In the early 2000’s, I was introduced to the work of a rap artist named Eminem. The catchy beats and fast lyrical raps caught my attention when I heard one of his songs on the radio. Generally, I was not a fan of rap, but decided to buy his CD: “The Eminem Show.” The first time I listened to the CD, the lyrics moved through me. I felt all of the emotion and pain that Eminem had to offer. I was appalled and intrigued at the same time.
Over the next few years, I listened to all of Eminem’s songs and appreciated his craft. The way he utilized words to express his distain and rage was masterful and repulsive. I wondered if he’d ever regret his songs, as some were so forceful, violent, and explicit that one couldn’t help but wonder if he was indeed a madman.
Then a curious thing happened. Eminem went from unhinged rapper to my role model. At the time, I was in therapy to deal with my frequent periods of disassociation due to past trauma and discovered that his music touched me in a way others could not. His rage became my rage. For a brief period, I had everything in common with an explicit rapper, that I had never personally met, and he became my guiding force.
While I had little in common with Eminem the musician, I had everything to do with the rage he felt. He spoke in a way I could not. I hadn’t yet gotten in touch with my own rage, so I had to borrow his. I learned a valuable lesson from Eminem, one that I had failed to learn as a child. Creativity is its own thing and while it may be uncomfortable, and even gross, it is necessary in its raw form. Creativity is the expression of the inexpressible. Art is pain in all it’s beautiful glory. Without an outlet for creativity, the soul cannot thrive.
As a child, I didn’t learn how to embrace my creativity, nor how to express unbridled emotion. As an adult, all that emotion, that didn’t have an outlet as a child, needed to find one. And it all began with Eminem.
In Eminem’s later years, he did in fact regret some of his music. Things change, as we change. But instead of living in regret, he made more music about the music he regretted. He didn’t let any emotion own him, rather he set it free into the world through his creative expression. He leaned into the discomfort instead of away from it.
Over the last five years I’ve found multiple outlets for my own creative spirit. Although, I haven’t yet tried rapping like Eminem (yet), I’ve expressed my rage through stories and other writings that have provoked people and even disgusted them. I’ve ridden the boarder of acceptable and pushed myself and others to the boundaries of comfort. I can’t help but wonder if years from now I’ll look back with regret for some of the harsh words I’ve used and strong emotions I’ve provoked?
My hope is that I will continue to refine myself over the course of my life. That the things I struggle with today, will seem trivial as time goes on. That my wisdom and acceptance will drown out any rage that lingers beyond its purpose.
My desire is to be honest with my words and craft, whatever that may be, even when it is hot with emotion or cold with apathy.
My goal is to be unapologetic in my expression but humble enough to share all my experiences, especially the ones that hang heavy in my heart years later.
Until this stage of my life, I never understood the angst that seems to be synonymous with creative expression. Today, I understand it plainly. It is terribly uncomfortable to be vulnerable with art, music, writings, or any other expression that may be misunderstood. Or worse, understood perfectly, but not in context to the person you have become since creating it.
With my newfound understanding, I view the artists of the world with a refined appreciation. Bravo to those who explain their artistic process and kudos to those who do not. Anyone that puts their creations out into the world, for better or worse, is worthy of admiration. With honest artistic creations, humanity becomes more human and infinitely more beautiful.
Today, I will remember with gratitude, all the musicians, poets, sculptors, writers, painters, and artists that have gone before me. When I consume what they offer, I will take comfort in that I am basking in their emotional outlet and admire their courage for putting it out into the world. In my own works, I will let the creative spirit move through me and take no responsibility for how it is consumed, only that it is an honest expression.