About four and a half years ago, in an effort to simply improve my artistic ability, I spent a week or two drawing portraits in an old notebook I had. The goal was to draw a face a day, and I really enjoyed the whole process. I do love drawing, but with anything that isn’t writing, I have a tough time knowing what to create.
This mini-project ended abruptly when I was called out to a fire, something that happened often during the summers. I didn’t get back into a normal routine that year until September, and because I had only spent a few weeks on this project, I hadn’t build up the routine in my system. So I never picked it up again.
Looking back at these sketches, I feel not only the pull to create again, but also the dreadful fact that time keeps marching forward, whether I like it or not. I remember doing these sketches like I did them yesterday, but these were done almost five years ago. What the hell!? Where did all that time go!?
But another thing I’ve learned by revisiting these sketches is how much of my life I’ve devoted and am still devoting toward creating stuff.
In college, after I intentionally hurt myself, I was required to see a therapist. I won’t go into too many details about this period in my life, but one of the things my therapist taught me was the skill of focusing my energies toward things that made me happy. At the time, I went to film school, so some of the things I did was to spend even more time writing and studying movies and volunteering in more of my friend’s film projects. I had a blast doing this, and once I graduated, I felt like I knew how to take care of myself for the first time in my life. My college paid for my therapy sessions, so once I graduated, my time with my therapist ended, too. It has been almost 13 years since I’ve seen her, and I owe so much to her that I feel like I literally would not be alive if it wasn’t for her.
In a way, she showed me who I was and who I could be. I focused on the person I wanted to be, so I worked until that version of me was the real me. I don’t know if it’s humanly possible to be the me in my head, but I feel like I’m infinitely closer to that version of me now than when I tried to hurt myself then.
And I think some of what has helped me is what I call my three pillars. They’re super simple:
As long as I follow these pillars, I feel not only happy but also like I’m giving myself the weapons to fight off my demons, to fight off those forces that told me it was okay to hurt myself and to hurt others. Each pillar feeds into the next and is fed by the others, so it’s this ouroboros of happiness, at least for me.
So what does all this mean?
It means that for me to stay happy, I have to create things, and that means I write, I take photos, and I draw. I have to learn new things, and I do that by reading books, by learning new languages, and by playing the guitar. Eventually, I would like to make my own music, but for now, I’m still learning, and this is a very fun and very frustrating phase to be in. I have to keep pushing. Finally, I have to take care of my health, and I do that by eating well—I’m vegan—and by working out regularly. For me, health is the foundation for everything I do, and without it, the other two pillars won’t be enough to keep me happy. I have to workout. I have to sweat and feel the endorphins rush throughout my body because if I don’t, then I’ll be sad. It’s really that simple for me.
These pillars have led me well for a while, and I hope I have the strength to keep them standing for the rest of my life because the alternative is scary.