Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Future

Here's my essay for my grad school application. The topic was "The Future" - I took a personal approach. Worried that it's not cohesive enough, but I can still revise it.

"So, what do you see yourself doing in the next five, ten years?"

It was a standard interview question.

"Well, my real passion has always been making comics. But realistically speaking, that isn't something I can support myself, or somewhere down the road, a family, doing. So my plan is to work at a job" - I certainly didn't say pursue a career - "like this while pursuing comics in my free time."

"This" was a job designing prints and graphics for a company specializing in women's underwear. I had just finished college, and it felt like the perfect solution for an artistically inclined person like myself. I'd be working in an "art-related" field, and I could make money but still have enough time for my own creative pursuits. On top of that, when I introduced myself to people, I had a funny conversation-starter.

So it was not with a heavy sigh but an enthusiastic grin that I accepted the offer. The heavy sighing, of course, came afterwards. Spending two or more after-work hours a night working on comics left me exhausted, but failed to deliver the kind of progress I needed for encouragement. Breaks between these personal projects focused my attention on what I was doing with the bulk of my time - covering midwestern girl's asses with uninspired graphics in an office where my only ambition was to escape.

The "realistic" box I put over my field of vision precluded anything drastic. My anxious, undirected desperation expressed itself audibly with the frequent and involuntary under-my breath muttering "I can't wait till..." with the object of my impatience left noticeably absent. It was a vague promise of a future perfect, unweighed by the burdens of unrealistic objectives. Unspoken, because articulation could reveal the dream as illusion, and I simply wouldn't know how to recover.

Let's be blunt: making comics is hard. Beyond the formidable technical challenges is the staggering volume of time the process requires - so much so that a dedicated project effectively prevents one from earning other income. I've heard and read that making both comics and money aren't mutually exclusive, but I have yet to figure out a way to reconcile the two. As a hero of mine, Scott McCloud, once told me, a large cheese pizza distinguishes itself from a cartoonist by its ability to feed a family of four.

This was hardly news when I heard it. I was quite determined to create comics when I was twelve, and spent a lot of time drawing and occasionally writing one-page comics starring a ninja called "The Stealth." I was aware that my skills were lacking but had a certain optimism that with a little time and dedication I would be the next Todd McFarlane. But just a few years after my interest in comics began, I had what felt like a moment of clarity. Waiting for my mother in the mini-van at the college campus where she worked, I realized that my natural academic gifts suited me for an ultimately more stable career doing...I don't know, really, something, but it was a lot more practical, made a lot more money, and was something I was a hell of a lot better at than making comics. Fifteen and looking forward, I embraced reality.

It's been a rocky relationship ever since. Even though I pursued degrees in Economics (which I was great at) and Computer Science (which was practical and would impress my father), my true passion in college was cartooning. When graduation came, I courted reality again for two years until quitting rather spontaneously to pursue my first full-lengthed comic, Consumed, until the fears of reality gnawed at me again and I got another underwear job. But this time, reality, fearing a lack of commitment, broke it off first. I got laid off in early January, and I struggle to think of a better thing that has ever happened to me.

Take my word on this: there is an endless supply of underwear jobs, and I'm not cut out for any of them. Relieved of this burden, I spend my current days making comics. Perhaps that was supposed to happen in some idealistic, reality-divorced future. But that was the problem with my conservative notion of "reality": Spring followed Winter, and I could only get there by hoarding enough acorns. But there's never enough nuts, Winter is always on the horizon, and problems don't just have one solution. Maybe I could just move someplace warmer.

Which is hardly what I'd be doing in White River Junction. The climate, however looks perfect for someone who has accepted the utterly unpractical but deeply rewarding lifestyle of a cartoonist. I can't wait to meet you all there.

No comments: