Do Not Follow Your Dreams.

"Is that what you do for a living?"

I was sitting in a coffee shop a little while ago (as I’m inclined to do), just drawing and silently judging the other customers with my pencil. A woman and her young son came in and sat at the table next to me. I could see, out of the corner of my eye, that the kid was checking out my drawings. Eventually the mom leaned over and said, “Those are great! Is that what you do for a living?”

I froze. and about 50 different responses raced around my head, all trying to get out at the same time. They all got stuck in my throat, and all that came out was, “What, this? Nah.”

The mom seemed confused by my answer. Which is a fairly understandable reaction, I suppose. I mean, I had a giant sketchbook, a bag of expensive looking pens, and, if I’m allowed to be a little immodest for a second, my drawings ain’t half bad. So I get the confusion. If I came across Jane Goodall in the jungle, hunkered down in the underbrush with some binoculars writing field notes, I’d be a little confused if she told me this was just a hobby to keep her from getting bored at her regular job as a hospital administrator.

(At this point I would like to clarify that I am in no way suggesting that I am the Jane Goodall of cartooning. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Goodall and any lower primates [cartoonists] I may have offended.)

I left the coffee shop thinking a lot about that conversation. The questions kept coming to me: What are you waiting for? You KNOW you’re in your mid forties, right? If not now, when?

If not now, when?

Why HAVEN’T I tried, up until this point, to make a living at drawing? There have been plenty of reasons. But the more I look at them, they look more like excuses.  

Over the next while, I’m going to lay out for you all of the reasons, excuses and stories I’ve told myself that have prevented me from doing what I truly love. I’m also going to share what I’m doing to switch things up and take the plunge. Don’t worry, there’ll be lots of cartoons so you won’t get bored.

I’ve always had two warring sides to my brain: my hippie, liberal arts-professor/beatnik side, who whines and complains and make me depressed if I’m not drawing or writing, and is always droning on about “Your purpose! What about your PURpose??” and my boring, practical. conservative 1950’s dad side, which tells me to quit wasting time, put down the goddam crayons, and  focus on not getting fired! And get a haircut, for god’s sake!

Do Not Under Any Circumstances Follow Your Dreams.

The idea of “following your dreams” - which I interpreted as quitting your job, ignoring your responsibilities, and just doing whatever you felt was your “calling” sounded ridiculously self-indulgent, even narcissistic.

I mean, if EVERYONE followed their dreams, we’d be a nation of artisanal root beer brewing children’s book authors who DJ on the weekends and vacation in Guatemala helping ethically sourced coffee growers.

Come to think of it, I think I just described hipsters.

What if Your Dream is Dumb?

When I was a kid, my parents told me I could do anything I wanted and be anything I put my mind to. My response to this had a couple of problems with it:

1: I took  them at their word, believing them when they said that I could be ANYthing I wanted. (In my defense, I was only 5 at the time.Okay, 8.)

2: I understood “anything I put my mind to” to mean, anything I could come up with. Not, Anything I worked hard at. (In my defense, I AM incredibly lazy.)

I thought about what they said, and decided, What I want is to fly. So I spent an entire Saturday afternoon standing in the front yard, poking myself repeatedly, all over my body, trying to find the “fly” button I was convinced everyone had, but never found. I mean, we can be whatever, we want, right? And who doesn’t want to fly? That button had to be in there somewhere. All I got for my dream-following was concerned looks from my nosy neighbors and an early bedtime.

Once THAT crushing disappointment wore off, I moved on to another dream. A realistic, grown up, mature dream. I was going to be a cartoonist. Beatnik brain rejoiced. 50’s Dad Brain sighed loudly and started looking up military schools.

NEXT TIME: Reasons VS. Excuses.

Geoff Coates6 Comments