(comic originally appeared in Razorcake magazine)
Looking back on this year it feels like EVERYTHING has changed for me, although that’s a glib exaggeration, change has definitely been the theme of 2013.
At the end of last year one of my best friends and favorite human beings was diagnosed with a very treatable form of cancer, but it was still a scary thing. I hadn’t had a cancer diagnosis in my inner circle yet. In January I went to the west coast to act as a witness while she married another of my favorite friends, the day before her thyroidectomy. She is fine and they are happy, and I am quite happy for them.
In February I lost one of the most important friendships of my life, and no matter what I said, or tried to say, I couldn’t get the other person to work it out with me. It has been the driving force of this year: it drove me to move out of the neighborhood I had lived in for 11 years, and it drove me to be more focused on my work, and less focused on my place in social obligations. I miss this person every damn day, but I just have to accept the fact that we both want different things, and while I still feel like there was a very salvageable friendship there, the other party does not, and while it hurts like nothing else, I’ve tried my best to remain respectful of that.
Trying to celebrate conflict for the change it brings is hard: conflict is socially a “dirty” word, but I believe that conflict has it’s place in relationships (familial, platonic, romantic, professional). This has been most evident in my relationship with my boyfriend. In most instances, moving in with a significant other in a time of strife is not the most advisable thing to do, and we definitely had our share of problems cohabiting, but I gained a new appreciation for our relationship through the ways in which we are able to navigate conflict. Getting angry sucks, but we always work it out, and I feel way better afterwards. I guess that’s what I mean by celebrating the change that conflict brings: it sucks to fight, but coming out on the other side usually brings a greater understanding of the person and the relationship.
Comics were my #1 priority this year. I decided that since I was confronting so many other things that were unpleasant, I might as well throw my fear of failure onto the fire, and watch it burn. I have been drawing comics with some semblance of “professionalism” for over 10 years, and my goal the entire time has been to write graphic novels. But it felt too daunting, like nobody would ever want to read something that long from me: I’ve certainly built my name by being someone who writes short gag strips, and became comfortable in that, because I knew I could get a quick laugh, and some easy validation. Too comfortable, the kind of comfortable where you are kind of stuck. So, when I agreed to draw a graphic memoir, with a deadline of less than a year, I knew I was in for double the challenge. I honestly didn’t know if I could do it, but I have written and thumbnailed the entire 240 page book, and I even turned it in 6 days early! And during that time I also penciled the first 80 pages, and inked 40 of those. I have 3 months left to finish the whole thing, and I feel energized by my accomplishments so far, that it can be done, and done well. I don’t know if I’d ever CHOOSE to work on this kind of deadline again, but it’s very reassuring to know that I CAN do it. Now I just have to worry about what the reader’s reaction will be!
Other challenges that I have faced/am continuing to face:
working in color. I hate working color. I have no confidence in it, and I prefer black and white, but some of the comics and illustration projects I have done in the last year or so require it. My first instinct is to hand the coloring job off to someone else, but instead I have decided to use those situations as a way to force myself to become comfortable with color. If I never do it, I’ll never become comfortable with it, and sometimes it doesn’t turn out at all like I want it to, but I assume that even in those times I’m learning something.
comics readings. I had always wanted to do comics readings, but I was also really afraid of it. Public speaking is really hit or miss for me: sometimes it’s really easy and fun, and sometimes I feel like I’m in 7th grade english class, having to recite the Jabberwocky from memory in front of the boy I have a crush on. This year is the first time I ever participated in a reading, and again, my first instinct was to say “no thanks” to the invitation, but when my instinct is to stay in my comfort zone, I’m trying to use that as a signal that I really need to push myself. So I did, twice, and both times it was really fun! I’m looking forward to doing more readings in the future, even though I’m sure my first instinct will still be to run and hide.
self promotion. Oh my god, I fucking hate self promotion. And as such, I’ve been sheepish about it in the past, but I’m trying to get over the weird ego feeling of asking someone to write an article about or do an event with you, or help promote you. Blah, there are a lot of roadblocks, but I have some fun exciting things to announce in conjunction with the Alone Forever book release in February, and will hopefully have even more things planned for when my graphic novel, Tomboy, comes out in the fall.
feminism. I have spent a good amount of my life basically being a misogynist. I don’t identify with femininity, but I am starting to find ways celebrate it anyway. Of course I have always believed that women deserve equal rights and equal pay, but what feminism means to me personally has solidified and coalesced in the last few years into something meaningful. It has meant a lot to me to be involved in both the Boston Ladyfest and the Philly Ladyfest. Both events were really empowering (I know, it’s kind of a buzzword, but there’s no other word for it) in this way that really clotheslined me. It’s never too late in the game to have things gain newer meaning to you.
So moving forward is the plan for 2014. Maybe physically, definitely creatively, and hopefully emotionally. If you learn from a mistake, then is it still a mistake? Sorry for the word barf. 2013, you kicked my ass, but I think I might have bested you in the end.