I can’t stop taking pictures of my desk and the sky: 2016 in review

2016 has been quite a year for me. One of contradictions and nuance and growth. Of trying to understand the bad things that happened both in the world outside and in my own personal life, of the necessity of committing to mindfulness and healing. Of the fragility of a confident heart when wounded and the journey to trusting it again. Of good things, of exponential progress and hard, fulfilling work. Of learning to live in new settings with new people, of making new friends and figuring out how to work for a better world with the resources I have just as it feels like it’s falling to pieces.

At the end of this year, I feel strangely disconnected. So many things happened at once and my ears are still ringing long after I feel like they should have stopped.

I kept trying to write a post, but it was difficult to make. I could talk about a lot of things; things I feel like I’ve talked too much about already. 2016 left me feeling pretty disoriented. To help reflect, I was looking through my photos from 2016, and I was reminded of the inherent good in my current trajectory, despite the challenges faced along the way.

A trend in these pictures: A lot of them involve either my desk or the sky. They were where I existed, perhaps. I found it therapeutic to step back and/or look up.

IMG_2311.jpgIn January, I was living in a suburb in the SF Bay Area and on Christmas break. After a lot of turbulence in the latter half of 2015, I’d finally had some time to rest and things were looking up. I obtained a Wacom Cintiq for digital work and instantly fell in love with it. IMG_2527

My second semester of art school in San Francisco started in February, which included my first graphic novel class. After spotty performance the semester before, I was determined to put the time and effort in to improve as much as I could. I put every ounce of power into my studies and still had to pull late nights to get everything done.

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I lived at my desk. 2016 was the first full year I spent living far away from home, and, commuting so far to classes, it was hard to make any local friends. I roomed with my sister and a friend, and I found out too late that the friend was quite troubled. The negative environment it generated slowly tore apart our friendship despite every effort to save it.

The whole ordeal took a heavy toll on my mental health, and I pushed into my work both despite the distractions and as a coping mechanism.

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Over spring break, one of my best friends came to spend a few days with me. For the first time since living in the area, I explored San Francisco. I love the sky there. It reminds me of home.

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With lots of coffee and the help of my dearest friends, I made it through. The troubled roommate moved out soon after the semester ended. I tried to get a job through a temp agency, since I’d be changing location soon, but it fell through. Instead, I had most of my days to myself, and evenings with my sister when she came home from work. I pursued a lot of personal work, and committed to working through the negative effects of being more or less at my wits’ end for four months in my personal life. I had some dark cobwebby corners to clear out.

I decided they wouldn’t rule me, so I had to move on. It took longer than I would have liked to free myself from them.

IMG_3077.jpgIn June, my sister and I attended San Francisco Pride (our first pride parade). I typically don’t like crowds and noise, so I was a little apprehensive about going. Adding to that apprehension, the tragedy in Orlando had happened not too long before. Everyone understood the risks they were taking by choosing to attend. My sister and I wondered if we should reconsider our plans to attend as well. We never talked it over, however. We both knew in our hearts we needed to go.

When I try to describe my experience at the parade to people, all I end up saying is something to the effect of, “It was so dang positive I can’t even explain it. It was just so powerful.” And it really was.

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The rest of the summer passed peacefully. I spent the first two weeks of August at home, gearing up to move into a new apartment in downtown San Francisco. I expected it to be purely restful.

It mostly was, but I was still in turmoil.

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I realized that whatever happened now, it was another square one of sorts. I’d been away for a year, and wherever I ended up after graduating from art school, I’d be tasked with building my life, almost from scratch. It was a daunting prospect I didn’t expect to confront in the region where I’d grown up and gone to college in, a region where my family and most of my friends lived.

Like many hard epiphanies this year, I came to terms with that as best as I could and then it was time to head back to San Francisco. My sister would be staying in Oregon, and that was really hard. I’d be on my own.

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I settled into the new apartment and commenced learning how to live in a big city. A new semester began and I was really looking forward to a fresh start.

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I took a perspective class and another one in comics. I attended a lot more workshops than I was able to go to while living outside the city the year before, I got more into ink, practiced as much as I could on my own time. I read a lot of books, pursued as much writing as I had headspace for on the side, even though it took a grudging backseat while I concentrate on my illustration training.

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I was apprehensive about trying again with a new living situation with new roommates, neither of which I knew before living with them. I was flying by the seat of my pants, searching for an environment I could thrive in and hoping for the best. It turned out to be a good arrangement, and I am so grateful with how well it turned out.

I felt like the most awkward person on the planet the latter half of this year, and it took me longer than I would have liked to start getting back in the swing of things. Thankfully, I made a friend who, little by little, coaxed me out of my shell and helped me regain confidence in my little homesick, mending heart.

A lot of things this year came up that I thought I’d already mastered. Turns out it was all just level one.

A perk of living in the city–you end up walking everywhere. I think I needed to take a lot of walks.
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At the end of a successful semester, I got to come home to Oregon for a long Christmas break, where I’m attempting to unwind and regroup. Last year, my sister only got the weekend off work, so we were able to spend a mere 48 hours at home. This year, I’m on my own schedule. By the end of 2016, I really needed a vacation, so I opted for spending it mostly in Oregon, where I plan to return after graduation.

IMG_4175.jpg2017 promises to be very busy, and I’m really looking forward to all the things we’ll make and do this year to make the world a better place.

There will always be a need for storytellers, and in such a turbulent time where ignorance and fear are finding a terrifying amount of footing, it seems we need them now more than ever.

There’s so much I want to do, and I’m eager to get to work. But for right now, I need to rest and reconnect. Until I head back to school, I’ll be going on lots of walks with the family’s Scottie dog, taking pictures of the sky.

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