Creative Hearth-Artists Navigating Genuine Eudemonia

By: Sebastian Vasoff

Edited by: Julie Mann

Maybe you do not need all the answers. Depression can make it seem like you are never good enough, however, you are good enough to keep asking the questions that make life worth living. I have talked with Daniel Hendley, a local artist living with depression, who has a diploma in photography. We talked about how you cannot know everything about what you are going to do with your life, and how that is OK. Also, we talked about how humour can be a way of realizing which people are friends that are with you, not against you.



It’s not just you that feels like “life is shit.”  Dan told me, “when it comes to my mental health, honestly, I don't think that it's what others think it is. I think people see me as this happy go lucky guy, but I'm depressed.” We seem to judge ourselves on how others think of us and how we stack up to them. Dan said, “everybody's reality and everybody's view of the world is a little bit different.” Dan shared he is, “still kind of working on it. I just think that if I go out in the end being thought of as this always happy guy than I've done something wrong and kind of failed with my attempt at art.” 


Celebrity inspiration

Even the Beatles were considered heroes. John Lennon is one of Dan’s, who said “That's what I always loved about [John] Lennon though. A good chunk of people remember him as this peaceful hippie guy, but if you actually look at…what he put into his music you can see that he wasn't.“ He continued, “If he felt like crying, he'd cry and if he was in love he'd tell you all about it. I honestly don't know if John Lennon was a good guy or not, but he was honest and when you look at what he left behind you kind of start to get an understanding of the man. I really like that.”


Expressing oneself

Dan is just starting out in the arts and is looking for his true north. When asked about his mental health and his identity and how creating images relate to happiness, Dan replied, “to be honest I'm not really sure yet. I kind of just like to have some outlet of expression. Whether it's the YouTube videos I used to make every week for a few years straight, the shitty breakup songs I wrote after my first girlfriend dumped me when I was 17, or through my photos, I kind of just like to put bits and pieces out and maybe one day I'll be able to step back and get a better picture for who I am.” He also talked about how he feels photography does not need to be tied to realism and that his favorite pieces express one’s self over the physical image, such as images that shows true human emotions.  


Thoughts on bullying

Being your self can be hard and bullies will try to bring you down. Dan puts emphasis on this by expressing, “if you attack them, you show them that what they're doing is working and that you're the one being hurt, you're giving them legitimacy. If you laugh, you pull all that power away and say, ‘who gives a shit?’ It shows that the comments don’t matter and that the attack was pointless.”


It is OK to be yourself, especially when you don’t fit in. It is OK to be the oddball that is the polar opposite of the herd. Dan told me about how humour can make happiness more emotionally accessible. ”I love [humour] because it really is the best way to attack those hardened beliefs.” He went on to share that, “there are hateful people out there dedicating their lives to attacking people for harmless little ways that they live their life and at the end of the day that doesn't fix anything.” Dan provided the following advice: “Just have a good time, try not to focus on the hate, and have a good laugh every now and then. There's humour everywhere.”


Final thoughts

It is OK to be you. Beauty is in the imperfection. Even though depression can make you feel small and pointless, you can be strong and find the time to smile and laugh. Make your mark on the world even if you don’t know what that looks like exactly.

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