I’m an illustrator! How my life took a dramatic turn (once again)

I feel like it has been ages since I last posted. I should say that it was not because of something bad happening, but it was because of something normal. More than just normal, but good. I’ve been very busy.

I have some good news- and it is especially good because it is about my career and where it is headed. I mentioned before that I was struggling quite a bit to find out what I was going to do for the rest of my life, and I know now. Not fully, but well enough to feel pretty secure. And it’s a cliche, but it had been under my nose all along.

It was this one week, you see, when everything changed. When everything clicked. When it felt like it was a sign from the universe, or God or what have you. It was a validating hug that came from all directions.

First, one of my classmates from the art class I was taking reached out to me to ask if I was interested in some illustration work. She knew a friend of a friend who needed illustrators. My illustration so far had been only for my own pleasure, or what someone might describe as “just a hobby, nothing more.” It had been more than that; it was my therapy- it was where I found peace. I constantly sketched, painted, inked- mostly animals, especially my cat. But a year had passed and I found my skills good enough to draw professionally! The guy wanted animal illustrations (in my own style!)-I was stoked because I could not call myself a commercial artist or illustrator until this day, technically. He liked my portfolio on instagram, and we got to work. I was so proud and happy at the thought that I could maybe make money while doing something I love. I took it as a sign.

The same week, I got another commission. It was for several pet portraits. This time, it was similar- I was at church, and I showed my instagram (which is basically my portfolio) filled with ink drawings and watercolor paintings of animals, and she wanted some of my work for her bedroom! I was so excited to have not one, but two projects come up when I least expected it. I usually don’t believe in this stuff, but this was the universe giving me a thumbs up to what I have been doing with my time, and perhaps a sign that I was heading in the right direction.

My therapist was not surprised when these boons came my way. She had the “I told you so” look on her face. She said that she told me before that I was a good artist, and she knew something like this would happen. She said that she saw a lot of clients who struggle with their creativity and artistic abilities because society isn’t very accepting of us creatives. Instead the message is, “get a stable high paying job, start a family and retire early” and not “do what you do is best suited for you.” I don’t think my math degree and my subsequent job in finance was a waste of time. But I am rather glad that I found out early enough that I had something better waiting for me.

The next step for me would be to keep taking classes, get better at my craft, and above all, create more places online in order to reach out to people to sell my art.

What’s now

I’ve been thinking about “what next?” a bit like a graduating senior. And like getting a degree, all in all, it’s a good thing, I suppose(recovery is a good thing.) They, the graduates, are usually bitter sweet, yet full of excitement and potential for new adventures. But unlike a soon-to-be-graduate, I’m not fresh faced, or excited about what is about to unfold at the end of my intensive treatment period. I have too much experience, too much trauma, if you will, to feel completely enthralled and optimistic about what I’ll have to face, yet again. I’m really scared. Scared to foot my foot back into the world, and scared to put myself out there, for whatever I need to put myself out there for.

Already, I’ve started “stepping down” from my self-led, treatment (i.e. isolation from major triggers) filled with psychiatrist appointments, med changes, therapist visits, more self care than I’d ever put myself through in such a short period of time, and retching amount of self compassion (if my old self were to describe it.) And you know what? I’m doing much better now: the meds are fine (no huge side effects that I noticed), therapy has been a bit of a struggle, (because I’ve been resistant to change, as you can tell), I do my workouts consistently throughout the week, and I go to art classes regularly.

But it’s always the “what next?” question that throws me off from feeling good about where I am, and how far I’ve gotten. Somebody told me that if you were to ask that of your own life, it would just be “death.” That is the ultimate “what next,” right? I’ve done the “what next” thing all my life throughout school and my short lived career, and it hasn’t helped me much. When I was in school, I was studying 2 grades ahead of where I was, and at my job, I was thinking two promotions or lateral moves ahead. And you know what? It was really tiring, having to do everything in front of me now, and having to do everything for the future. Thinking about your future once in awhile in terms of saving for your first house, or a special event like a wedding or something isn’t detrimental, but rather smart. But for me, my body was here in the now, but my head was in the future- and I can tell you it’s much more dangerous than having it in the clouds.

So today, I’m resisting the urge, this habit of mine, to think into the future, and making 5 year plans, or thinking about careers. Because I need to be here now.

Hitting refresh

Hi folks! I’m back on WP after a few weeks off. The break gave me time to read a lot of books and get caught up on the news. This freed me from my inner thought patterns a little bit and gave me perspective. I think we all need a vacation from all aspects of life, however enjoyable it might be, from time to time.

Where I’m at now: I think I’m finally stable, and will be for quite a while. I’ve said that I was sort of stable before, but this time, I’m actually, for once, confident in saying that. And it feels amazing and improbable at the same time that this period will last. I can’t remember feeling this well for this extended amount of time in years, including the years before I got diagnosed with bipolar.

Also, here is another responsibility that comes with feeling stable: I need to figure my shit out. Maybe not right away, but soon. I need a direction: personally and professionally. I was so cocksure of where I wanted to be and where I would be in life before my breakdown spiritual awakening, but since then, I feel like my elaborate life plan has been wiped off from the dry erase board mistakenly by a maintenance dude overnight. So yeah. I’m still lost with how to recreate myself and spend the rest of my life (or even just the rest of this year).

Instead of this assignment being a burden (as it was a few months ago), this time, it feels almost a little bit exciting, thanks to the stability in my energy levels and mood. I’ve been working out every single day, like I used to (because I finally physically can!), improving my art- both drawing and painting, rebuilding my wardrobe to fit my true style, and just enjoying the weather.

All in all, this is just to say that I have no idea where I’m headed, but it’s all right for now. So, we’ll see.

Alien from outer space

I’m not sure why I’m still here sometimes. In this foreign land that is supposed to be my home. I lost most of the friends I had, and got rid of my job, too. I don’t have a community where I live because I’m afraid to meet new people. I don’t go to church and I’m not part of a cult. All my family members all except one actually reside here. They’re all in the old country. Not that I’m close to most of them. I don’t know what I’ll be doing next in my life career wise and it sure doesn’t look easier over here or there. I guess the psychiatrists are better and so are the therapists- they get me, so that’s one big reason. But otherwise, what the hell am I still doing here?

My attempt at a normal life

When the inevitable is asked, as part of an introduction, I tell them that I’m “taking a career break before rushing into anything.” Which is a glossy version, and not at all a lie, but certainly not the whole truth. I get it: what is a normal looking woman in her mid-twenties doing in an art class made up of mostly retired middle aged/senior men and women on a weekend when she should be having mimosas with her other friends from work? I’m sure they wonder. But I don’t give them a clue- not even when the lady at the easel next to me talks to another lady about her real world job concerning psychiatric medication research- because what follows is the belief that psych drugs make people violent, said by the another lady, and then comes rushing in the Dylan Roof theories, and so on and so forth. I’m a coward, so I don’t let my intimate personal experience with mental illness be known as a point for counter argument, as it was only my second class, and I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as the mental ill girl, because for some people, that’s all they see once they know. And I certainly did not want the second lady (who strongly believed that all mentally ill people are inclined to shoot a lot of random people)  to think that I was going to shoot the whole class one of these days. (By the way, I’m getting pretty tired of ignorant people grouping together violent people and mentally ill people together, which are very independent characteristics.) Instead, I’m pigeonholed into something more mundane- math major, ex-financial analyst who is taking a career break and who now is back at art to pass the time until she feels like getting a job again, like a normal person.

I feel slightly embarrassed that I have to lie/leave out about a very essential part of my life at the moment, but at the same time, frustrated that even if I wanted to reveal it, it might do some damage to my character (when I have done nothing wrong.) I also feel embarrassed that I still don’t have the balls to stand up for myself. But I so desperately want to be back to normal, that desire is getting in the way of advocacy- For the 4 hours I’m there in the class, I want to feel like a normal person again, whether if I need to be incognito for it or not. So I keep pretending, But who isn’t pretending? We don’t go blabbering about all our troubles and tribulations to the strangers we meet, and they’re not entitled to that kind of information, anyway. Maybe I’m just so used to being transparent that hiding a piece of me from the world is difficult. That is one thing I don’t like about getting older- it’s the secrets. And as time passes the secrets snowball, every time we avoid talking about it. We cover it up with something else, patch it up with another lie there.

I sometimes liken my situation to another group. I imagine how the gay community did it, when they first came out to their fundamentalist parents, to a mostly religious society- that must have taken immense courage, and I respect the LGBT community for taking that big step. They’re getting normalized to society now, after that hard work. The movement didn’t start overnight of course, and not by one person. So sometimes I think that maybe as an individual, I risked taking that first step to speak out, come out, and educate, I wouldn’t be seen as this would-be-murderer, but as rather as another normal 20-something year old, who happens to have the misfortune of catching bipolar disorder along her journey.

 

 

Escape

Think for a second- how many of the things you do in a day are considered “an escape”? An escape from annoying or dark thoughts, avoidance from bad habits you’re trying to cut back? An escape from a life situation? How much of your life are you spending to escape from these unpleasant things?

I asked these questions myself, and shockingly, I spent most of my time in this way. Escaping from the unwanted thoughts by doing something that was distracting enough for the time being. When one distracting activity was done, however, I was back to square one. Back to the suffering.

If one acknowledges this, and is fine with it, there is no reason to read further. But this fact bothers me so. The fact that I’m living my life in spite of something. That I’m running not to run, but to run away. I don’t like that my purpose is to avoid, and not to live. Action, and not reaction.

But then I wonder, are there truly things that one does for the sake of doing them? Or is everything thing we do minus the essentials, at least a little bit, a distraction from our lives? How much distraction is healthy, and how much is too much? Can we truly be present with so many distractions? Is writing a blog post an escape for me right now as I wait in the car? Maybe.