I am physically short, fairly soft spoken, and shy. I don’t like debating people and will always back away from an argument. This is why it shocks many to know that I am angry a lot of the time. I am not angry as in punch-a-wall-get-it-out angry or you-are-in-danger-of-me angry, I am angry at the injustices of the world. I am angry that we (as a society) don’t solve issues that we could easily because they are labelled by the people in power as “inconvenient”. I am angry that our only planet and its people are sick and suffering because of corruption and greed. All of these things, and plenty more, make me angry… and that anger fuels my work.
For a long time, I let that anger fester inside me and eat away at me until I became bitter and resentful. People who know me now are often shocked to learn how bitter and resentful I was just 10 years ago… but I let the anger take control of me, instead of harnessing it to make positive change. Things shifted for me when I started to get upset about shark finning and the fact that 100 million sharks are killed annually even though they are vital to our oceans (as apex predators) and 1/3rd – 1/4th of shark species alive today are endangered. As I have posted about before, I started getting passionate about saving sharks in college and took a class that had us channel a cause we were passionate about into art. I picked saving sharks, and the rest is history! Well not really, but I did make infographics that went viral, an award-winning animated documentary short (FINconceivable), and a nonfiction children’s book (If Sharks Disappeared) which turned into a children’s book series (the If Animals Disappeared series) — which have all been used to educate and spread awareness on the plight of vulnerable and endangered creatures and the ecosystems they inhabit!
What I realized when I started shifting the way I approached my anger was: I had a unique voice and perspective and could make art about it. I could make positive change. I could spread hope.
There was plenty of shark art before me and has been after mine, but what I figured out was that my spin on it was different. I approached it for myself. I made the art for me, a non-scientist. I broke down the science of the trophic cascade (in relation to sharks) in a way that an artist, who got overwhelmed easily, could understand. My art leaned towards “cute”, something that in college had been frequently criticized, but something I realized made my work appeal to every age. Then with all of that information gathered… I realized I had a way to offer an educational service to bring awareness to something that previously made me feel nothing but despair and bitterness!
“Rebellions are built on hope”
– Jyn Erso, Rogue One
When I do school visits, I always tell kids: remember that your voice and perspective are 100% unique to you and because of that you can change the world. This is true. You are the only one who has lived your life, has your experiences, and skills. You might be able to change the world through your vision and voice in a way that someone else might not be able to do and that has value.
I have since made comics and books (forthcoming) about other topics that injustices make me angry — menstruation, mental health, climate change, etc. Each time I approach these things, I allow myself those years/months/days of being angry. I allow myself to feel it fully and analyze it to figure out why I am angry. Then I break down how to make people care about it, like I do. I try to think how I can make people like who I was (before I found my voice) understand and want to also make change. Then I go from there…
“That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”
– The Hulk, The Avengers
Your anger is not a bad thing as long as it does not turn you resentful, mean, or full of hatred. If you channel that anger into making the world a better place through your actions then you won’t let that anger fester inside you and hurt your spirit. There are literally so many ways to channel the anger too (art, volunteering, donations, videos, blog posts, etc)! The possibilities of making positive change are endless and all you have to remember is that there is hope in the change you make.
Every single person acting to make positive change creates hope and that hope spreads.