Monday, 15 July 2024

Happy living without any ambition whatsoever

For the past year, I have been travelling extensively to support the release of my new documentary, We Were Here, which documents the emergence of AIDS in San Francisco in the early ’80s and the incredible community response to that disaster. I’ve done hundreds of interviews and conducted countless Q&As at screenings, and in addition to very emotional discussions about the film, I am almost invariably asked: “What are you doing next?”

My response is: “I have no idea.”

I think I surprised one Los Angeles audience when I responded not by promoting my next film project but by saying that I hoped to go bodysurfing and take magic mushrooms. No one has ever accused me of being a workaholic. And for me, the appeal of money is not about its being a means of acquiring more stuff, but that it enables more freedom and flexibility in my life. As my year on the road with We Were Here winds down, I am excited to be returning to the State of Being-In-Between.

I’ve never had a plan. I used to want to have a plan because it seemed scary not to have one: a career plan, a home-ownership plan, a retirement plan, a ‘what am I going to be when I grow up?’ plan. But time and life experience helped me realise that I am much more relaxed when I can stay alert and grounded in the present rather than plotting out, and worrying about, the future.

It took a long time, but at a certain point I realised not only that being plan-less was not a handicap, but that my life had actually benefited greatly from a more organic process. Neither We Were Here nor my previous film, The Cockettes, were ideas that had been germinating over time, but when they popped up, intuition served me well.

My two words of advice to anyone who may feel a similar inclination: low overhead. I came of age at the tail end of the hippie ’60s, and the ethos of those times gave me a great appreciation for questioning convention, and an understanding that living frugally was a key element of a bohemian existence. I guess this sort of makes me a Buddhist-by-default, though it’s more about temperament than philosophy. It’s not for everybody, obviously, but there are certainly many others like me who find themselves more comfortable outside of conventional aspirations. It’s assumed that the trappings of ‘security’ are objectives that most adults share – even more so the older we get – and that a glamorous and fashionable lifestyle is a blessing. But, no.

From Fantastic Man n° 15 — 2012