In 2019, I wrote a blog post called Anger: It Fuels My Work. Recently, at the prompting of a friend who asked me how I handle my anger at the world… I revisited that blog post and reread it. Its fascinating how when we write from the heart, our work is honest; however, we are people so we change. Reading that blog post I was reminded of how deeply I have changed in the last few years. It made me choose this blog post and art piece as my Art Rewind: project for February 2022.
ART REWIND: IS A BLOG SERIES WHERE I POST A DEEP DIVE INTO MY ART OF YORE, REFLECTING ON WHY I MADE IT AND HOW I FEEL ABOUT IT BEING SHARED WITH THE WORLD NOW.
When I started this blog, I was always worried that if I shared something that I didn’t agree with in the future, I wouldn’t be able to go back on it. As if the blog would force me to be stuck in time, unchanging. I think everyone who has an online presence is worried about that just by the fact that out of date tweets and comments come back to bite people later, sometimes cancelling peoples careers. I am not going to talk about cancelling though, thats a topic I don’t feel qualified to discuss. I am just talking about how our thoughts and opinions change and how they should.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of us so irrevocably. The solice of the last year gave me space to scale my life back, put values into perspective, and gave me a huge mental breakdown too. I don’t recommend a mental breakdown, but in the middle of a pandemic when you struggle with chronic health issues that you can’t get addressed due to said pandemic… and then turns out the “depression” footnote on a medication hits you with the speed of a bullet train, well, a mental breakdown is sort of inevitable. I would in the past have rushed to say I am recovered so that I can wrap it all up in a neat little bow and put it on the shelf, but I don’t know that I am. This stuff changes you and changes the fiber of your being, if not just your brain chemistry.
As my chronic illness forced me to face the fact that I was struggling to walk and my mental health made me reevaluate my life and what serves me… I realized, with the help of a qualified psychologist, that my anger was harming me. Anger and sadness are two sides of the same coin. For me what I noticed is when I wasn’t raging online, pressing send on an angry tweet, or publicly using my anger as a voice…….. the sadness in the moments of pause were defeaning. In the last few years, I took time to step away from the internet and fully live in those moments of pause. I pop in here and there because I do enjoy it sometimes, but in execess it strips me of my sanity.
My art, books, and short film have been used to educate. There is no greater joy and pride I have in my work than in that sentence. I have aided the education of children, teens, and adults. My film and infographics have been used to get legislation passed in state senates by Doctors, scientists, and activists. My words and art have changed minds and made tangible progress for the world. I have recently found out that Karen and my graphic novel, Go With The Flow, is banned in Texas! I cannot in any way say that I have not made a difference in this world in the relatively short time I have been a professional artist (under 15 years). But being a creator in the way I am can be lonely, and that lonliness has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
In a good year authors and illustrators only ever see people when they do events, which are usually when a book comes out or sprinkled in between when people hire us to talk. We rarely interact with the public or people about our work. I enjoy this for the most part because I am a true introvert, however when trying to make the world better… it can feel isolating. I feel so seperate from my work that I sometimes feel I am making no impact at all. Then when I get sad or angry about injustices in the world, I don’t feel like there is any way I could make them better because I am so isolated. Its why for a long time, I was so fervently active on social media, airing the injustices into the void. Only the void was either an echo chamber or a divisive hellscape that I realized was not serving me… only damaging me. Remember, my health is fragile and that is something I have come to accept the last year.
Taking a step back from being publicly angry allowed me to privately focus on what I can control and contribute to. It gave me the space to give back in ways I love. I took the time to learn the ways I can make my slice of the world better, planting trees and saving bees. I also have gotten involved in local politics which are important. Without the time I was sucked into the internet I have the ability to give that time to other places, causes, and movements. The direct action of these things, when paired with my activism-based storytelling and artwork helps me feel like I am contributing in the ways I am physically and mentally able. Respecting limited abilities is important even when it comes to activism.
My abilities are limited and my energy is so much better spent when actions are fuelled by love, not rage.
There is limited space for judgement on others and frusterations with the life I want to live. I cannot police peoples actions, because I do not have the energy. Its so easy to fall into the trap of policing others as a way to express anger or living in judgement. These things do not fill your cup, but instead drain it. Its easy to judge others. It is much harder to extend compassion to what we do not understand.
I don’t know where I fall in all of this. I just know where I want to go. The way I want to move forward is by living a life that feels honest, fullfilling, and full of love. The way I will proceed to do activism work is through a love fuelled practice, a love of mother nature, people, diversity, and the hope for a better future. And maybe my activism-based-storytelling won’t always be as direct as it has been, but that doesn’t make it less valid. This Art Rewind: series started because I wanted to reflect on how I had grown as an artist, but sometimes it also reflects on how I have grown as a person. Artists change and grow and we should want them to, because we should want all people to change and grow with time and life experiences. I really don’t know what the future holds for me and maybe I will have to react to this post in the future. But what I know now is that anger is not my director anymore because that anger tried to destroy me… so I am choosing love.
I hope you can choose love too.