I think it’s time to really empty my head onto the screen for a while, in the hope that a) you, dear reader, get some semblance of entertainment from it, and b) I may glean some insight from it.
I look at my life at the moment, and it’s a real mixed bag. This is, of course, perfectly normal. Everyone’s life is a mixed bag. It’s how one deals with this mixture that’s important. I’m currently questioning how well I’m dealing with things.
Let’s start with the easy stuff, the good things. I have some very good things going on in my life. I’ve got a wonderful loving wife, we’re going well, we each annoy each other from time to time, and this is perfectly normal. I have a wonderful family close by, and I get on well with Ceri’s side of the family too. I’m happy for that! I’ve got close ties with school friends that have held despite distances and new families popping up. I’ve got three funny, silly, lovable little cats. I own probably three or four bricks of my house.
So there’s some of the good stuff. What’s currently vexing me a bit is the bad stuff. Well, I say bad stuff, it’s bad exactly, it’s just… frustrations. I guess that’s the best way to phrase it. But crucially, it’s down to one thing. My career. That right there is the hub of the frustrations, and virtually all the other frustrations I feel spin-off of it.
I’m a creative. I always have been, I always will be. There was a point a few years ago, when I thought maybe I could be cut out for working in an office-style management-esque sorta thing, but I now know without a shadow of a doubt that no… that’s not me. I’m a creative person. That’s one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty about myself. And I’ve always loved animation.
My career thus far has been a misguided comedy of errors. I studied animation at university, but cut it short to get married and move to America. And as much as I learned from that experience, I really should have stayed in university and got my Masters. During the second (my final) year on the course, I had to produce a brief animated film. The animation wasn’t the greatest, but it was okay, and crucially, unlike almost everybody else in my year, I handed in a completed film. It was scripted, storyboarded, animated, coloured, edited, had speech and sound on it, music, the works. I was committed to it. And the day my course ended, the day before I flew away to America, Aardman Animation wanted to have a chat with me, and I had to say I couldn’t make it. We’ll come back to this.
So in America I spent 9 months out of work, eventually going for sales jobs admin jobs, anything, as there was nothing creative based out of where I was living. In a bit of good luck, a graphic design position opened up at the local paper, and I leapt at it. Due to circumstances that warrant another blog-post later, I ended up managing that design department and handling pre-press production of that newspaper for two and a half years. Although it had an element of management, there was a lot of design involved too, and it was a good job. Stressful, but good. But after my divorce, it wasn’t enough to keep me in the States, and I returned home.
I thought about going back to Uni to complete my third year, but I didn’t have the funds, and the technology had moved on, and I’d have to repeat the earlier animation years. I needed money, so ended up working in a car-insurance call center, handling customer care calls. Company was fine, but I didn’t want to be doing that job. I wanted to be creative.
After six months, during a bout of idiocy-induced alcohol poisoning, I stumbled across an ad for a graphic designer at a fairly local company. I took a pay cut to be creative. The job was good. I was designing, I was creating… but the management drove me out after a year. I tried to help the company by backing up files from a faulty machine that they refused to repair, and when it finally died, I was accused of deliberately sabotaging the machine just to get a new one. I felt I had nowhere to go, so I quit. They were the worst company I’ve worked for, and looking back I really wish I’d taken the fight to them a bit more instead of letting them just walk over me and spit out.
With no other graphic design jobs on the horizon, and with bills to pay, I ‘lucked’ into a job at Barclaycard. On the phones. Guurgh. Starting on sales, moving briefly to training, and then shunted to the complaint-ridden hell of customer care. In spite of it paying the bills, that job seriously messed with my head to the point that I was truly thinking of killing myself.
I took a pay cut to leave, and am now working in a much better atmosphere (although there are times when the headfuck that toxic fucking bank gave me still rears it ugly head), but it’s still not creative.
The one dangling thread of a creative career sanity I’m clinging to is the comic book colouring work. I stumbled upon it completely by accident, I was fortunate enough to land some fairly high-profile gigs, and I haven’t done too bad a job at it. And it’s creative. It’s a little like animation, and I enjoy doing it, and I love the thrill of seeing my name in print on a freshly minted comic book. But it pays less than minimum wage for the most part, and I can’t earn a crust of it. I’ve been trying to get to grips with website design, and learning Flash etc, but trying to do this at home in the evenings and weekends in and around other life stuff just isn’t really working.
My salary at the newspaper a decade ago was $25,000 per year (or about £17,000 in real money). Over ten years on, and I’m earning much less than that, and with higher costs of living. So in ten years, in a financial sense, all I’ve done is just move fucking backwards.
This is where a lot of my frustration comes in. No true creative career, I’m not using what I learned, and I’ve nothing to show any progress in my so-called day job.
But lately I’ve seen my wife go back to uni and I admit it’s got me a little inspired. And I never got my degree, so I’m still eligible for some degree of financial aid. What if I went back, and did animation again? And got up to speed on the new tech? I know I’d throw my all into making an even better film than before, with even more commitment to the course this time. I could get a degree, with a good-looking film and portfolio and new skills. And then maybe Aardman or another studio would see my stuff, and ask for a chat again. And fourteen years late, maybe I could finally work in animation.
I can’t do anything before Ceri finishes the current uni course. But in a year and a half, maybe something could happen.