Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dreams & Passions

Like, I expect, a lot of you, I had dreams of becoming a superstar comic book artist when I was a kid. Those dreams started to fade around the time I was 12 or 13, as I began to realize that I wasn't nearly good enough an artist. I was okay, better than most of the other kids in my classes at school, but not NEARLY where I thought I needed to be if I wanted to seriously pursue a career drawing comics. I didn't bother signing up for any art classes when I started high school.

The final nail in the coffin, though, was a couple years later. I have no idea how it came up or why, but I can distinctly recall having a conversation with my father in the kitchen. Nothing formal; we probably both just happened to be getting something to drink at the same time. Somewhere in the discussion he noted that he never really considered drawing comic books himself because he always thought the idea of drawing Spider-Man six times a day every day of the month sounded awfully tedious. I thought he had a good point and, even though I had largely put the idea aside already anyway, I was completely convinced that I wouldn't be a comic book artist then. It was kind of nice dream, but I really didn't have the drive for it.

I noted recently that I had watch the Jeff Smith documentary. At some point -- I think, actually, a couple of times -- he mentions that he was ALWAYS drawing as a kid. While he was watching TV, doing homework, during class... just all the time. It was something he, even at a young age, was very passionate about. Obviously, all that practice made him very, very good and would eventually help him become a successful cartoonist.

There was a job opening in my company that came up back in November, I think it was. It was in my department (which I'm already comfortable with), reporting to my boss (who I like), and sounded kind of interesting, so I applied for it. It surprised a few people as it was a bit of a departure from my current position, but I did well in the interview process. (I was interviewed by nine different people.) I did so well, in fact, that I was one of the two final candidates. But I ultimately did NOT get the job, largely because I didn't display enough passion for the role. They were really looking for somebody who could jump in with gusto, and would just live and breathe that job. Which really wasn't me. It did sound interesting, but I admitted repeatedly throughout the interview process that the position sounded really fascinating and something I might want to try. But that explanation clearly didn't convey any sense of excitement or eager anticipation. Which it shouldn't have. It did sound like a fascinating job, but it honestly wasn't something I was particularly excited about.

You've gone through job interviews, right? What's the question they almost always ask? "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Sometimes ten. I hate that question. That notion is so mind-boggling to me that I can't even make up an a reasonable answer. Especially since I work in online development; things are changing so rapidly that I can scarcely keep up with what's current, much less project what's going to happen in five years.

See, my "problem" is that I have a very atypical philosophy compared to most Americans. Namely, I don't set goals. I don't have a passion that drives me to a fixed point on the horizon. I don't have some end state I'm trying to navigate to. And that's not from laziness or a lack of ambition; rather, it's that I'm more interested in simply moving forward. I can't see that far down the road -- I don't think anyone can. Too much randomness happens in the universe. I can take where I am right here, right now and move forward. I do that today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and I wind up farther ahead than I used to be. I've been doing that as far back as I can remember.

I didn't have some grand plan for being a web designer. The web didn't even exist back when I was making career choices. I didn't even really have a plan to be a graphic designer. When I was looking through college brochures back in high school, I simply eliminated all the majors that I didn't want to pursue as a career (or thought were completely unrealistic as a career). Graphic design was essentially the only thing I didn't cross off the list. So I applied to the best public school for design in the state, and off I went.

But it wasn't really a dream or passion of mine. I enjoy it. I think I'm reasonably good at it. I've figured out how to earn a living at it. But it's not a passion. Not really. And it never has been.

I enjoy playing the drums. I think I'm reasonably good at it. But it's not a passion.

I enjoy writing. I think I'm reasonably good at it. I enjoy research. I think I'm reasonably good at it. I enjoy reading. I enjoy studying web metrics. I enjoy learning. I enjoy reviewing. I enjoy thinking. I enjoy drawing. I enjoy fixing things. I enjoy making things.

Where do I want to go? How do I guide myself if I don't have dreams or passions to guide me?

The way our society is established, I'm never going to be known or respected in the same way Jeff Smith or Gil Kane are. They had that deep passion to drive them to excel in a specific area. You hear that a lot with talented comic folks actually. So what do you do when your interests are more broad and less deep?

4 comments:

Matt K said...

In a bygone era, broad and diverse interests could make one a Rennaissance Man. Nowadays, though, the accumulated state of the art in most fields is so complex that mastery requires pretty intense focus, unless one is some sort of super genius.

I suppose you'll just have to keep on muddling, as will most of us.

Lauren Gardiner said...

I can't imagine not having the dream or drive that I have. I myself want to be a professional comic artist, and I've already made over 400 pages in total.

For me, I can't imagine being like you and having such diverse interests. I enjoy playing instruments, but not as much as I enjoy making comics. I enjoy other types of artwork, but not as much as making comics.

In some ways, it's a good thing to be diverse like you. I think that it's just as good as being really passionate about one thing.

I apologise for dumping the random ramblings of a college student onto your blog.

Sean Kleefeld said...

@Matt (cuz I know how much you like those '@' symbols!) -- Yeah, I've always liked the Renaissance Man concept, and I do strive towards that ideal that in many ways. One of the things I like about web development, in fact, is that it requires a mix of artistic creativity and logical code writing.

But to your point, yeah, it's a lot more difficult to master a number of different fields when they're infinitely broader AND deeper than they used to be.

@Lauren -- No apologies necessary for random ramblings. That's what the internet's for! :)

I actually enjoy the diversity and being to switch things up to engage my brain in different ways. But it does run counter to much of Western culture, and that can make things difficult at times. On the one hand, it allows me to be very flexible in the types of employment I'm able to pursue, but at the same time it tends to limit how much I can more vertically.

Matt K said...

I feel like adding that interview questions are, generally, such total b***s****. This is one reason why I have serious doubts that I'll ever really be fit for a "normal" job again; I'm just not sure I could sit through those games without rolling my eyes or laughing, let alone do so with the requisite enthusiasm.