Friday, October 14, 2011

Of Anniversaries and Other Holidays

I'm way behind.  I was hoping to get a few posts in recently, but both of our schedules (mine and Amy's) have conspired to keep me from having more than a few random moments' peace and I've chosen to utilize that peace for things other than this blog.  Namely making some headway on prep work for a personal piece which would create more interesting (hopefully) content for this here blog of mine.

The point is I've been a little out of touch and I chose today to write for a couple of reasons.

The first and most important reason is because this is my eleventh wedding anniversary.  Amy and I have been together for close to fifteen years total and this date, while not a round number, feels pretty important.  Our lives are in a fair bit of turmoil to be sure (what with Amy being out of work and all), and despite the stresses and chaos surrounding everything I must confess that we're still incredibly happy.  I like to think that I'm Amy's biggest cheerleader and I can say with authority that she's certainly mine, so it should be no surprise that we've settled into a fairly low level of worry which is buttressed by routine and an ever growing search for our next step.  Still, I feel it worth noting that I'm insanely lucky that someone would be daft enough to put up with my outbursts, generally grumpy disposition, impending baldness and occasional need for reassurance to stick with me for so long.  Either Amy sees much that many do not, or she's projecting a lot that isn't there.  Time will reveal all, I'm sure.

I'd continue on about how awesome Amy is and how great things are, but all that has an audience of one and I've got a bit bigger a theme to talk about.

Back in college, I had an illustration professor who assured me that at some point birthdays, anniversaries, and all the major holidays (including but not limited to personal, discretionary, bank and federal) would become meaningless.  He was of the opinion that the things that typically tie a person's schedule together (the days of the week and whatnot) begin to blur together in such a way that even those days which stand out will eventually become moot to illustrators as we are enslaved to the deadline.  In his mind, before long we would work through Christmas, sleep an all-nighter off on our birthday, be busy making revisions on our anniversaries and never notice.

Ten years into my career, I must confess that I have certainly painted on Christmas.  I have slept off a hard work of week on my birthday.  And I will be pushing paint today on my anniversary.  But as I am now my professor's age at the time he shared this opinion with me, I am happy to say that such a fate has not befallen me. 

What my professor spoke of was the danger of being an illustrator.  It is a possibility of what may happen, but I believe that it needn't come to fruition.  While I have certainly put in many hours on such days, they have never stopped meaning something to me.  And because I continue to cherish them, missing some of those days can hurt quite a bit.  But if I wanted my life to be pain-free and easy, I would have chosen a profession other than freelance illustrator.  (Of course, which other profession I might pursue is an impossible thing to say as so many professions seem to share this problem nowadays).

So how does one avoid those standout days from eroding into the background of our daily grind?  I think it helps to account for them as much as possible, and to accomplish that I think the key is balance.  Easy to type, difficult to achieve.  The work doesn't go away and the deadline still looms, but so do these important days.  How different illustrators deal with this issue varies.  Some just always keep a six day work week with one mandatory day off.  Others will just sacrifice when necessary, take the time off and do the all-nighter to make up for the lost hours if need be.  Still others keep vampiric schedules where they work while others sleep, sleeping little themselves.

Personally, I don't have a lot of answers.  My schedule while seemingly regular, varies in unpredictable ways.  Even if it were regular, paintings can sometimes unravel, last minute changes can be requested, and plans can be ruined.  It's one of the biggest downsides of the business.  Still, I try and adjust my schedule as much as possible, take the days off that I can, then deal with the fallout as it happens.  But I'm lucky — I have Amy's understanding and support.  If things fall apart, we'll arrange alternate days off and celebrate later if need be.  The dates begin to mean less, but the days themselves never become meaningless... if that makes any sense.

Though I can't honestly say that I've achieved true balance, I continue to strive for it.  And striving is necessary.  Otherwise, I'll never even get close.  Still, I know a lot of folks out there struggle with this kind of thing.  My biggest hope is that they find a system that works for them, and I hope they get the support they need while trying to find it.

Finally, I hope that you all — even in some small way — feel as lucky as I do right now.

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