For better or for worse, I have always defined myself by my career.
It’s the thing that gives me a sense of purpose and self-esteem. Which makes my next statement pretty strange: I recently decided that what I thought was my career (illustration) is actually just a hobby. And through letting go of that dream, I have gained a whole lot of peace.
My obsession with having a creative career began in high school. I longed to escape my suburban existence, and thus spent way too much time dreaming of having an exciting career as a graphic designer. Sure, I didn’t really know what a graphic designer was, but it sounded glamorous and cool, and I imagined that I would live in the inner city and work in a gleaming white studio.
The idea of a career – and of success in general – gave me hope, particularly when I was feeling insecure and awkward. Which, as a teenager, was all the time. (Heck, I still feel that way all the time, but that’s another story.)
By the time I was studying graphic design at university, I had figured out what it was, and also learnt that I sucked at it – something that was reinforced in later years, when I failed to gain employment as a designer. So, my career dreams shifted: I wanted to be an illustrator. Telling stories through drawings seemed extremely romantic and, yes, cool. A few high distinctions from my drawing and illustration classes convinced me that drawing was my ‘thing’.
I had a lot of early success as an illustrator. My work was first published in a magazine when I was 19. This followed with meetings at other popular Australian magazines, some which I flubbed, and others which were vaguely successful. But when I was struck by disaster (a hand injury) and reality (no “real” job or savings), I pushed aside my dream of becoming a world-famous illustrator.