When your kids are young you urge them to play to their strengths.  You tell them that everyone has gifts, and that you should pursue work in a field that you have talent and interest in.  However, I have never chosen the easy path.  Growing up, I was a good singer and a good writer, I read way above grade level, I was terrible at math, and an uncaring student at best.  So, what did I choose to pursue throughout high school?  …Math and science.  I desperately wanted to be a veterinarian.   Too bad that you can’t just TAKE the classes and call it good.  No, apparently you are expected to get A’s in them if you want to follow this career path.

Not being able to become a veterinarian was the first real disappointment of my life.  So there I was in college flailing about in search of a major, when I decided to pursue art.  Now, I had always loved to draw, but I was never all that good at it.  I was better than most of my friends because I actually did it a lot, (and lots of kids don’t draw unless they are forced), but it was not something that came naturally to me.  One of my best friends in highschool, Joy, could draw.  Man, I was so jealous.  I was always trying to get pointers from her, and she did help me tremendously, but I just don’t have the knack for it.  There’s not a lot of raw talent there.

I was listening to Joel Osteen about a year ago and he said something interesting.  If everything we did was rated on a scale of 1-10, we all have things in our lives where we naturally fall at a 7 or 8 without any training.  If we then pursue that, we could improve until we are 9’s or even 10’s.  Masters of our genre.  However, we also have things in our lives where we naturally fall at about a 2.  If we pursue those, we might be able to become a 5.  Maybe even a 5.5, but we’ll never be anything more than average in that area.  That resonated with me.

Starting out, I was a 3 or a 4 as an artist.  With a lot of hard work, I ‘ve upped that to maybe a 7.  On a good day, a 7.5.  I will probably never achieve a 10 as an artist, and yet the more it eludes me, the more I covet it.  I work in a field where I must draw everyday, and where  I am judged by that ability, and it doesn’t come naturally to me. 

It’s weird, but sometimes I can draw WAY better than others.  Sometimes I sit down and it does seem like I am naturally talented.  Images flow from my pen, in perfect perspective, and everything’s good.  At other times I can draw the same thing over and over and over again before screaming in frustration and tossing everything out during a hissy fit.  And I cannot choose when one mood will stike me over the other one.  It seems random, which sucks.  I wish I knew ahead of time when I’d be bringin’ my A game to the table verses my C one.  Sigh.

My point is that I could have saved myself a lot of angst if I’d just pursued music from childhood.  I love it, I’m good at it and it brings me great joy.  … Nah.  Waaaaayyy too easy for me.  Instead I’d like to beat my head up against this wall for a while, if you don’t mind. 

I deliberately chose a field that I have to struggle in every day.  I chose a field that is hard to break into, and hard to make money at.  I chose to pursue syndication even though newspapers appear to be dying.  On paper, it would seem that I chose… poorly.  (This is from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The end, with the old knight in the cave, and they have to choose the holy grail from among a hundred elaborate cups…)

Except that I love what I do.  It brings me joy to write the strip, joy to draw it up even if I am struggling that day, joy to ink it, and it’s absolute bliss when I read the finished cartoons.  I definitely could have chosen an easier road, but in the end, perhaps I chose wisely after all.