How I Spent My 2020

First, let me assure you that I am alive and well. I’ve been living happily (uh, well….) these past 10 days in the year 2021. Yes, we made it. Well, some of us.

2020 was supposed to be one of those glorious benchmark years. Look how far we’ve come! Look at the advances we’ve made as a society! Et cetera. But…nah. 2020 tested the collective mettle of humanity. Social unrest, utter political exhaustion, and a little flu bug called COVID—perhaps you’ve heard of it—soundly silenced any poetic waxing of our progress as a people. Instead, it kind of took all we had just to hold it together. And hey, to be honest, we’re still trying to hold it together, but it sure is nice to have that 1-ton, 20-pound gorilla off our backs.

On top of all that, 2020 was a big year of change for my family and me. You may have noticed this blog lay dormant since the beginning of June. That’s honestly not that out of the ordinary (see any number of months-long gaps in entries, circa 2016-2019), but it certainly wasn’t planned this year. A lot has happened since June. Mostly good changes or changes we wanted to make. Some unexpected, and some a long time coming. So, here’s the abridged version of how I spent my 2020.

I gave up the dream of “full-time comic artist”

I wrote about this in March. In short, I realized that comics as a business is not going to work for me. Realistically, I’d have to put in more time than I’m willing to commit. Like, much more time. Plus, Amanda would also have to go to work full-time to adjust for the change in income because, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be pulling much in. Not only could I not ask her to do that for me on principle, it would also completely disrupt how we operate as a family, which works really well, and I don’t want to give that up, either. It also occurred to me that I spent more time trying to promote content than I did creating the content that needed to be promoted. Everything I did was cart-before-the-horse and seriously stressing me out, but I was so indoctrinated in the “comics as a business” model that I couldn’t see past it. Finally, my meager business acumen kicked in, I realized I was going to grow to hate drawing if I didn’t change my ways, and I gave up the idea of trying to do this as a career. I feel kind of silly for grasping at such a short-sighted, poorly thought-out goal for such a long time, but here we are.

But, this is all fine! It wasn’t even that hard of a decision to make. My stress levels are way down, and I actually enjoy creating again. I didn’t draw a ton of comics this year, but the ones I made were fun and goofy, and I felt like my renewed interest was evident in the work. I still have passion for writing and drawing; I just have passion for a lot of other things, as well, and I’m not passionate enough about writing and drawing to make it my sole pastime/possible career endeavor. I have a good, fulfilling job that I like, that pays the bills, that allows me the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people doing important things. That gives me the freedom to create what I want, when I want, how often I want, in my spare time, and never have to take a commission or a freelance job I don’t want to do just to make a living. That’s a great feeling. So, no, perhaps I will never be a comics professional, but I can be, as my comic artist friend Nathan put it, an “enthusiastic hobbyist.” I’m okay with that.

I didn’t table at any conventions

For the first year since my first appearance in 2009, I did not exhibit at any comic conventions this year. This was due in part to COVID, and due in part to pretty discouraging sales for a few years now. I badly missed the fellowship and camaraderie with other creators and convention-goers, but I did not miss trying to sell my wares to an utterly (and maybe justifiably?) unenthusiastic audience. Again, I need more focus on the creation of comics, not the business of comics. I still plan to attend conventions (if they still exist in the post-COVID era), and I might even get a table again if I ever put out enough new content to warrant it. We’ll see what happens.

I started working remotely full-time

Amanda’s mom visited us just as COVID was becoming a thing. She was worried about possible exposure, so I asked my boss if I could work from home for the week. COVID got worse, and I…kind of kept working from home indefinitely, aside from the odd day or two in the office here and there. It’s been fine. Good, even? It actually works really well for how we operate as a family. My bosses have said I’m doing fine, if not better than when I’m in the office. I do miss the watercooler talk, the camaraderie, and the ability to turn around and ask somebody else in the office a question. If I do that at home, a cat just begs for food in response, so it’s not quite the same. There are pros and cons, for sure, but hopefully it keeps working out for me because….

In September, we sold our house and moved…to Kansas

I have done a really bad job of telling people about this, so if this is the first you’re hearing of it, I’m sorry that you’re receiving the news in such an impersonal way. I almost never broadcast important stuff about our lives on social media, and lately, I find it difficult to talk about life (or anything, really) off social media, as well. Even hitting folks up via text or Messenger feels somehow like an intrusion. I dunno. I am bad at telling people things.

So, what’s going on? Why did we do this? Well, I’d already been working from home since March, so we figured why not kick things up a notch and work from six hours away, rather than from down the street. We’d wanted to sell our house since 2015 (including trying to sell it twice and quickly running out of patience both times), and an uncanny desire to move west just wouldn’t go away, so we finally put it all together and made it happen. We moved to a rental in Pittsburg, Kansas, which fulfilled the “move west” criteria, but was still within reasonable driving distance from Cape Girardeau so that we could return to take care of any business there and visit family and friends. We started with a rental to gauge the area, to make sure we actually wanted to settle in Kansas for a while. I know it’s something of an unorthodox move in that it’s not for a job or school or to be closer to family or anything like that. It’s just something we wanted to do, and found ourselves with the opportunity to do it, so we did it. It’s a strange new world full of 65 mile per hour speed limits on 2-lane roads, a slightly drier climate, Pepsi seemingly everywhere, and a delicious thing I’ve never heard of called a bierock, a yeast pastry with savory filling. I’m excited to see where the adventure takes us.

I “retired” from professional wrestling timekeeping

Moving away (and COVID forcing the company into hiatus) meant stepping away as timekeeper and website guy for Cape Championship Wrestling. It wasn’t a particularly glamorous position, and I wasn’t even that good at it (I missed hitting the bell like four times out of ten. Thanks for nothing, hand-eye coordination), but it was my minor way of contributing to the company, and I really enjoyed it. Albeit in a small way, I got to be involved with a professional wrestling company for nearly four years, which surely fulfills some childhood dream of mine. I also met (or got to know better) a lot of great people along the way. I will always remember the split second where I thought Rick Steiner might kill me, Frankie Kazarian making fun of me and reading my match notes as though they were a diary (he was an absolute stand-up guy backstage, for the record), frantic ringing of the bell during post-match beatdowns, having the honor of performing 10-bell salutes for fallen wrestlers, and making friends and getting to watch those friends get better and better at their craft on a monthly basis. It was a joy and a privilege.

I got COVID

I guess even when you’re careful, you’re still not necessarily safe! My case was minor. I had headaches, severe congestion, an on-and-off fever that lasted a week but never topped 100 degrees, and terrible exhaustion. I had to take some naps here and there (something I almost never do), but I never felt bad enough to even take a full day off work. Still, it took about a month to get back to full energy. I got lucky. A lot of folks didn’t. Be careful out there.

We bought a house deeper in Kansas and moved…again

I guess we liked Kansas well enough, because we bought a house farther west and moved again at the beginning of December! We’re just about settled into the new house—a few more things need to be done, mostly aesthetic. The town we live in is small, but really cool, and the proximity to bigger towns, like Wichita and Kansas City, give us the best of rural living and reasonably convenient access to everything we need. I won’t lie—the last month and a half stressed us out tremendously. Moving and setting up a new house around the holidays is not the best timing. However, we’re here, we’re happy, and things are going well.

But please, this must be the end of moving for a while. I need six months, at least.

We found out our new house needs major foundation repairs literally the last day of the year

2020 held on to the bitter end. We had our foundation looked at, and, on the recommendation of the company doing the work and the advice of a couple of knowledgeable friends, decided to have some repairs done at a staggering cost. We knew there were some foundation issues and that we’d have to put some money into it, but the price tag was much higher than anticipated. It’s all good—financing is available, and we can afford it without putting us in too tight of a squeeze, so we figured we’d get it done now, thoroughly, before things can get worse and we have to deal with a bigger bill later.

On the plus side, while doing some demolition in preparation for the foundation work, Amanda found this stashed in the basement ceiling:

Sadly, this bottle of Old Mr. Boston peppermint schnapps appears to be both mostly empty and undrinkable. Still, a fun discovery!

Plans for 2021?

Probably go out to the coast, have a few laughs. Wait what?

In the spirit of this recent Podzilla 1985 episode, here are my 5 goals for this year. [Reminder to my future self: you don’t HAVE to complete these. It doesn’t make you a failure if you don’t! Just work on them as you can. Any progress is positive.]

  1. Learn Javascript for real – this is a professional goal I intend to pursue if and when I have downtime at work. Javascript is a programming language frequently used in frontend web development, which is a huge part of my job. I kind of know Javascript, enough to take other people’s code and manipulate it to my ends, and a few jQuery methods I use often enough to have memorized. It would benefit me tremendously as a developer to actually know, once and for all, what I’m doing with Javascript. I’ve tried to learn a number of times, but each of my attempts petered out due to boredom, frustration, or getting too busy. Finally, it occurred to me to do something fun to keep my education interesting, so I’m working on making some games. Very simple to start, but adding more and more polish and functionality as I go. I like piddling with game development, anyway, and it’s much easier for me to learn by working on a defined, continuous project, rather than in a vacuum with abstract examples, so let’s see how it goes!
  2. Start a video game blog – I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. Video games are one of my favorite subjects to write about, I have lots of material from older websites that can live there, and my brother and I are actually working on a 26-part series specifically for this blog. So, I need to make it, already. I also need to not pursue perfection and just throw up a basic layout so I can get content rolling, rather than working on a beautiful design for a year and never getting the actual site up and running. I hate it when I do that. I have the domain. I just need to start.
  3. Communicate more, communicate better – I mentioned above that I am bad at telling people things. Sometimes, it’s because my life is too convoluted and I don’t want to put forth the effort to try to describe what’s going on. Like trying to explain this whole move to Kansas and then move to Kansas again thing? Not worth it. Other times, I feel like with all the crazy stuff going on in the world, nobody wants to hear what I have to say—it’s just not that important. The older I get, the more I crawl into this hole. I need to find a way out.
  4. Don’t worry about time – In my life, I frequently struggle with the perceived notion of not having enough time to do things, or taking too much time to do things. Well, I can’t stop time (at least not yet…*shifty eyes*), so why worry? If life gets busy and I don’t take the time to write a blog for seven months, it’s all right. If that video game takes me 150 hours to finish, but I had a ton of fun from beginning to end, who cares? Cherish life, do the things I actually enjoy doing, and this will never be an issue. That being said….
  5. Do the work – Here’s the thing. It’s really fun to start a project—any piece of writing or art or programming. But, it’s hard to finish a project, no matter how big or small. There will be less exciting moments in which I have to endure the more monotonous or difficult, but necessary tasks associated with any project. Embracing the hard work and powering through the tougher parts is the only way. The end result is worth it.

Okay, starting 2021 for real now. Let’s see what’s out there.