19 January 2015

Going tiny(er)

At least a few times a year I look at the books and media and everything else that I own and have and think "Why do I have this?  Do I use it? Do I watch it?" and go about sorting and selling or giving it away.  In the process of moving from GA to VT I went from a two bedroom apartment to a one bedroom and sold and gave a lot away. But lately I've begun feeling like maybe I still have too much stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I read a book called "The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir."  In it the author, Dee Williams, talks about how a near death experience helped her reexamine her life and look at what was really important to her, focusing on friends, family, and enjoying life.  She downsized to an 84sq ft home she designed herself.  And Dee isn't alone.  There are countless others who have made the move to go smaller and simpler.  And I'm thinking maybe this is what I'll do some day.  And then I thought...why wait til some day?  Why can't I simplify my life a bit more?

While I can't yet build a tiny house of my own, after reading "The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir" I began to take a look at what I owned again and began asking myself why I have some of the things that I do.  Some things I have because I really do enjoy them (you can have my art supplies when you pry them from my cold fingers.)  Others, I have because "I'm supposed to have them as an adult"...like various things in the kitchen or things that look nice.  And I've begun sorting through things to sell or give away.  DVD's of TV shows that I like...but not enough to keep them.  Items that I have because I bought and swore that I liked, but have never actually used them.  And books.  God knows I love books, but do I need all of them?  Do I need them all in print?

And so I've started reducing and paring away.  Books that I do want, but I don't need them in print have made there way to an Amazon wishlist to acquire electronically to reduce the footprint of my bookshelves.  Things are being sold, some things will be given away, some things thrown away.  Some mental spring cleaning and parring as well.  

While I may never live in an 84sq foot house, I will not be carrying things around with me that I don't need.  Things that take up space or things that I don't treasure or just things that are not me.  I will be going tiny(er) where I can, while still being me.

06 January 2015

Help me continue my dream

If you've known me for longer than two minutes, you know that one of my passions is graphic novels and comics.  I love showing them off, talking about them, and helping introduce them to new readers.  Last year when I was thinking about life and everything during my leave from work, I realized that I wanted to make comics and graphic novels part of my everyday job and life. My goal, and my dream, is to be able to help schools, libraries, businesses, hospitals, the community connect with comics and graphic novels and to help connect comics and graphic novel community to the world.

To that end I'm starting my own business, but more importantly I'm working on a MFA in Applied Cartooning at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT.  I've completed the first semester of the program and can say that I'm a lot happier, I've learned a lot, and I know that this is the right place and path for me.  The completion of this MFA program is part of the process for me, as I learn about making my own comics, building connections, and laying the ground work for what I want to do.

And now here's where I ask for help, as hard as it is for me to do so.  The school is a great one and widely recognized and accredited by the state of Vermont to grant MFA's.  Because the program is more focused in an area that others still...view as less than a real career, it isn't accredited at the federal level, meaning that I can't get federal financial aid, and can only get private loans.
I have funds to carry me through the end of May (hopefully), but I'm really wanting to avoid taking out a loan for the second year of the program, which would cover tuition and living expenses.  

And that's where I need your help.  I've started an Indiegogo campaign to help me raise funds to cover living expenses/tuition.  I'm in the process of launching my own business and finding PT employment, and if those pan out then all I need to cover is tuition.

So what do you get out of the deal?  Everyone that donates will get a hand drawn item.  Postcard, picture, something.  It may take me a while to get them out, but I'll get them there.  More importantly though you help me help the larger community experience the joy of comics and graphic novels, how important they are to mental health, to education, to literacy, and more.  So please consider helping me out, I'd greatly appreciate it.

04 January 2015

I keep going

https://www.flickr.com/photos/16853894@N00/433955160/ 
2014 was a banner year: dealing with a bullying situation at work, continued battles with depression and anxiety, discovering that I was on the Asperger's spectrum and discovering what that means to me, enrolling and completing a certificate of advanced Data Studies from the iSchool at Syracuse, leaving a job that I had for eight years, moving to Vermont, and starting an MFA program in comics.  Lots of things yeah?  One thing that I haven't discussed publicly, or talked about a lot, is that I took emergency leave from my job back in May.

I haven't really talked about it, and I've mostly avoided talking about it here, because I didn't want other people to think I was dragging them into something or whatever.  I still don't.  But I've come to realize people are going to think what they want, regardless of what reality is, and some are going to do their best to keep their head in the sand.  But I shouldn't be afraid to talk about why I took leave.

A few people think that I took leave because of particular person at work.  They're partially right.  But also wrong.  And some of them didn't really seem to want to hear the real reason, but here it is:  I took emergency leave because it was the closest I've ever come to ending my own life.

The depression, anxiety, and situations at work made my life so miserable, that I didn't want to keep on anymore.  Some of what was going on was my own making. Of not trusting in myself, of not believing in myself, of not being me.  Some of it was the fault of others.  Some of it was just things.  Either way, I couldn't be at work.  In conjunction with my awesome counselor and other medical folks, I took leave to figure out what I was going to do next and to put my head back on straight.  It was during that time that I decided that one way or other I was going to leave my job by the end of the summer, even if that meant moving to some random part of the country and working at a bookstore or some other random job.  Or joining the Rangers led by Isildur's heir.  I looked into graduate programs to apply to, jobs, etc.  I came back from my leave, still somewhat shaky, but with a plan in place and made it happen.  I got out.  I left a place that was going to literarily kill me.

I'm sure I made mistakes as I left and shoved back against what made me so miserable for so long.  But I also know that it was the right decision when I was criticized for how I took my leave and not following the "normal protocol" and "normal rules"...even though nothing about the situation was normal.  I lost people that I cared about as I left.  Splits, strains, cracks, and fractures appeared and I know I took a hammer to some of those to separate, because I wanted to put out how I really felt, in the hopes that they'd understand me a bit better.  I did what I thought was right at the time.  Not sure I'd do it any differently now.

The point of all of the rambling?  To say that if you are in a similar spot, or if your job makes you feel so miserable that you don't want to go on, you aren't alone.  Ever.  And regardless of what other people tell you, of what they try to shove down your throats about "that's just part of life" or "all jobs are miserable" please tell them to kindly fuck off and make a plan to find something new.  Set a deadline. Set goals. Get help.  Life is too short to be miserable where you spend the bulk of your days.

I'm in a better place as 2015 starts and I'm enjoying the new path that I'm making for myself.  There are scary and exciting things ahead.  And I can't wait to see what happens next.

28 December 2014

Normal is bullshit

https://www.flickr.com/photos/35034345972@N01/5432567658/ 
"You look stupid doing that, you know?"
"That makes you look stupid."
"You don't want to look stupid do you?"

Over the last few years I've had all of those things said to me.  Because, you know insulting someone to get them to conform to your expectations is the best way to make people feel good about themselves right?  And I get it, I do, sometimes people said these things with the best of intentions.  They were trying to help me fit in.  To be "normal."  And for a long time that was something that I wanted.

Growing up I was the quiet, shy kid, which meant that people didn't know what to do with me other than I didn't fit in.  I was with the art crowd in college, although I was still a bit on the outside because I was an art education major so for a time I wasn't a "real artist," but I at least had people to trust and be with.  Then I started dealing with depression and anxiety, and well...I'll just say that apparently some in that community feel that there should be a "normal" way of dealing with both of those things. And god help me when I was diagnosed as being on the Asperger's spectrum, I was told that I needed to work harder to fit back in and do my best to be normal.

And there were times I went with it.  Because I mean lets be honest here, we all want to fit in most of the time.  To be comfortable in our own skins.  To belong.  To be "normal."

But over the last several months I've realized that the entire idea of being "normal" is complete and utter and absolute bullshit.  Normal doesn't exist, at least not the way we keep trying to assign it on a societal level.  Every person has their own level of what they consider normal.  Of where our moods should be, of how we should feel, of how we should look, etc.  But this should never be considered a measuring point for anyone else.  Ever.

Its time that we stop shoving people in boxes and telling them that can only be "normal" if they conform and fit in that box.  It's time that we stop talking about what "normal" is and encourage people to be comfortable in their own skins.  To find their own level of where they feel right by their standards, not society.