Growing up, I was a different kind of kid, more eccentric than most. I was always into more artistic endeavors than most. I played the guitar. I did graphic design. Eventually I started getting pretty deep into photography. In some kind of way, others recognized this and it reinforced this notion of who I was. I thought those talents made me special, and that I should share them with the world. I used to think of myself as "creative". That is, until I moved to Portland, Oregon.
I moved here for the classic set of reasons, seeking opportunity, adventure,... a change of scenery. This is a city whose personality is epitomized by the brooding artist, the man-purse wearing cyclist, the tattooed hipster... I really do love this town, for all of its eccentricity, even if its weirdness often conformed into somewhat predictable mimes. Portland is a rare kind of city though. It's a town that cultivates the creative, one that allows the dreams of the artist to gestate, and provides an atmosphere that encourages their expression. But here, everyone plays the guitar. Everyone's in a band. Everyone's a the next great designer / poet / writer / juggler / (insert your passion here). Everyone's trying to make their mark. And I'm just one of the thousands trying to make some kind of mark too, which is fine by me. Here those activites that used to set me apart seem like prerequisites. A seeming over-saturation of talent has changed the equation... the biggest audience for such endeavors are those within one's own field. I guess this is nothing new. People of similar interests tend to flock together, and Portland is a good fit for artists.
Coming here has been humbling though. It's shown me how many others reach for that same goal: some external recognition and the ability to make a living from one's creative pursuits, as hard as that may sometimes be. It's made me re-evaluate why I do all of these activities. I could probably be making more money with my time. Or I could be working a lot less instead. But for me, life would be less fulfilling. We're only here on earth for a brief time, so I can think of little better way to spend one's days than by trying to pour one's inner life back to the world through arts, music, language, and thought. Humans are a strange breed, keeping ourselves so occupied with our work. We sometime place such importance on what we do, while in a way what we do here is often frivolous and insignificant. But it's also something precious and rare - something that we should do regardless, provided that it helps fill our souls and the souls of others.
I used to think of myself as "creative". And I still sorta do, even if here it seems like everybody is. The culture of Portland has decided that the arts are something to be celebrated. Unlike many U.S. cities, commerce doesn't seem to be the driving agenda behind life here. It's something more fundamental. And a large part of it is the strange pursuit of meaning through self-expression, of which I'm proud to be a part.