Exactly two years ago today, while home for Thanksgiving, I was sitting on my parent’s couch in Ann Arbor, Michigan drawing a dog. I remember this because it was one of the first commissions I had gotten and I was excited at the prospect of making any money from this weird little side hobby I had developed.
But mostly I remember this moment because of what surrounded it. At the time, I was working working 10-12 hours a day at an advertising agency in the city, running social media for a major corporation that sold snack foods. I managed about 20 people, many of whom resented me for being the enforcer of deadlines and standards and for doing things like insisting that the rules of English grammar be followed in their writing and when people asked me what I did, I would say. "have you ever gotten a tweet from a cookie? Well, that was me." I once had to cancel a date due to a “pretzel-related social media emergency.” I was stressed out, highly uninspired, overworked and tired.
And that’s why I remember drawing this dog. I was sitting on the couch with my brother sitting across from me and my dad to my left. And though no one had been talking to me at the time, I suddenly said aloud, “Drawing is the only thing that makes sense to me.”
When I said it, it felt both empowering and sad; a reflection on the fact that I spent most of my time doing work that took a lot from me and gave little in return, but also, a sort of declaration — an announcement that hung in the air as a challenge to myself to do something about it.
After that Thanksgiving , I went right back to the city and back to work that was wearing me down. Drawn On The Way continued to be the daily ritual that allowed me to briefly escape from my reality into a world of my own creation. I promised myself that no matter how tired, or uninspired I was, I wouldn’t quit on this habit of drawing each day. I could tell that, even though it was such a small act, something in it was integral to sustaining me, to reminding me of who I really was while also strengthening that part of me. It became the guarantee that I wouldn’t "go quietly into that good night" of being a sad work robot.
Flash forward (or back) to this exact time last year. I had just started at another agency and now felt practically allergic to my work. I walked into the office every day with a pit in my stomach and tried to suppress the panic attack I could feel bubbling up at the thought of the mountains of work that lay ahead of me that I just didn’t care about.
And so I quit.
I’ve never been a quitter in my life. I’m a straight A student, a perfectionist and an over-achiever, but not a quitter. Quitting felt like the bravest, scariest thing I could do, like jumping off a cliff without a parachute. It also felt like a challenge to myself — to remember what I had said aloud, “Drawing is the only thing that makes sense to me.”
Then, a few months after I quit my job, my brother passed away. There are a million more words that I could write about his death, but, I will tell you that even in this most difficult time that has followed, drawing is still the only thing that makes sense.
So this Thanksgiving, after a year of change that was both planned and unplanned for, I am once again sitting on the couch in my parent’s house and I am writing this note to you, and to me.
Life can take away a lot from us — and we are often active accomplices, handing over the things we value most like our time, our energy and our passion. So it is up to us to guard against that theft by noticing what is robbing us of our happiness and paying attention to what instills it.
Drawing (and writing) are now becoming the central focus of my day. I’m lucky to be able to engineer this change and hope that I can sustain it. I’m thankful beyond words to you, because in reading this and following my work, you are also sustaining me.
I hope that next year, I will look back and remember this exact moment, and be thankful that I took the leap. And if you find that yourself in a similar position, I wish the same for you.