My dad has always had a somewhat weird idea of what my job is, from the derisive “you can’t make rent drawing stick figures” to the mystifying suggestions on how much money I’d make as an airbrusher of biker helmets (????) to the most recent concern that I’m about to burn out. While it’s nice that he’s gone from ridicule to controlling to caring, these comments always come as a response to me excitedly telling him that I’m getting more paid gigs, which is kind of weird since he also frequently reminds me, a 32 year old adult, that people need money to live and that I should “get a job” or apply for unemployment.
I have a lot of feelings about my relationship with my father, most of it coming down to that he’s a hypocrite and that we’re better off not talking so much about personal stuff because that always goes bad, but that’s not really what I want to focus on here. Most of us have father issues of some kind. No, I want to zone in on the stress element.
For most of my life, writing and drawing has been a welcome escape, something I wasn’t naturally good at (I have a head for languages and had overall great grades in school) but that I could work hard at and “earn” any positive comments. When I’ve been down, I’ve turned to work, especially if I have a tangible project or deadline that I have to get to. When my ex-girlfriend was abusing me the worst, I’d ink commissions with tears streaming down my face because it was the only emotional safe space I had and I was chained to the computer anyway so she could berate me. When my first boyfriend was distant, flirting with other girls or downright ignoring me in favor of other people, I’d think about One Piece. One winter the Museum of East-Asian Culture had an exhibition on manga with original drawings by Eiichiro Oda and I went four times in two months just so I could get some space to breathe. Comics will break your heart, like Jack Kirby said, but ultimately they have always kept mine from breaking even faster, into tinier pieces.
So when my dad tells me to be careful, to not stress about work, he’s misunderstanding something very fundamental about me as a person. Work doesn’t stress me out, work is my stress relief. Social obligations stress me out, being away from my office stresses me out, having too many days off in a row due to vacations or illness stress me out. When I had really bad anxiety, the best way to break the mental spiralling I was doing was to get me to talk about work. It never failed. Sure, I get tired like anyone else, I need breaks from time to time but it’s not because I’m stressed.
I love my job more than I have loved anything else in my life and if people can say that about their babies, then why can’t I say it about this?