Today is the day that I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Who knew it was possible? There was a time I didn’t think it was.
I’m back in Seattle this week, celebrating my book release at Elliot Bay Books, going to my friends’ wedding, and spending some much needed time with old friends who I haven’t seen in a long while. I was having dinner with one friend, who is amidst a life-changing project. She relayed to me how tumultuous it’s been since she made the decision to really commit to her dream, how one minute she experiences euphoric highs, and the next she’s weeping in the pits of doubt. Her story sounded very familiar to me.
It wasn’t long ago that I had a full time job in graphic design, a career I was proud of that paid the bills and also served as a creative outlet. But it wasn’t my dream. I was telling other people’s stories through branding, but not my own. It didn’t fill me up the way creating a drawing did. What was I making that spoke my own truth? What would I leave behind? How on earth could I get a deal making a picture book, the one thing that gleamed like a beacon in my daydreams, when the odds seemed so slim.
I was a failure. I would try to make a painting, and it didn’t come out how I wanted it to. Or I would start and never finish. Or I would write down ideas and never start. Or I wouldn’t do anything but sit and stare into space and think about how it was all totally impossible. I prepared myself to accept that it probably would never happen for me. That being a grown up meant facing realities. That it was vain to put faith in one’s talent. That it was folly to think you could live up to your heroes. How arrogant. How stupid.
But amidst it all, there was Elliot, a friendly face that I would doodle in my sketch book. He was so kind and forgiving. He did not judge these hostile feelings. His heart was so pure that he glowed in my darkness. He was the innocent part of myself that I managed to protect, the vulnerable child that didn’t quite fit in. He was so little, but pressed on. Into Elliot, I poured my empathy, love and hope. I couldn’t deny him these things. When I finally started to create finished drawings of him, I felt as though I was fighting for my life. He was the key to keeping my dreams alive. I would give him my hands and eyes and heart. I would make something just for me, something that made me happy.
In hindsight, it’s all quite clear. When faced with the prospect of real happiness, our inner demons are unleashed. The saboteur whispers in your ear, “no, you can’t.” But what it’s really saying is: “No, you can’t try to be happy because what if you fail? We will never recover.” But those are convenient lies. I did try, and I did fail, but it didn’t break me. I tried and tried and tried and tried, because what’s the use in giving up? Eventually, I tried and I won. I’m not even talking about my book deal. I’m talking about the magical day that I finished a drawing of Elliot and I was proud. I felt transported to a time when I was little, just making drawings to give to my Mom. It felt easy, and made me smile. I loved Elliot so much. He felt alive, and that meant my dreams were alive. And yes, I decided then that I would muster the audacity of pursuing my dream, because if I didn’t, then why was I even here?
Today, I have a book. It’s about my friend Elliot, whose little spots and big heart saved my life. He means so much to me, and I hope that you all take very good care of him.