Wednesday, December 12, 2012

You Must Not Quit Yourself

"When I was in high school I was advised that it's difficult to have an occupation doing something you like, and that it's good to do something you somewhat like. I went against this advice, and now I'm glad that I did. If I only somewhat liked this work, I'm sure I would have quit by now. Doing what you like equals yourself, and you must not quit yourself." - Takehiko Inoue
Seal here.

Today I wanted to share the words of wisdom from one of my favorite manga writer/ artist, Takehiko Inoue. He is best known for the successful manga/comic sagas: the basketball manga Slam Dunk and the wandering swordsman manga, Vagabond. They have both been made into anime, tv drama series, and life action films.

Often times, Seal is racked by her past "failures." Mainly that it took me so long just to acknowledge that my true dream was art, and that I was an artist, and to finally pursue it wholeheartedly. Somewhere a couple of years ago, in the middle of a job that was not art, rising to the top in a career that society approved of, but feeling empty inside, I realized: you can fool everyone else, you can convince everyone else but you can never cheat yourself.

Have you followed a dream to end of the line? Have you given yourself permission to pursue it? What does it look like when you've crossed the line and completed a dream?
So what is your true love? If you can allow it, what is your dream?

Monkey here.

When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was a comic book artist.  I loved to draw, and, with no knowledge of the pay-per-page rates, the tight deadlines, or the crazy amounts of research and practice involved, I declared I wanted to be a comic book artist.  Something about being able to make awesome art that told a cool story filled me with joy.

I quickly forgot all that as I started public school, focusing more on the academics that came easily to me and that brought me praise.  I ended up going to a prestigious university as a Freshman, and quickly came to realize that given total freedom, I was not a Chemical Engineer at all, but an actor!  I ended up running an Asian American theater group for a while, competed in some poetry slams and theatrical readings, and met Seal. 

Seal bought me my first sketchbook (that wasn't a black and white composition book).  I graduated, found a high-paying recruiting job, and promptly quit after a month to go back to art school.  There, I realized how much blood, sweat, and tears becoming a technically proficient visual artist requires.  I started out as a graphic designer, then an illustrator, then finally took my senior classes in fine art.  Somehow I graduated with a hodge-podge of random classes that are part of no single degree program.  There, I realized that I was not into what the school was teaching.  While I was and still am extremely grateful for the skills I developed there, I realized that the path of the fine art students doing senior shows and the illustration students doing concept art and editorial illustrations was not mine.

Fast forward three years.  I slowly but surely create and self-publish my own comics.  Some are drawn poorly.  Others are more like illustrated short stories.  I've come to realize that more than any job title, or what you do to make a living (retail wage slave for 5.5 years, baby!), who you are is something powerful that is absolutely essential to find if you want to be happy.

No amount of money, power, or love is going to make up the void left in you if you are not being true to yourself.

It is, of course, not mutually exclusive to be rich, powerful, and have important loved ones in your life and be true to yourself, but all those other things don't make up for finding your essential self and embracing it.

I am a storyteller.  Whether that takes the form of theater, spoken word, short stories, flash fiction, comics, paintings, t-shirt designs, blogging, or even just telling long-winded jokes to friends over beers, I've realized that the thing that first pushed me towards comics is a love for stories.

As 2012 comes to a close, have you found who you are?  If not, what's holding you back?  I know the truth might be scary, or intimidating, but really, the truth will set you free.