This is one of my self-portraits taken in 2011 when I was a Bushwick rookie. It’s inspired by Buddhism. Long story.
Crowdfunding is a little scary. It’s the digital equivalent of standing naked in a crowded town square. You’re pretty much asking everyone in your community to take a good look and evaluate your idea, and not just by patting you on your shoulder at a bar, but by giving you what doesn’t always come easy – their hard-earned money. That’s how you’re asking your community to trust you.
I realized that crowdfunding resurfaces the most important questions we sometimes forget to ask ourselves on a daily basis, when swamped with day-to-day mundane obligations: “Quick! Publish that post! Schedule that social media update! Run to a meeting!” But with crowdfunding, the question on the table is loud and clear: “Why am I doing what I’m doing? What is that one thing that really drives me to do all this?”
And I suddenly saw myself four years ago, hangin’ at Little Skips, drinking my fourth coffee of the day, and clicking “Proceed to Checkout” on a domain name “BushwickDaily.com.” $10 seemed like a sufficient investment in what I needed the most – a daily routine of something that feels good, which was so unlike everything else in my life at that time. Without it I would have surely gone crazy, or packed my suitcase and returned to Slovakia and my mom’s painful embrace: “I told you so.” I was a heartbroken, recently graduated, overworked student of law with limited savings and expiring visa papers, with no passion for my chosen vocation and no idea what else I could be doing instead. To my surprise, my new neighborhood welcomed me warmly and showed me that I could be who I always wanted to be but never found courage anywhere else in the world. In Bushwick I felt for the first time that I didn’t have to painfully force my piece of the puzzle to fit the larger tapestry of life – it fit naturally and with ease.
So I started to blog. I started to blog every day. I was writing, photographing and exploring, hungry to learn more every day, and while doing so all of the painful circumstances and insecurities of my present life disappeared. Kinda like when you turn opacity in Photoshop to transparent.
Do you remember the good ol’ days of Little Skips?
My pursuit has always seemed very important to me. Though Bushwick Daily was the simplest WordPress site, I sat down every day and published a photograph with a small piece of writing no matter what. If I had to skip this routine, I felt pain as if I disappointed an audience of 10,000, not ten.
Soon Bushwick Daily was blessed by our first contributor – a curator/dominatrix who wrote a weekly column, and from there, it took only a small steps to encounter more people who thought my pursuit was worth their time. As their editor I had no idea what I was doing, but I guess it was my excitement and passion that drove a handful of individuals again and again to my kitchen on DeKalb Ave to discuss our future articles and ideas. We were all connected by the feeling that this neighborhood is something very special, and we were very lucky to be able to tell its story. The story of the neighborhood was a good story, a story of becoming one’s true self told 1,000 times through 1,000 different people.
We didn’t make any money for two years. I managed to obtain a visa to stay but not to work in the States, which was kind of problematic.
At the same time, my obsession with Bushwick and with Bushwick Daily never ceased and honestly I couldn’t imagine not spending every moment working on it. I somehow survived on rice and occasional gigs. I don’t know how I did it but somehow I did. During this time I literally devoured hundreds of books on spirituality and Buddhism, somehow feeling like I was changing for the better, forever. If before all I wanted was a good job and a secure standing in society, now the pursuit of my purpose was everything to me. At the same time, I realized that this pursuit of purpose, while unintentionally imposing poverty on myself, would not allow me to be truly helpful to my community. And so I started to build a real company, knowing that you only get what you think you’re worth getting. Moreover, I was surrounded by amazing individuals and I was, and still am, determined to create jobs for them – jobs they will love, and jobs that will make them feel alive. That’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned so far in my life.
The first incarnation of Bushwick Daily in late 2010.
Things started to move, and Bushwick Daily became a real source and the go-to website for every Bushwick resident and beyond. Large legacy publications began to quote us on the reg, and people started reading us everyday all around town. What a great feeling that was. I like to think that we were holding a mirror up to the Bushwick community so that it can see itself for what it truly is: beautiful, valid and strong, which allowed its growth. I hope that good, sustainable growth will continue and people who are ready for change and who want to flourish will be able to do so while becoming their true selves. Bushwick is the perfect spot for it as the creative energy in this neighborhood is palpable and out of ordinary.
Village, our new platform in creation, will allow everybody in the neighborhood to be of better service. It will foster community and a sense of belonging. It will be something we did together as a community with a definitive identity and sense of innovation that may go beyond the boundaries of the neighborhood…
That’s why I’m willing to stand naked in a town square asking for your help.