’re the college-educated oldest child from a middle-class American household, because you’ll barely be able to afford a decent house, repair your 10-year-old car, or feed your family of four meat at every meal. You won’t be living up to those values your parents drove into you, shamed you into believing.

Two: You can get the reverse snob complex and pretend that it’s cool to be poor. This is a downward spiral. I don’t know if these people really are assholes or if they’re just cranky and hungry. The situation goes like this: you may start off as financially OK, but then you lose your Hobby Lobby gig or a bet to see who can eat the most cheese cubes at an art show. Then you realize you can wear the same Chucks and jeans every day simply because you can’t afford new shit, and it looks the same as the fake-rugged clothes displayed in the shattered-glass windows at Urban Outfitters. More so, how much cooler it is to brag about your lack of money. The more destitute you are, the bigger asshole you become.

Yes, both are equally sad. But your attitude about your fiscal lifestyle is a choice. Your calling to make art is not.

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