Do you ever have a day where the weight of existence weighs heavy on your shoulders? Like every thought is trying to drag you into the crust of the Earth. I have to make $ X. I need this for my resume. My portfolio has to be better. I don’t have time to get sick or injured. My car can’t breakdown right now. One mistake, and all these pieces of straw I’ve stacked will crumble.
You know, that kind of day.
I’ve been having a lot of those lately.
I’m terrified that after I graduate on December 23 I’ll have a tiny window to make it into the animation industry before the experience I got in class becomes obsolete. If I can’t impress a recruiter before my time’s up, the $21k school loan debt will be for nothing.
And people around me, my age and even younger, are already creating amazing things. The pool of exceptional animators is probably the highest it’s ever been, and it feels like the competition in the music industry.
I’ve played the cello since 4th grade. I played for weddings and community events—I considered the concert a success if someone cried with tears of joy—but, I didn’t purse music as a career because I looked at the competition and knew I couldn’t make it.
I was the second chair cellist, which meant I was good but there was someone better. And oh man, if you could hear the guy in first chair… He and I could play the same thing, but when he played it was like even the walls and creaky floors quieted to listen. Sadly, at some point, he must have seen something that convinced him that he, also, couldn’t make it in the industry. He is now an Assistant Store Manager. Probably successful and happy, but I think the world is lesser because of this loss of a musician.
Convinced that a career in music was impossible, I went with graphic design—you know, the thing that everyone thinks they can do at home. Then I learned that I could turn my love for cartoons into something fun and not crazy. A career in 3D Animation was perfect. But, I find myself once again staring at a tsunami of other people with the same passion, and once again I will be just a droplet in the mix.
I’m in the last week of school, and if you’re familiar with my college routine, you know that usually by Wednesday I have started on all of my projects, posted on the discussion boards, read the required readings, and have a plan for homework over the weekend. I like to read ahead and check the syllabus so I know what’s coming, but this semester I could only bring myself to check through week 7.
2 discussion posts and 1 Work-In-Progress report are due tonight. And I have 0 motivation to login.
Going to an online college has been a fantastic experience. I worked full time, which means I will graduate with less debt because I made payments while still in school, and I didn’t have to sit through the stupid questions that would have been answered if people listened to the teacher in the first place! (Some like to say, “There are no stupid questions,” but they obviously never sat through one of my high school English classes.)
But going to school online requires perseverance and self-motivation. Which was challenging at times, but never as bad as it is right now.
This is the last Wednesday I’ll get a grade for my degree. And then comes my last Sunday—when everything is due for the final final. Then I’m done. And “B.F.A.” will follow my name on official documents.
What if everything changes?
Or what if nothing does?
I’m honestly not sure which I fear more.
The pressure to succeed is paralyzing. We’re surrounded by quotes like “hustle beats talent,” or “give 110%,” and I’ve heard myself say “I’ll be fine, I can sleep when I’m dead.” Focusing on what I need/should/would do has me dancing on the trigger of another panic attack.
I feel like I’m on a plane stuck on the tarmac. I have no idea where this plane is going. Or if it will go anywhere. The walls are closing in. And of course there’s a line for the bathroom. Do I have what it takes to face the competition? To keep trying after 80, no, 200 rejections? To trust God that all things will work together for His glory? I sit and think and sit and think on these things.
But if I take a moment to breathe, I realize, that last bit is all I really want. To know that I used my abilities and gifts to help one person know they have value.
Huh…Instead of panic attacks and pressure to get everything right at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I’m reminded that it will be okay.
If nothing changes, or if everything does, getting my BFA wasn’t a waste of time because it’s not about where I go from here, but what I’m able to do better and more efficiently because of what I learned.
Questions about portfolio reviews, job fairs, and demo reels cluttered my mind. I lost sight of what matters and what I actually want—to just be a blessing to others, wherever I am, with a BFA or not.
December 23, and every day after, doesn’t change that.