Sunday, June 24, 2012

Life and Things

It is an odd thing to constantly feel as though you're not doing enough when you have little to no spare time because of all things you're, you know, doing. There are a number of projects I keep wanting to get to, stories in various stages of Not Done, and just...stuff I want to be able to do, that there aren't enough hours in the day for.

Mind you, I'm not exactly immune to procrastination or avoidance. I'm as guilty of spending way too much time online as anyone, watching videos, reading articles, or doing the internet equivalent of window shopping. I get all mad at myself like I'm not allowed to ever have down time.

I don't really know where that comes from. In school, I was never an overachiever. I wasn't the 'dictorian of any sort, nor particularly concerned with grades. I did fine but never quite, I don't think, worked to my potential. That changed a bit in college where I was doing what I loved every day: writing or art. I definitely applied myself diligently then, and I suppose it's a matter of pride today that I'm always working, often to the point of it being  a bit excessive. Getting comics done right is a real job, but it's not a 24/7 gig, like, say, programming or being a surgeon.

This is one of the reasons I'm glad that my "day" job these days is working with kids. It's easy to forget when you're dealing with the urgency of deadlines and publishing that there are other things going on that don't revolve around this little industry you're in. Making a more direct impact, doing silly projects, wiping away tears, playing made up games, helping with homework and listening to little kid drama's...it's a good reminder that life is about a lot of things outside ourselves, and there are many ways to get meaning out of it.

I give this kind of thing a lot of thought because it's really important to me that my life not be pointless, insofar as I am able to define that for myself. I have a finite amount of time, whatever that ends up being, and I want to spend it doing things that matter to me and with people I care about. It's one of the reasons I love to tell stories and share them. I like being able to connect with other people through that, giving them something to think about, to feel, to enjoy. Storytelling, to me, is a kind of magic. Not the abracadabra kind, it doesn't just appear. But the same kind as when you have a really fantastic conversation at 2am, or meet someone for the first time and it's like you've always known them. It's the feeling of really...being...and being able to share that.

The thing is, though, being like that all the time is nearly impossible...and kind of ponderous after awhile. For the existential dread and constant struggle for meaning...life is also silly and weird and plain stupid sometimes. There's a kind of magic in that, too. When you just have to laugh at the utter absurdity of things because, really, taking it all too seriously ends up robbing you of the whole experience.

This is what I get out of working with kids, or at least the ones I've been lucky enough to spend time with. They're curious, bright, but inexperienced and often very clueless about the world at large. I suppose a lot of that has to do with being American and at least middle class. Parents do this kind of interesting sheltering, like they really think keeping their kid from playing a violent video game will inoculate them against anything bad ever happening to them. It's fascinating.

But the kids themselves, most of them have inklings by a certain age that the world is larger and stranger than they've been exposed to. Or maybe that's just the kids who are into the kind of creative stuff I do. But I find most kids, with very few exceptions, respond to art and storytelling on some level. I have yet to meet a child who didn't have a story they wanted to tell, or whose eyes didn't light up when I told them they could do it, however they want to, and give them the tools to do so.

Kid drama also tends to make me step back and reconsider some of the things I let get to me. It's a good dose of perspective when you realize the meltdown they're having over who got to use the fancier swing on the swing set isn't that far off you getting worked up over an email that was probably just the victim of how difficult tone of voice can be to translate/interpret. I make it a point of pride not to act like a tantrummy 5 year old, so, it's a good reminded to step back and maybe not leap to conclusions.

In the end, life is too short to constantly spend taking it either too seriously, or not seriously at all. It's about balance. You find meaning where you find it, you tell some good stories along the way, and hope you aren't forgotten too soon. If you can help other people tell their stories, too, so much the better. And laugh. Great leaping hop toads, laugh well and OFTEN.

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