When I was a very young, I used to write and illustrated my own books, usually about monsters and superheroes. My mom would help me bind them using cardboard and contact paper, and I would pass them out to my friends. In high school, I was not very good about academics because I was usually doodling on my notebooks or test pages. Despite my constant need to be doing something creative, it took me a very long time to come to grips with the idea that I could and should do it for a living.
I Have Daddy Issues
My father split on my mom and I before my third birthday, picking up stakes and high-tailing it several states away to not be heard from again for many years. I have a child that same age and the thought of leaving him behind for whatever reason gets me so upset, I can’t even imagine actually going through with it. The pain of that part of my life is completely blocked out now, but my mom has told me it was a very tenuous period in both of our lives.
My father reconnected with my mom when I was five years old. He whimpered and cried about wanting to see me, and despite my mom’s heavy reluctance, she finally allowed me to visit him for the summer. She put me on a plane, by myself, to San Antonio, Texas, fearing that she would never see me again. She definitely did not trust my Dad to do the right thing. I did make it back home to Mom in one piece, and I would repeat this process every summer for the next several years. Then it happened again
My Dad split from his second wife and didn’t leave any forwarding contact information. Without going into more detail, this would become the ritual relationship I would share with my father (leave without a trace and then show up again) right up until my 40th birthday when I got a “Dear John” letter from him telling me how disappointed he was with me.
Needless to say, I broke the chain, and we no longer talk.
The Land of Fruits and Nuts
I get my creative side from my mother. She’s always dabbled in some sort of creative pursuit all her life, but few times with anything but moderate success. As good as she was as a mother, she never did much for teaching me about aspiration, determination or business acumen. I learned about just getting by, not excelling.
Many times in my youth, my father would light-heartedly poke fun at me for being from California. By his account, California was the land of fruits and nuts, and artists were the worst of them all in his opinion. He never discouraged me from my creative impulses when I was young, but he definitely never encouraged them either. My mom, on the other hand, did her best to make sure I expressed my creativity as much as possible; she just never had the means to fully support me because of a lack of fund or time.
I will probably never be able to fully grasp the gravity level of being a single parent, but the older I get, the more I realize the things I didn’t have but wanted were only because she was working to provide the things I needed. Unfortunately, the value I placed on life was to accept life as it was dealt; you can’t create a destiny for yourself. In high school, when I was praised for some of my art skills, I decided I wanted to go to art college when I graduated. My mom thought that was wonderful, but she had no means to send me. I asked my father to help, but being a blue-collar slag all his life, I honestly felt he was offended that any son of his would even want a higher education, let alone in something as fruitless as art.
Having a career in art was just not in the cards, I assumed, and I went about life imagining that I had no future, so why try to make one.
In my mid-twenties, I stumbled on graphic design and fell in love. I went to school, got a job at a design agency and then became an art director for a magazine publisher. 15 years later, I’ve got a solid, creative career behind me. I love what I do, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself successful. I make decent money doing a pretty kick-ass job, but financial security is still a long, long way off.
I supplement my income with art sales here and there, but nothing really has taken off, and I can’t say I have pursued it any more than a little. I put as much effort into my art as I have much of my life and I think it has something to do with the idea that I don’t really deserve better. Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself I was fated to be just above bubble. An extraordinary life was beyond my reach.
In June, 2010, my son was born, and since then I have been amazed at how this tiny human is developing. I told myself that I was going to nurture the hell out of this kid because I never want him to feel like I felt as a child. He will be loved and cherished, but not spoiled. He will know his limitations and will know when to push past them. I’m not a perfect parent, but if my father is any gauge, I think I’m doing a stand-up job helping my boy become a well-mannered and enthusiastic person.
The other day, him and I were playing with his Hot Wheels, having some quality “Big Dog” and T-Rex” time, and I had this urge to just hug and hold him. He’s very open to affection and it warms my heart the way he holds on for dear life. I still have all the fears any parent would about the future of their kids, but I have a good feeling he’s going to turn out well.
After the hug, he put his hands on the sides of my face, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Don’t worry, Papa, I will protect you”. It took every bit of my manly reserves to not break down in tears right there. It was at that moment I had an epiphany. He learned how to be nurturing and supportive from me. Why can’t I give myself the same attention? Why can’t I lift myself up, convince myself that I deserve nothing less than heaven?
The plain truth is that I do deserve more and I am now determined to make a better life for myself and my family despite all the lame excuses I’ve made because of the life I was provide early on. In 7-Card Draw poker, you don’t have to play the cards you’re dealt; you can exchange your cards in hopes for better ones. This site and everything that comes with it is me turning in my cards. Will I turn Aces? Who knows, but I know anything I get will be better than what I was working with before and I refuse to let my past determine my future.
I never put much faith in the ideology that if you can dream it, you can achieve it, but it’s hard to not notice every time I put out good vibes, I always get something in return. It is my intention that everything I develop, work toward and grow will be shared with you. My real success will be when I’ve helped others find their way to success as well. All this will be for not unless you are all come along and enjoy the ride.
If you’re an artist, designer or creative person looking for something bigger, or you know someone who is, please join in on the conversation. United we stand!