On Art & Identity - Molly Dickin

I love reading or listening to stories in music and poetry that write out the dreamscapes that play in my head-- not one that makes any sense to anyone else or has a clear order, but snippets of memories on a reel of film brought to life by neons and sepias and timeless moments of slow dances and stolen kisses, exotic coasts running down a beach, thanking God I don’t have a destination. I like dancing old memories on my water lines, colored with what mistakenly feels like an aged perspective on my young recklessness.


I think all of the artists I’ve been influenced by have been haunted. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re taught that the dark and the ugly are beautiful or if it’s because we’ve been through a lot of darkness and have more terrifying truths to share. When I’m in the company of others, I don’t like my scars. I don’t like the darkness I feel when others shine brightly. But when I am alone in the company of only a book or a record, I indulge myself in my tragedies and explore the fantasies of a darkness I once feared would consume me.


I think there’s something special about writing out your stories and thoughts. You can fill pages and pages to describe one moment or write a lifetime of love or fear into a single line. When talking to people, there is an expectation that you tell stories in a linear order with less room for creativity, but in art many stories can become one or one can be split a million ways. You can add people or places and tell beautiful stories without having to answer to anyone what your truths are. You can change your own ending, add anecdotes, make your story prettier or strip it back to the ugly pieces and share them unapologetically on paper. I think as humans we put so much emphasis on reputations- living up to them, falling short of them, others deciding who we are- what we are.


With art, be it poetry, music, film or photography, you can choose your reputation. You can take on personas and explore lives through a lense or a paintbrush that you’d never dare try out away from your desk. You can share all of your truths with unwavering honesty without owing a confirmation to anybody.


A lot of people are surprised to hear that I identify as an introvert, because they see me as a social butterfly. To me, solitude is relief. When I am alone, especially outside, I feel infinite. My gratitude grows immeasurably with the realization that I am meaningless in the eyes of the wild. I have spent many nights under the stars, breathing in how small I feel when facing something so much greater than my terrifying sins or my valiant triumphs.


I am charmed by the idea of nostalgia. Alone at my writing desk or microphone, stories come to life far more vividly in retrospection than they did at the time I was experiencing them. I’ve met lots of people in the lives that I’ve lived. I have brutally cast down my sins onto paper. I have made up many forevers in my head and poured them into a history book of memories never carried out.


I have fallen in love within the pages of a book and have stepped into films that have consumed me. I love being swept into days past and recounting future memories with undeniable clarity. Every time I am pushed beyond my comforts and the beautiful prison guarding me, I can lose myself in passion, insanity and in people I meet along the way. In these moments of mistaken identity, I can find solace in my loneliness and begin to breathe again.


I have a special affinity for art that explores the angel and devil shoulder influences-- the beauty, the glamour, the smile captivating many hearts, and the vulnerable, soft tenderness contrasted with the crazy, the wild, the heartbreak and the cruel selfishness. I fell for a girl who had an addictive mix of both. For me, she was the sins you feel euphoric committing and the prayers to God that you’re forgiven, because you’ve been searching your whole life for an entrance to Heaven after the Hell you’ve gone through.


I have fallen in love under a red plaid blanket just before I was asked to trade the cross on my necklace for a sweaty football jersey and four empties of mint lime mojito for eleven minutes of fame. I have escaped into the night and laughed in the face of dead silence, that, in the dark, would terrify most people. He would smoke rooftop cigarettes, the ashes our stars, as he mapped out constellations on my rib and dared me to risk everything for a soul hellbent on loving me only slightly less than he hated himself.


Love can liberate you. It can consume you. It can cage you. I’ve met souls that have intoxicated me. I have kissed the Devil in the pouring rain, with my hair getting heavier by the second. His grip on my neck lightened up and for a moment I think I saw God in the reflection of the puddle I was standing in, scolding me shamefully, but I didn’t care. Those midnight delights were far more tempting. I’d trade a flower for that scripture on his rib in a heartbeat, no questions asked. I heard his heartbeat in the pouring rain, once, before God tried to claim him. He swore that he wouldn’t, taunting God miserably, because he wasn’t that good. There was no need to point out that I already knew, from the mark on my throat to the tar in his veins, exactly where he was heading.


I have slow danced with Ella Fitzgerald and fallen in love timelessly for eternities that last as long as one side of my jazz record. I have broken the heart of someone that I loved just shy of enough, as I lust after my demons that tempted me just a little bit more. I have shied away from a person I mistook for a monster until my thirst for danger got the better of me, and, in a moment of horrifying liberation, had the realization that his shadow didn’t cover my light; it illuminated my dark.


I have been the good girl gone bad, and a lifetime later, the bad girl gone good. I was looking for trouble. I needed a shot of adrenaline after long moments of unfortunate peace. I was restless with a thirst for the unknown. The people I met along the way were searching for the same kind of insanity. We were lost and pushed each other past a point of self discovery and into a beautifully chaotic sea of nightmares.


I would drive in fast cars with girls with loose rules, street racing at 2 am, because we learned at a young age that money isn’t everything, and her Porsche would make a magnificent coffin. She needed something dangerous and the scotch and devilish secrets on my reckless lips were just the beginning.


We would sit on the beach around the fire until the sun came up, delirious from lack of sleep and a few cans of Twisted Tea. We would dream of the gates of Heaven, which we prayed we’d only gaze at until we were inevitably greeted with God’s presence- an untimely joke preying on his sheer lack of vulnerability.


We would ride around town in black limousines, our lips lined with Honey Jack and a halo of whispers disappearing into the smoke of my cigar. We were lost in a haze of liberation and tragedy, our games of Truth of Dare getting darker, as we gambled our lives away in basements and dive bars, where we found a home in the neon lights and loneliness of each other. Others saw our recklessness and preyed on the wild streaks we were ordered to kill. But we couldn’t seem to shake the urge to kill ourselves, slowly, as if we were porcelain beauty queens who would stay plastic and liquored up forever; and that was somehow beautiful.


We were exhausted- from the expectations of others, from constantly falling short of the people others told us we should be and of outrunning crimes we paid for a long time ago. Our desires turned dangerous. We risked everything as we prayed that one day our insanity would consume us entirely. We prayed that we would no longer find peace for long enough to remember the people that we used to be- the people it became too painful to be.


With glamour comes tragedy. No amount of red lipstick and white powder could erase the mascara streaks that stained her face when the lights turned from dim to black, the music faded and the blurry nights ghosted away into mornings too clear to kiss away the shame.


Dying young is often romanticized, particularly among artists. I used to think that there was something terrifyingly alluring about leaving behind a legacy of mystery. I think part of me thought that was the way I would go, shining brightly and exploding too soon. I would be remembered for wild glimpses of lasting advice over a blunt that they’d never forget the taste of. That was before I was left behind, as I cursed myself for not remembering the last conversation I had with him. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was that cross necklace- the one with the compass attached that I gave him two years ago- the one that they never recovered. I would fantasize about swimming to the bottom of that lake. I’m unsure if it was to recover it or to join him. Now I write behind a pair of tired glasses, my cup filled with coffee and my nights filled with dreamless slumber.


I used to have this fear that would sometimes creep uninvitingly into my head. I worried that my darkness would become too much. I used to have a fascination for the troubled before falling in love with the idea of reinventing myself with every new person I met. I would leave boredom in my rearview mirror for a world of thrill seeking that consumed me for a time, before I’d hang up my leather jacket and don my cross necklace come Monday morning. I didn’t want to find out that I was that temporary thrill. I didn’t want to wake up imprisoned in my own darkness because the others escaped a damnation that I thought I never could.


I remember rumors forcing me into the spotlight. They would beg me to tell them if what he shared was true about a basement couch Christening. That one night at sixteen would decide the fate of further shared bedroom door whispers and accusations far more evil than his hands in my hair and the smoke on his motorcycle jacket that he wrapped me in, after swigging 40’s behind the fence in the woods where he convinced me that a zipper was more than something leading to a button on faded denim.


I’ve been with girls far sweeter, but none as delicious as the nightmares he would bring. When I think about my time with him, it’s a kaleidoscope of diamond earrings and cigars on crimson leather chairs, adorned with trench coats and loosened pink ties. Our whispers carried us into the night and our satin sheets wrapped around us in a silver dreamscape. We would pray to the stars in the sky that they would coat us for far off tomorrows, as we danced endlessly to the song of a promise we knew we could never keep.


My friends and family always warned me not to fall for fucked up girls, because they would “ruin me.” The bottles of prescription pills on their bedside tables meant they wouldn’t always be around and I didn’t want the burden falling on me when they were gone. They told me that each stitch in their fishnet stockings was the name of another person who had been there before me, which proved I wasn’t special. But I had been good for so long; I was ready to be ruined. Those girls were just what I needed. They breathed an exhilaration into me that I thought was dead a long time ago. Their insanity and obliterating ferocity didn’t scare me. I envied their ability to live. They weren’t imprisoned by the judgements of other people. They didn’t live timidly due to fear of getting hurt; they knew it was inevitable and they dove in head first.


I had been writing about things I didn’t know how to experience. I felt no flicker of adrenaline as I’d write about lovers and heartache I’d never had. I felt no beautiful insanity ready to erupt when I wrote about the highs I’d never felt and no crippling hole in me over lows I’d never fallen into. They gave me life and I lost myself in them, just enough to have a moment of ultimate freedom. I became uninhibited and one night with a joint in the woods wasn’t enough. Soon, I was like them. I wasn’t a good girl being shown a wild time for a night of corruption. Their turf was my turf and I was dazzled every night by someone or something new. I was living for the first time after years of going through the motions and I had never felt more free.


I always had a hard time with the phrase “too far gone.” It gives the implication that it’s wrong to change, or that stepping further away from the person you used to be means that you’re moving in the “wrong” direction. I’ve always had a strong feeling of discomfort and homesickness when I’m around people I’m supposed to enjoy spending time with and sometimes guilt washes over me when I feel that way. There have been very few people in my life that I feel like I belong with. It sounds rude. It sounds lonely. It sounds sad. I have a really hard time forcing myself to have relationships with people when it’s only on their terms. It’s the same family members and friends that shut their doors to me when they didn’t want to understand the hard things I was going through; it’s the same people that just wanted to re enter my life when I became someone they could feel proud of again. They didn’t understand why I found a home in people they’d never give a second glance to; they didn’t understand why I fell in love with people that they deemed “bad.” More than that, they didn’t understand that those people saw something in me when I was at my worst and they embraced a darkness I had always kept hidden.


We’ve been hearing our whole lives that people come into our lives for a reason and I think I’m finally starting to understand that. The people that have come in and out of my life have changed me in some way or another and I’m sure I’ve changed them too. I’ve had saints and sinners, lovers and fighters, dreams and nightmares walk into my life and disappear. I have been the savior, I have brought the hell, I have loved, I have lusted, and, on occasion, I have hated. Sometimes, the people in my life get so caught up with wanting to know every detail of my past. They try to choke answers out of me as if they are owed my life story. They can’t understand why I wouldn’t want to share my truths with someone who has only ever picked me apart and used my lifestyle to diminish me. So, I share it with my notebooks. I share it with my guitar. I’m sharing this with the people reading this. I’m sick of censoring who I am as an artist and a person for the comfort of others.


I think that sometimes it’s easy for people to make judgments when they hear truths through art that depicts traits or a lifestyle that they don’t connotate with the artist. They think that we’ve changed. They think that something is wrong and they get concerned. They think they know us better than we know ourselves and are therefore entitled to tell us who we should be. Maybe we’re sick of hiding parts of ourselves. Maybe we’re courageous. Maybe for the first time in our God damned lives we are whole because we don’t carry shame when we share ourselves. I am in love with the liberation I have found.

Molly Dickin is a writer that loves to explore boundary pushing themes. She is direct, but she has a personal philosophy that her art is successful if she can stimulate her audience. Her biggest point of pride as a writer is her ability to put words fearlessly and unapologetically onto paper. Her favorite types of writing are poetry, memoir essays and song lyrics. Molly is currently in the process of publishing her debut poetry book.

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