Should you base your dreams around what you wanted to be when you are eight? Yeah, probably not. Some kids want to be strange things when they are eight. Like aeroplanes. But there are people who find their passions when they are young and just stick to them. I wanted to be a comic artist. Yes, even since then. I was big time into Bone and Garfield when I was eight. I even drew my own comic strips (which my mom has hidden somewhere, despite my many calls for her to burn them). I’ve tried to distract myself from it numerous times. In high school, I just wanted to be an illustrator. I used to paint epic…ly horrible watercolors trying to learn the techniques of CLAMP and Takeuchi Naoko. My art teachers, bless them, saw potential in me and showed me as much as they could and gave me great opportunities within the community to showcase my stuff. At the same time, my parents convinced me that while sure art’s great, I would never make money (my dad was an artist, and only made money once he started goldsmithing)– so why don’t I take that writing flar and just study English? Which I did. I wrote my butt off, taking creative writing courses, and even majored in Shakespeare for a few semesters at my local college. But art was always there, in the back of my mind. I wanted to draw. I wanted to tell stories. Why couldn’t I do both?
Comics seemed the most natural decision when I finally let myself make it.
In order for this to make sense, I guess I should jump back like… 8 years. Back in the ripe year of 2006, I made my first trip to Japan with my two besties, Z and A. A used to live in Kyoto, and acted as our guide as we swept through Tokyo and Kyoto at a whirlwind pace, having the best adventures that we still tell to people about to this day. However, right before our trip, I was waiting to hear back from the two colleges that I applied to: SCAD and UMD. I applied to UMD with the intentions to enroll in their East Asian studies program (what was expected of me) and SCAD to go pursue my love of art and comics (what I wanted).
The trip was amazing. We saw so many things, ate so many things, and bought soooo many things. It was my first time abroad and it was eye-opening. Japan was so different, yet so the same. It was everything I expected, and yet in no way as I expected. At that time, my love for anime and manga was weigning, but it was still there– I wasn’t just grabbing onto any new series out there (something that I thought was a temporary thing, but little did I know…!), but I still loved the atmosphere of Japan. Going to Japan had been my dream throughout middle and high school, and then I was LIVING IT. It was amazing!
Upon coming back from Japan, I learned that I was accepted to both schools. And then I had to make a choice. It wasn’t a matter of money, because with scholarships and the like, both schools would have ended up costing me the same, and I would have to pay the rest in loans anyway. Now fresh from this trip, you would think that I just jumped in and went “WOOO! UMD!! I’M GOING TO LEARN ALL THE JAPANESE!” but I didn’t. That trip opened my eyes to a lot of things. 1) My time in Japan made me realize that while learning a language in a classroom was great and all, I had more growth in that area while in the country, than I had when studying on my own from books and audio lessons for like 5+ years. 2) However, what I had studied HAD been useful, so if I continued on my own, and tried to push myself harder in my studies, I could continue to learn the language without the need for classes. 3) Even if I mastered Japanese, living there permanently would not be something I could do. My family priorities are too strong to move away forever.
So, after a long discussion with my parents, we all came to the same conclusion. Art was something I really wanted ever since I was very young. I had the talent and drive, but I needed more training. I went to SCAD. Two and a half years later, got my degree in comics (went to Japan again as part of an exchange), moved back home and… went back to work for the same company I worked for before I left for college.
In my defence, I graduated in the Spring of 2009… NOT the best time to be entering the art job market. I did, however, continue to do comics on the side, when I could. I loved it so much, but my day job was draining me so much, I felt less and less inclined to work on comics in my downtime. It finally came to an apex in 2011, and I decided to take a shot in the dark and go for a job in Japan. If anything, for a change in perspective in my life, a jumpstart. And boy, was it one.
Now that I have been here for almost two years, and I’ve had a great time, I’m looking forward to the future again, returning home. And in my return, I want to hit the ground running. Comics. Comics. Comics. If there’s anything I’ve learned in this time, it’s that I find an inner peace while I am working on comics, no matter how much I bitch and moan about inking and thumbnailing (which I do… a lot).
I’m tired of consuming, I want to produce.
I will not allow myself to go home and be comforted once again by the mundane.
I will struggle, and it will SUCK, but I need to do this. I feel it in my bones.
This is my dream.