Get What You Need
By: Hadley Gallen
I offer this to you humbly, with truth and love. I’m going to be blunt, and bear in mind that I’m generalizing a lot; I know that all of us are very mature, adult individuals. But I really need to drive this point home. I came back from halfway across the world with a whole new perspective, a whole new appreciation for us, and much respect for what it is that we have here. I am eager to see what can be done about it. I want to share some thoughts with you, CalArts.
BUCK UP. Grow up, pull your shit together, and get out into the world!
A story: when I first got here, everyone told me that I could put anything up in the Coffeehouse. I thought, how amazing—I’ll do that! But as my training went on, I found myself growing more and more afraid of taking advantage of any such opportunities. I grew afraid and uncertain, and my travels have shown me that the same thing is happening on a global scale.
I went abroad because I found myself losing faith in my school, and losing faith in myself as an artist and student. I needed to take charge in my own life; I needed a wakeup-call, a change of scenery, a slap in the face. A big change I notice in myself after coming back is that I don’t want to mince words anymore. I’m not timid about what I say, and it’s not because I want to be mean or that I don’t give a fuck. It’s because I DO give a fuck. I give a very big fuck. This place, my education, YOU, my friends and colleagues, my teachers, it all matters a hell of a lot to me, and I can see that we are all losing faith.
It’s wonderful to create the incredible art that we do here, but we have to realize that once we get out into the real world we have some incredible obstacles that will inhibit us from creating. Believe it or not, we are living in luxury at CalArts. We get to create just about anything we want here. And I think that, because of that luxury, we’ve gotten lazy. There are real obstacles out there that we have to grow up and deal with.
I came to CalArts because I am interested in practices that open the body and the mind, and CalArts is the place for that. But nowadays I think we students can really take that for granted. When I first got here, it seemed like a shining place of opportunity and possibility, like anything could happen! Now that I’m nearing graduation, all of that is still true, but oddly vacant. The CalArts possibility just seems an idea now, a dream of what CalArts should be (or used to be). Even the graffiti in the bathrooms is unintelligent, petty, and boring.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there doesn’t seem to be much FAITH in our system that is here to inspire us. All around the globe, the systems that we have grown up with are crashing down around us. Honestly, it wasn’t until I came back from abroad that I looked around and saw just what kind of recession America is in. I didn’t notice before, because this is all I have known. I also know that halfway across the world, people are living in even worse conditions, and yet so many of them have happy faces. OUR recession has really got us down, not just financially, but spiritually. That’s what I mean by that vacancy of possibility. Where is our DRIVE? Where is our HOPE? Where is our INVOLVEMENT?
In one semester I have seen more incredible, magnificent works of art and performance than ever before, and I congratulate everyone for doing what you’ve done! But I ask you to preserve this creative magnificence and apply not just to your art, but also to your life—while you’re at CalArts and after. Please don’t restrict yourself to the CalArts bubble. That drive, hope and involvement that you cultivate here, please, take it with you, out into the world. It needs you.
And PLEASE don’t take CalArts for granted! So what if our school is antiquated? Don’t allow that to dampen your spirits—get what you need out of your education. Give it to yourself. GET WHAT YOU NEED. Because frankly, where else will it come from? We as a nation are trying to band together to fix our problems—let’s do the same at CalArts.We’re just a microcosm of what’s going on. It is your approach to failure that enables you to find success. Fear of failure is an amazing teacher; it helps you discover your ability to survive. And the humility to learn that fearlessly will help you to survive.
STUDENTS: Everyone is looking for money and opportunity in a failing economy. If we look to our leaders, teachers, and instructors for answers we’ll be disappointed; they’ve got the same heavy issues on their plates, plus ours. Believe me, the school does a great job of trying to give us resources! New fliers go up for jobs and internships every day, and Student Affairs has everything we need, all the information is right there for us. So if we can’t find the answers, it is not because the faculty are inadequate, but simply because we haven’t taken our own initiative. If we’re going to make anything happen for ourselves, then we have to find our own way to get it.
Why doesn’t Santa Clarita know more about us? Why aren’t we reaching out more to the community (aside from CAP), performing in town, getting our CalArts vibe off the campus and into the world that we want to change? The student unions at other schools like USC are incredible. Why don’t we have that? Okay, USC has money…lots of it. So, why don’t we get ourselves some? Impossible, you say? Why?
Question. Question it; question everything. Take a breath, take a look, and please, please, PLEASE look deep within to see what it is that you are here for. Are you getting it? If not, how can you take your education into your own hands and get it? How can you translate your actions from school out into the world? I easily get depressed and angry about the state of our school. Everyone complains about the Caf. food, the dorms, the trash, the dilapidation of our buildings, the prehistoric state of our academic systems. I walk around campus and see loads of money being wasted on insignificant things like a new coat of white paint on a white wall, pockets of (beautiful!) new landscaping, and…an FJ Cruiser. Please. Meanwhile, I am sleeping on a length of plywood that falls off of its steel frame, in a dorm room that has an ant problem. And I’m right now watching those shitty sprinklers spraying gallons and gallons of money into the air that is already thick with pouring rain.
But I don’t want to let those things detract from my reason for being here. None of us should.
CalArts is a progressive, forward-momentum rocket in an archaic frame. We do create spectacular things here, and that is something to celebrate, but it concerns me that we don’t seem to be holding up the values that our mission is based on, and that we—you and I—aren’t making more of an effort to get what we deserve.
I went abroad because, for the first time in my life, I felt the calling to take my life into my own hands. It was the first time that I made something happen for myself, and I didn’t ask if it was okay. It just felt right. And it WAS right. Perhaps it was just that I was ready, but for the first time I began to see all the love, creativity, openness, healing, adventure, hope, and abilities that were within me. And more importantly, I saw them in all of us, in CalArts.
I also began to see the blockages that have built up in our system and clogged our creative arteries. We are reminded every day that we can create, but we now have to make a commitment and remind ourselves daily that we are capable of change in the world. Have faith. Don’t despair. Take your life into your own hands, instead of placing yourself at the mercy of what happens. Change something you don’t want to see, something that you know doesn’t serve the world. What are you able to do about it?
You think you came here to get an education—you’re wrong. You are here because you are on a journey to discover what your gifts are, and how you can use them. What kind of a difference can you make with this knowledge? Find your feet—Get a clue—Open up. Share your gifts. This is not hippie-dippie self-help bullshit. This is your life, so take it into your own hands—for the sake of what you love.
Our world has changed, and we need to change with it or sink into the ground under the weight of our own hopelessness. My education hasn’t been what I thought it was going to be, and I hope yours hasn’t either. I want CalArts to succeed, and frankly, right now my hopes are not high. But I will do what I can to help it survive. I am writing this because I want to encourage you to have a little faith in our school and in yourselves. If the higher-ups can’t get us what we want, then we have to get what we need. Let’s do it; let’s rebuild. The way to begin is easy:
- STOP COMPLAINING.
- Take a deep breath.
- OBSERVE. Take an honest look within yourself, and reconnect to what you stand for and what you are here to create.
- Identify the places in your life that feel unsatisfactory.
- Think about the necessary steps that will lead to satisfaction.
- Act from that place of observance.
- Repeat steps 1-7 expanding your gifts to larger and larger social circles until you are changing the world.
Hadley Gallen is a BFA3 Acting student.