“Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.”

— Janis Joplin

Here I go- using a quote again…

What is it to compromise yourself?

What do you think Joplin meant by this?

Is it compromise when a struggling musician takes a job not making music because they need to pay the bills?

A PhD in comparative literature begins writing Buzzfeed quizzes because they are more popular than the thoroughly researched papers that they once wrote?

In order to survive, do we sometimes need to do things that we don’t want to do?

How do we get on in life while being true to ourselves, when we live in a world where we must adhere to rules that we may or may not like?

Considering Joplin’s innate genius and tragic end, at what cost does compromise, or lack of, come?

How do we retain our individuality while blending in with everyone else?

I have no answers to these questions: I just have more questions…


41 thoughts on “Compromise?

  1. I like the Joplin quote. She was a very talented and courageous woman. But she died of a drug overdose, so that was not very bright. I think taking a menial job to survive while staying committed to the big goal is not a compromise. Thanks for another good post.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Janis Joplin was a unique music figure. She came to the University of Miami to perform in 1968 and on stage I can tell you she did not compromise herself. She was free as a bird. It was like she and the music were one in the same. She probably was stoned when she performed, but there was such joy within her as she sang that there was nothing compromised when she was on stage before a crowd of applauding teens. My recollection of her was that she was pure and authentic. At least in the moments when she sang. She was wearing colorful flowing clothing, her hair wild as she belted out her songs. It was almost as if she were in a trance of happiness and rhythm.

    Years after her death I read that she had multiple sexual escapades trying to find love and always was let down because she felt insecure about not being pretty enough. She wasn’t particularly pretty, but she was mesmerizing. I don’t know if she compromised herself physically or emotionally but certainly not musically. She was never mainstream, that’s for sure. That was what was so special about her. And perhaps trying to be was frustrating for her.

    My first husband, who I was dating at the time she came to the U of M, attended a theatre party she crashed. I was supposed to join him but realized I had a paper due the next day, so I canceled my date with him and stayed up all night typing up a report on Camus’ The Plague”. Any how, he went alone. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that while I was typing up my paper he was hanging out with Janis! (At least I got an A on my paper). He told me she was a lot of fun, laughing, dancing… He said she seemed very normal and quite personable. Perhaps because she was among theatre kids. You have to understand that my group of friends from college who were actors, dancers, singers, costume designers were ALL rather different from the average university student. They all danced to the beat of a different drummer. She probably felt right at home. Nobody judged her nor would they fawn over her. He said she just fit right in. Everyone sang songs and danced. I’m still friends with most of the people. But apparently Janis fit right in with them. Just one more talented young person who craved attention but was warm and welcoming when they recognize another creative soul.

    So… what did she compromise? Her self respect I imagine, when she tried to go mainstream or fit into a white picket fence world. My first husband and I are still good friends, and he called me a few weeks ago when singer song writer, Jerry Jeff Walker died. ( He wrote Mr. Bo Jangles). We saw him perform his song in a small coffee house right before it went public and were both fans of his music. In that conversation He brought up Joplin and he talked about how normal she was at that party and we shared the experience of her larger than life performance on the football field outside our dorm. (Rock stars did the college circuit in the late 60’s and it was an incredible time to experience such amazing people in action). I think around young people Janis could be her authentic self. She was happy. Not overly drugged or drunk. Just a talented young woman with an amazing voice and a laugh that made everyone smile. Who knows what she compromised. It certainly wasn’t her talent.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. She was a genius. Her music holds up now, and will hold up in the future. I see so many talented people overdosing, doing things harmful to their bodies. I am having trouble understanding this. What are they unable to reconcile within themselves?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LA, I’m not sure I can answer that because it’s not in my nature to abuse my body with drugs. But then again I’m not a depressive person. I think often times creative artists are very different from the norm and have trouble connecting with others. Insecurity is difficulty to explain. Often times these talented folks are perfectionists and never think their work is good enough. Van Gogh never thought he was any good. And he was considered mad. So was Mozart. And yet they were geniuses. Both had synesthesia, ( a blending of the senses) a condition unique to certain types of gifted people. But rarely understood by others.
        However,I don’t think it’s compromising to try and make a living. I had to give up acting when I became a divorced mom. I instead became a teacher. Did I compromise my art to make a living? Who knows. I like to think I used my talents to enrich my children and my students. Someone else might say I compromised myself by giving up my theatrical dreams. In my mind I thought it would have been selfish to pursue my career at the expense of my son. I suppose it’s all subjective. We’ve got to come to terms with our decisions in life. I’ve never regretted my decisions. I guess some people do.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think the word compromise is often seen as a negative. And while I firmly believe we can’t all compromise all the time, it doesn’t make us a weaker person if we do. I think maybe people try to live without compromising, and reach a point where they realize that not compromising ever is just as bad as always compromising. Then there whole core value is shook up. I’m still thinking this out

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Yes compromise is essential . I totally believe in that. That’s how my second husband and I stayed married for 23 years before he got sick. I was referring to a person who was unable to compromise . I wasn’t used to someone who was uncompromising and being older I wasn’t going to try to change someone that set in his ways. But absolutely, If you have a working relationship compromise is the key! I’m all for that!


      4. I’m answering this blog post now. rather then getting your blogs mixed up. Lol. You stated compromising didn’t necessarily mean weakness and I agree. I think it just depends on the circumstances. Joplin I think was easily taken advantage of. She desperately wanted to be loved. She felt loved on stage. Seeing her in Person at the time I did it was clear how she embraced the adoration. Plus she loved music. It showed. I can’t speak for the end of her career, I didn’t witness that first hand. But, having once played in a band I know how that feels and I know about managers wanting to force artists into a creative rut to make money. It happens. If she didn’t have the guts or self confidence in herself then she may have indeed compromised herself artistically by doing some gigs she didn’t want to do. And her type of genuineness couldn’t be forced. I think she may have had some unsuccessful experiences that led to drug problem. It’s tragic really. A lot of performers seem to judge themselves by the amount of applause they receive. Unfortunately they are too fragile for show biz. Or the arts in general. It’s a world where people are constantly judged. Luckily I don’t think I ever took performing so seriously. I never saw it as a way of defining who I was. But I know plenty of people who do think that way. I’m sure Janis Joplin saw herself only as a singer. It’s a complicated matter. One that for her proved deadly.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. You’re right that some people go into show business for the adoration. They are seeking something they don’t have. Not all performers are like this…I look at British actors and they are all about the craft…I just wish people would learn to be content with themselves


  3. In order to survive, do we sometimes need to do things that we don’t want to do?
    My immediate answer to this question was, “Yes.” My life has been about survival and having to do things that I didn’t want to do in order to keep peace within the family as well as earn money at a job I didn’t like until I could find one that suited me.

    How do we get on in life while being true to ourselves, when we live in a world where we must adhere to rules that we may or may not like?
    The answer to this varies person to person and I think generation to generation. We’re having a hard time here at my house with this very subject because my kids are questioning a lot of the ‘rules’ and ‘beliefs’ that were ingrained in them growing up. Example: get your college degree. I wrote about it today because it’s a hot topic in our home right now and as a divorced single mom it’s more challenging when there are other factors in play (tomorrow’s post).

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I don’t think we should ever have a goal to blend in with everyone else. My goal is to do what I want, with the least amount of compromise as possible. But, then again, I stopped compromising in my marriage about six years ago, so I may not be the right person to provide an answer here lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha. I’m not sure what the right percentage of compromise is. Which things are worth compromising on, which aren’t? I think compromise has become a negative word, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In general, I don’t think we’re here to do things we don’t want to do. We’ve made up life so that it involves doing things we don’t want to do, requiring compromise. So I’m not sure there’s necessarily a percentage.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hmmmm. I think being true to ourselves is knowing who we are, being clear on what we want, and then creating the steps to get there. Though, we will, for sure, encounter obstacles along the way, if we have that inner-knowing that we are on the “right” path, even when, maybe, especially when, others may question us, as it seems we’ve gone astray, we know. We know. That’s all that really matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bringing up Aristotle here, but I think it’s all means to an end.

    If you, at your core, know your values and don’t allow the outside world to negatively affect those values, you can stay true. To be clear, there is always room to change your mind and/or grow as a person. You may willingly change your values as you’re exposed to more of the world. And that’s perfectly fine as well.

    But the ultimate goal would be happiness. Your values would reflect what your understanding of happiness is, and you wouldn’t compromise on those.

    The external world has its own demands, and bluntly doesn’t care about an individual’s happiness at all. So you have to bend to the world, but the core of you, and your ultimate goal, doesn’t change.

    What you do does not define who you are.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. To me, in a broader sense, compromise is part of the social compact or contract. You may have noticed that’s how I roll politically.

    On a personal level, I now know, looking back into the not too distant past, I made too many compromises to try and save my marriage. I am making compromises now, doing what is necessary to keep my mom healthy and me as sane as possible, as she descends into dementia and I try to re-establish myself as a single woman. Ironically, this was close to the point I had reached in my personal development 30 years ago, when I found myself pregnant and single.

    I did not compromise my values because I accepted the former and rectified the latter with the baby’s father and my about-to-be-ex-husband. Given an option, I did not want to raise my child with only one parent, though I suspected that there might be compromises I would have to make in future by making this choice. Those compromises became really stark and no longer acceptable to me when the family ties I and one of his own children felt for him finally came apart.

    Now, I don’t anticipate making many more compromises because, as a financially secure retiree, I don’t have to!

    Liked by 1 person

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