“So, what have you been up to?”
People get asked this question often and usually the first thing out of everyone’s mouth is “Oh, nothing.” or something along those lines. The sentiment of just going through the motions, the life as lived, y’know? That’s how it starts, at least. Once someone is given time to really examine what’s been going on, things come to mind. “I had a kid and got in a plane crash.” But events in one’s life never spring freely to mind, separated and excised as singular moments. They are all just events that make up a life. They are drops of rain into a river.
The past year has been trying for me but I’m a desperate, chronically depressed, alcoholic. Trying times are second nature to me by now. I tend to alternate between self-pity and self-loathing and very little can cleave itself between those two states of being. It’s been a spiraling, descent since I was born and it’s an easy and lazy way for me to conduct myself in this world. I’ve reached a point of acceptance with my depression that seems like a step in the right direction. Having lived much of my life in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve learned to identify and accept the different forms of precipitation. The thick morning fogs and the heavy mists that soak you before you realize it. The cold, stinging winter rain and heavy, refreshing summer droplets. This is also the familiarity I’ve had with depression. Sometimes there are jagged, crying knives in my mind and other times, there’s a weight that straddles my shoulders and refuses to be bucked free. Sometimes, most the time in fact, it is a manageable and small thing, a simple reminder that it is there. This insight into my own damaged psyche has helped me cope with it better and helped me focus on the things in life that make me happy.
I’ve always been an introvert. I’ve always craved time to myself to explore whatever line of thought I fancied. All my pursuits are solitary, drawing, writing, reading, etc. Simply being in the room with someone is a huge obligation. It is our nature to communicate with and entertain one another and these things can become exhausting to an introvert, such as myself. I like people and it is fun to be around others in small doses but that obligation can easily take a toll.
The past two years have seriously put that introversion to a test. A person, unaccustomed to long bouts of solitude would have been broken by now. I have lived in this small town, without friends or any real human contact. I work alone and I have no ability to meet people. I am an ugly, sad and angry man without the ability to make a good first impression. I’ve had a few scattered romantic entanglements, fueled by chance encounters while I was drawing at the bakery, drinking at a bar or through the internet, all of which have ended quickly and disastrously. I don’t regret those brief glances into other’s lives, though I don’t regret the ending either.
I’ve maintained myself in an acceptable way. I draw and write, I tell stories whenever I’m allowed but recently I’ve been running dry. I need to go back to the well, as it were. I’m not sure how long a storyteller can survive without stories to tell. not long, I imagine. My natural form of storytelling, the way I’ve trained myself to think, is through comics. Thick black ink on slick white paper. Words coupled with image. I feel a connection with the cartoonists of the past; George Grosz, Herriman, Crumb, Kirby. These great artists are my lineage and my lifeblood. They’re a reminder that what I do isn’t something to take lightly. I feel the weight of them and use them as examples of something to aspire to. I attempt to become a better artist, writer, cartoonist because of them. They’ve filled the panels of the past with the onyx lines of their lives and it’s up to me to continue that story.
I don’t mean to sound overly grandiose with my assessment of the job I do. I have no illusions about the quality of my work or the generally held belief that what I do is childish and insane. Art and artists are, for the most part, childish and insane creatures. I’m happy to be one of them.
Another attempt at sanity has been recording shows with my pal Robin. He’s a good guy, a true mate from long ago. He’s always been one of my stalwart cronies with whom I can discuss things. We started the show and chose a well trod premise in order to talk with one another every week. We’ve been doing this for a year and it’s been fun, mostly unlistenable but fun nonetheless. I enjoy hearing from him and I enjoy hearing about his life. We discuss movies and most of our cultural reference that comes easy to us is from film. I believe our first conversation about film was in a high school art class when the teacher, hungover or lazy, decided to put a movie on. This happened a few times in the class and Robin and I would usually watch, comment and discuss. That first film, I believe, was Ghost, a film that fits nicely into that middle-world that allows discussion, appreciation and criticism. I enjoyed talking with Robin about the film that day and I’ve enjoyed talking with him about film, since.
I teeter on a precipice. I tightrope-walk along the razor thin line between the past and the future. On one side, the side in which I’ve spent the last few years, is nihilism and despair. I’ve become a master at self-hatred. I bury my head in the sand whenever possible. The other side that I now must lean toward, is optimism and the realization that I may yet be alive another few decades. I need to plan accordingly. If I am to be happy or find enjoyment in life, it will have to be a path I forge myself. I need to machete through the foliage that’s clustered around my well-being. I need to step into the river.
My only possessions are several inked stories and a small apartment, minimally furnished. I have nothing keeping me where I am, other than comfort and convenience. I have no loved ones that are close to me. I go days without speaking to anyone and as the new year begins, I see others on the internet taking stock of their live. I’m reminded that it is time to make plans.
Thanks for everything, everyone.
Elijah J. Brubaker