The Art of Perseverance
By Jameel Haiat
As an Artist, perseverance is everything.
There is no better time than now, during the chaos of this pandemic, protests and incredibly turbulent political landscape, to remember this.
Whether you are a Writer, Painter, Musician, Actor or Dancer, it doesn’t matter. We have all had to go through the struggle, the packages of cheap “ramen noodle” dinners, the small apartments with horrible roommates, the loneliness and doubt.
But, without that, without those incredible memories of difficult times and tears, the amazing highs of spotlights, applause, kudos and adrenaline would never be as powerful.
I will tell you a story, my story of perseverance.
I grew up in Los Angeles, just east of the City, where those looking to move away from the gangs, violence and poverty would come to move onward…the gateway to the suburbs. Just over the freeway, and a few blocks away, the shots would still ring out, the Sheriff would still patrol and the tough would still reign. Living where I was, didn’t mean those things stopped at the end of the block or the freeway, they found their way in, seeping into our lives. Violence crept into my school with bullies and into my home through physical abuse.
My uncles would come stay with us when they were released from prison and had no place to go. Their heinous crimes of assault, robbery and so much more would permeate from them, like the smell of cooked garlic on a hot day. I remember the stress of just seeing them there, unsure of what they were thinking to do next.
I remember the trauma of walking home and thinking, did I do anything wrong today? Would I get beat or not, was this one of those days? It was always an unknown, and dependent upon my parents mood. A bad day at the office could wreak havoc on my body and spirit, a good day could bring candy. Which was today?
It seemed that violence was a part of my family’s destiny.
Yet, I persevered.
I stayed in my room. I wrote, drew and painted. I created fantastic worlds with my life saving imagination and invented characters for comics and stories. I put on my gigantic head phones and played my music to drown out the constant fighting that was just beyond, on the other side of the wall, hoping and praying that my parents wouldn’t open my door to allow the violence to creep in, that day. I learned to play violin and some piano, the creative energy kept coming, in spite of the abuse, the beatings, the pain.
In fact, it flowed even more.
I got through the abuse at home to only become the target for bullies at school. They burned my books, threw milk cartons full of paint at me, lit matches on my skin. There was constant horrible name calling, demeaning and soul stinging, combined with the ever present daily threats and occasional rough up. I felt oh so small and helpless. Not many friends to speak to, to share with, to ask for help. There were so many days, weeks, months of pain and loneliness, even desperate thoughts of suicide.
But, I persevered.
All of this prepared me for life after college, which was a twelve year run by the way. The hungry nights, broke days and constant lack of support by people that I thought were my friends. Make it as Artist? What? Are you crazy? You’ll be waiting tables the rest of your life (I was a waiter at the time).
My spirit was firm. My mind set. One way or another, I was going to create, become that which I knew was inside me, a part of who I was and had to let out, to share.
So now, after an amazing twenty-five year career within the Arts as a sculptor, fabricator and Production Designer, I have more than persevered, I have succeeded.
I took the pain and anguish, the bullying and abuse, the trauma and stress, and turned my hurtful past into positive energy.
Energy that has sustained me, sustained my creative ambitions and goals and allowed me to lead an incredible life. A life of joyful relationships, of exotic travel, of experiences that most can only dream or imagine. I have written and published a poetry book, I’m working on a new novel, I’m living abroad in vibrant Hong Kong and most importantly am married to my best, most beautiful, friend and true soul mate.
So remember, my fellow Tribe members, perseverance is everything.
You got this…