Have you ever had one of these moments? One where you want someone to tell you it’s okay to live your life how you want? I expect everyone does. Kids usually think that you’ll eventually hit a moment where you’re an adult in your head, but it never really comes. From day to day you’re the same inside that lump of meat with no real delineation. At some point you just get put in charge of yourself. At 18, in the US at least, society says “If you fuck up from this point on it’s on you.”. Except for drinking. For some reason we wait 3 more years for that to be your fault. In my opinion drinking age should come with a standardized test you have to pass. It wouldn’t change anything, but fuck you. Adulthood and maturity are different things and they don’t always coincide. I’ve known my grandfather to do immature things from time to time. You’re young but once, but you can be immature your whole life. Society has, on some level, realized that age, maturity, and all that goes with it, are basically arbitrary. Video games aren’t just for kids anymore, you can have Halloween year round if you like, and anything you want to eat can be breakfast.
I can piss away my money on Lego bricks if I so choose. The teen thinks it’s foolish, but she liked getting drunk, and I think that’s foolish. At the end of the two purchases I have something that lasts practically forever and can be whatever I can imagine and she has piss and regrets. Which of us is more mature, I ask you?
When I was young people called me an old soul. Or said I was smart for my age. As time went by my age advanced to fit my personality, but my intelligence didn’t similarly advance. Things that were special in a child were mundane in a teenager and adult. I’ve never felt like an adult. I’ve been confident in decisions and lived how I thought was right, but never in my head have I felt any different. Some of my biggest mistakes have come from trying to do the “mature” thing. I’ve found that just listening to my internal compass works. I can make a living telling stories to people and drawing ridiculous things. If I’d believed that when I was in school I’d be so much better at it now, but I didn’t. I thought comics were never going to get me anywhere. I wanted to make them and be involved in the process, but didn’t believe I could do it to survive. Even in all my arrogance I didn’t believe in myself enough to think I could be a cartoonist. In spite of years of people telling me I could do it. I didn’t believe in myself or in their assessment of me.
I still focused on art in school, but it was 3d stuff. Stuff where you have this statue, or whatever, at the end of it. I never really believed I could make a go of that either because I think fine art is a con. I can’t lie to myself hard enough to sell art as a conceptual thing. A pile of candy wrappers on a floor may make a statement, but it’s also a fucking mess that needs clearing away.
When I was in JuCo I got some bullshit art award, but part of the deal was I had to get up and give a little speech about what I thought about art, or some such nonsense. I tried not to accept the award. Partially because I thought it was bullshit, as I mentioned before, and partially because I’m terrified of public speaking. It’s an irrational fear because if I’m in a room full of people I will joke and do things that get everyone’s attention, but if it’s a for serious thing I suddenly freak out. I can’t memorize lines, or anything like that for the same reason. I just go blank and panic. This time, however, I was forced to do this presentation by various people and could not escape it. It was supposed to be 5 or ten minutes, I forget now, of prepared remarks. The thing was I knew what was going to happen if I wrote anything down, so I just ignored it. Never wrote down a word. Tried not to even think about it. I figured that if I crashed and burned then no one would ever ask me to do this sort of thing ever again and that would finally be an end of people trying.
My parents came to the event, against my wishes, and I honestly barely remember the event because the part of my brain that usually runs things just switched off. It was more like watching someone else than something I did. Basically I got up and said that artists were too precious and needed to stop coasting along on the idea that we’re allowed to be flaky and strange, so no one ever expects anything from us, along with a lot of other stuff that basically was in total opposition to the beliefs of the organization that bestowed the award. Somehow though it was coherent. It all flowed perfectly from me in a way that made sense and encapsulated my thoughts about art at the time. Then it was over, everybody clapped, and my life didn’t change at all.
Years later my father reminded me of that story because I had essentially forgotten about it. He told me that when I got finished speaking he knew that no matter what I chose to do with my life I would be okay and he didn’t need to worry about it. That’s probably the highest praise my father ever gave me. So now, whenever I’m not sure what to do, or am forced into a situation I’m not sure how to handle, I just sort of walk into it and do whatever feels right.