August 30, 2012

I Prefer Washing Dishes Than Producing "Masterpieces"

Restaurant dishwashing

Really, I mean it! For a simply reason: when washing dishes my mind is FREE, I think whatever I want, but when working on so-called "masterpieces" - like custom portraits I had done before, a kind of work that required my full concentration just for reproducing the likeness - my mind is simply a slave of repetitive yet meaningless (to me) labor.

When I just came to this country, my first job (illegal) was washing dish on Sunday, from 11am - 6pm, for $48 total ($6 per hour). Back then I was told by many people that I could do portraits on streets instead of working in restaurants. I didn't take advice, because I did think working in restaurant was more interesting than working on people's faces. Half year later I did go to streets to draw people's faces, not because I loved it, but because working in restaurant simply could not support my life (as an students of private art school). Had the job of washing dishes been able to bring enough money, I would never do portraits, even though it was a job that sounds way better to so many people.

I understand that working on repetitive technical work may not be so terrible to some people, but for me, it is. It occupies my mind, hinders my free thinking and imagination. It is indeed one of worst thing happened to life. The only worse thing I could think of would be living under indigence or slavery.

Yes, the admiration/compliments I received as a portraits artist was overabundant, but they did not complement my "suffering" of losing freedom. This shows how one (persons like me) cannot be happy just by others compliments. My happiness have to come from within - myself, when I feel like my interest has been satisfied.

Of course, I did not mean that washing dishes is the best job I could ever get, but it was a job that suited me better than producing repetitive "masterpieces". Now, after years of struggling with my career, I found a way out, and very happily, at middle age in my life, in a quiet corner of world which would be overlooked by most busy people, I can say to myself: "finally, I live like a human with free mind!"

Viola Freedom!

P.S. Majority of the portraits I "produced" are beautiful. I have no doubt on my skill and my artistic taste. But why I was not happy to do the job that i am so good at? Here is analogy: think about "rape" - just because a woman was raped, doesn't mean her babies are not pretty; on the other hand, just because those beautiful babies were born of rape, doesn't mean the woman would like to be raped again. :-)

Related post: The pain of a professional custom portrait artist


  1. What you're saying here definitely makes sense...a menial task can certainly afford one great mental freedom, while one that's time-pressured or more complex in nature might restrain it. My main issue with past jobs hasn't been the job itself, but the people running the show. I have a little problem with authority, especially those who abuse it. Unfortunately, the menial jobs I've had were also those with the most power-hungry jerks as bosses. Right now, I'm thinking that being my own boss is best; I can do, think, and say whatever I like!

  2. yunyi, you and I are on the same exact page. Work of any kind has never appealed to me, because I can't stand the idea of having a place I have to be and a routine I have to follow every day. I value my freedom too much. So I thought writing would be a good alternative. I figured I could make my own hours and basically work as I pleased. I discovered immediately that this was not the case. Writing was hard, taxing, exhausting mental work and totally antithetical to an active, physical free-spirited person like me. Something like coaching gymnastics or waiting on patrons at a public library was so much more compatible with my nature. I love menial tasks like washing dishes or watering the garden because I can sing the whole time while I'm doing them and not think.

  3. kris, i totally understand what you mean by having "a little problem" with authority. it was the problem with me too when i worked in restaurants. and when i was my own boss, job itself became a problem. i guess we just have to follow our heart, and negotiate a little sometime (only if we have to), finding a job i dislike less, and enjoy our free time.
    being our own boss is definitely a better way to work for people like us. i am now holding my art classes by my own, so i don't have to listen to anyone. once i worked for somebody else, i found i was less enjoying teaching and even the teaching quality was not as good as i teach on my own.
    life is such a "strange" thing! i guess we just have to follow our instinct.

  4. marty, i am glad we are on the same page! just like you once thought being a professional writer would be good choice, i many times also thought the same thing: writer (chinese), programmer, web designer,etc., and found they all not good to me. many of my friends once believed i was just lost and didn't know what i wanted. as matter of fact i knew it was not the case - i knew exactly i want: freedom.

  5. It's nice to know how you relax your mind and let your imagination flow, I might try washing dishes out 8)

    I normally go running... when I run I can let my mind drift and think up storys and images etc But I think your version will relieve some stress from my muscles XD

    I am glade that you are doing well now and doing something which is enjoyable ^_^


  6. I hate washing dishes! I'm so glad you found a path beyond. :-)

  7. @Furita Rhapsados
    I also like to walk or run, it is the best time to let imagination flow.

    I don't blame you. If my fate permit, I would not wash dishes either.