I’d hate to say “look, we made it” with two days still left on the clock in 2015, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just go ahead and call 2015 done with. As I do every year around this time (except two years ago), I try to close out the prior year and level-reset for the coming year with a post on this blog no one reads anymore. Thankfully, unlike 2014, 2015 doesn’t need as swift a kick in the ass out the door as its predecessor, but I can’t say I’m not happy to see it go, either.
The other night, Sara and I were marveling at the fact we’ve lived in our current house for 14 months already. As those of you also joining us in approaching middle age (or whatever the hell the nebulous zone is between “young adult” and “AARP member”) have likely experienced, time seems to be speeding by much quicker as we get further away from zero. Maybe that’s why the bad times seem worse than they need to be, because the good times disappear just as quickly.
I didn’t make hard, fast goals last year as I have in previous years. That’s because 2014 going into 2015 was chaotic. The digital printing business I’d started (with Daniel Lowber’s assistance) in 2013 was growing more quickly than I could handle. My bouts of depression were frequent and worsening. My creative output had crawled to a standstill. We bought this house, but it had problems. Trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel through some heavy steam, here’s the best I could come up with at the time:
At this time of year, I normally outline my specific goals for the next 12 months—not resolutions, mind you, but actual measurable, attainable goals—but I find that hard to do, sitting here today. I know what I’d like to do. I’d like to start a new band. I’d like to finally begin production on a documentary film I’ve been planning (and acquiring equipment for) for two years. I’d like to find a way to balance financial security with career fulfillment. Mainly, I’d like to be less of a grump-ass than I have been the last 12 months.
The thing is, short of starting work on that documentary (or any comic, script or book projects), I actually achieved the other loose “goals” outlined in that paragraph–including joining kick-ass garage-rock band MOONBOOTS, duh–all of which contributed to being “less of a grump-ass.” It just took a meltdown to get there.
Although Creation Forge Studios was doing well enough to support itself, by this spring I still wasn’t able to pay myself a salary, hire anyone or do much more than run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Pop! Goes the Icon was having its biggest year yet, between the releases of San Hannibal and Old Wounds, but it still wasn’t turning a profit (although we did manage to pay creators more this year than any before).
A career opportunity arose, just before I was set to disappear to Mexico for about five days to attend Sara’s best friend’s wedding (and to get a much-needed break). It was the first vacation I’d taken in a long time where I was able to completely turn off and tune out (save for an hour or two of shepherding comics to the printer). And I was able to take time to really think about the future. Or at least, the near future.
When I came back, I made the decision to take the job being offered to me as a digital content editor for a major hospitality corporation. I’d go back to getting paid by one company to produce content for one boss, instead of working by piecemeal for a dozen different clients. I’d have benefits and insurance and all those good things (I was on Sara’s insurance previously, but that doesn’t cover “sick days” or “vacations” or all that fun stuff you can’t really do when you’re self-employed and paid on a project basis). And I’d have a structure upon which I could center my life. The first week I started working there, I felt an immense weight lifted off my shoulders. But not all of the weight.
The plan was to continue working at Creation Forge at night and weekends as needed to slowly shut down the business. I figured it would take six months or so. And it did, just not the way I expected. And it was hard as hell. Not just because of the long days I was putting in (going from the new office for nine hours to the Creation Forge studio for another three or four, daily), but because of some legal and logistical hurdles.
At times, it felt like I’d never be able to get out from under the business that seemed so promising two years earlier. One day, in the midst of dealing with Xerox and a million other things, I just lost it. Broke down in the middle of my studio crying. Got into ugly stuff with Sara. Came to some realizations.
In the middle of all this (I don’t remember if it was before or after), our cat died, just before my birthday. I loved this cat. It was tremendously hard to do, both watching cancer eat away at her and actually being in the room when we had to put her down. And it didn’t help make things any better.
But then, toward the end of the summer, things started to turn around. With a definite end-date (Oct. 31) in sight for our studio lease at Downtown Spaces, it was easier to focus on the singular goal of ending this part of my life. Equipment and furniture went up for sale, much cleaning out was done (it’s amazing how much crap you can accumulate in a 400-square-foot space in two years), a storage unit was rented, and most importantly of all, I got someone at Xerox to actually listen to me and help figure out what to do with our mid-lease printer.
Since then, life’s been a hell of a lot less stressful. I mean, there’s the normal bad days at work or pre-mid-life mini-crises or random health scares, but overall, my disposition is a complete 180 degrees from where it was this time last year (I hope others, especially Sara, agree). Between all the books we’ve been moving at Pop! Goes the Icon and my day job, it leaves me just enough time to work on extracurricular projects at my choosing.
The last few months have been spent getting our first-ever shared home office put together, optimizing the space visually and functionally for both me and Sara. I’m continuing to de-clutter my life, selling off comics, donating unused clothing and housewares, shredding long-hoarded paperwork. And although Christmas got kinda ruined by my stupid appendix, we’re planning to sneak out of town for a few days to see off 2015 and usher in 2016 with as clean a plate as possible.
So what’s ahead in 2016? Get the Utopian Foundation restarted (I hadn’t updated the webcomic in so long, I didn’t even notice the archive had been decimated by a WordPress plug-in update). Publish less comics. Create more of them. Get this damn MOONBOOTS EP finally released (it’s almost done, really!). Maybe play a few shows in L.A. or Phoenix. Start dabbling in filmmaking again, even if it takes baby steps. Get more proactive with my work in general. Continue working with personal trainers to get my ass back into shape. Do more traveling. Get back on the comic convention circuit. Get our damn pool fixed. Make more time for friends and loved ones. And hopefully NOT have emergency surgery again.
Hope your year was good, and I hope the next one is even better.