Well, here it is. The new year. 2018. I turn 30 this year.
I’ve been thinking about the last two years, some of the more difficult ones in my life. My twenties were spent for the most part in a state of blissful youthful ignorance. Rugby dominated my time in Portland. I was fit and tan, popular, and happy. I was contented for the most part working serving jobs that were beneath me for people who were stupider than I was. So loud and thrilling was my extracurricular life that it drowned out my professional shortcomings. Roaring twenties, as they were.
Then 2016 came. I lost my high-paying bartending job. To this day, I have no idea why I got fired. So it goes. Started working for a cannabis grow house that was corporately owned but despite the healthcare and vacation time benefits, I was poorer and more miserable than ever. My self esteem plummeted. I was never passionate about marijuana, nor bartending for that matter. The soul-draining actualization of not doing what I wanted to do for a living (cartooning) made my self esteem dip further. And further.
Then I tore my ACL. I lost my active lifestyle. I lost a body I’d worked hard to get and was proud of to show. My self esteem continued to plummet.
Then Trump won the election and something else broke in this country.
2016 was one of the worst years of my life. I think I can pretty confidently say that now.
But if 2016 was the year of breaking things, 2017 was the year of setting things right.
It was a necessary pain, 2016. I had to reevaluate my worth, which wasn’t easy. Where do you find your worth? What determines your value? Is it in the company you keep? Is it in your job? Your performance in your extracurricular activities? Your status? Your body? Your lovers? Your clients? Needless to say, I spent a lot of 2016 and 2017 feeling totally worthless.
Of course reseting my priorities was painful. Reseting a broken bone is painful. But once it’s done and you’ve set it straight for once, then it can start to heal. And you can do all that fun, fun, painful physical therapy.
That’s what 2017 felt like to me: lots and lots of physical therapy, both literal and figurative. While I tore my ACL 2016, 2017 is when I had my surgery. I fixed the problem to clear a path for the future. And when I lost my job in 2017, that too felt like a necessary break. Taking the steps professionally to set right what I’d been limping on for years.
There’s a reason people in physical therapy call “PT” “pain and torture.” It’s painful, continually so. Moving back in with my parents 3,000 miles from all my friends has been painful. The knowledge that it will be a long, long time before I’ll return to the events that dominated my twenties and brought me so much social joy: Maggotfest, Sasquatch, Seadogs, Goldrush. I don’t know when I’ll play rugby again. I don’t know when I’ll see my friends again. This is still painful, but more manageable now. A dull heartache.
I think our country has been facing a similar crisis these last two years. Something broke in 2016 and America shrieked and thrashed around on the ground like I did, clutching my knee. 2017 is the year of setting it right. The Alabama senate race was a pretty huge and (unexpected) win. (It shouldn’t have been that close. The details around the race sounded like the prelude to some bad joke: child molester who’d been banned from malls vs. a guy who prosecuted the KKK. What’s the punchline?) However the repeal of Net Neutrality and passing of the GOP tax scam was not so unexpected. I might be rambling now, reaching in an attempt to draw this metaphor onto a more national scale, but I think America is still undergoing some seriously painful PT. Maybe 2018 will be the year we take a baby step as a new country in the right direction and by god, I hope a dipshit nazi is under the heel of her glorious boot.
Anyway, back to me.
Going into 2018 though, I have something I didn’t have in my twenties: a concrete, real goal.
I’ve been looking at grad schools in cartooning. (Did you know you can get an MFA in cartooning?) One in particular, the Center for Cartoon Studies, has a two-year program in White River Junction, Vermont that I’ve been making the steps to apply to. I want that. I want to be a part of that program so friggen bad.
It’s been a while since I’ve wanted something like this. I haven’t had a long term goal since… ever? I wasn’t really a long term goal sort of person. More of a, “This is fun so I’m gonna keep doing it until it’s not fun, wheee!” Your average “I’m going to live forever!” roaring twenties bullshit.
Even if this program falls through, if I don’t get in or (for some insane reason) decide not to go, the goal is the same: I want professional success for my cartooning. I need to know how the pros are drawing, what tools they’re using, what I need to succeed. I want to force myself into their networks, pick their brains for tips of the trade, suck their talent from their spinal cords…. so to speak….
So it’s not with a great amount of joy that I ring in this new year. The fact remains that I have lost a lot of what brought me joy in the last decade of my life. But something more solid and formidable is forming just around the corner. I think this is what people call “aging gracefully.”
So it goes.