Can you match my resolve?
If so then you will succeed
I believe that the human spirit is indomitable. If you endeavor to achieve, it will happen given enough resolve. It may not be immediate, and often your greater dreams is something you will not achieve within your own lifetime. The effort you put forth to anything transcends yourself, for there is no futility even in death.
So I’ve finally a moment to gather my thoughts of the events this past summer:
The date is June 24th 2012 and I’m about to board a plane, my mother had just died a few days ago. Off the grid as I have been described for many years now. Even my family of four older brothers and two older sisters expect little response from me. My most convenient of excuses is that I am just always busy, though I say that quite literally. I find it laughable in conversations whenever other people equate there ground to mine when they say “yea I’m busy too, everyone’s busy.”
No I am busy. If you see your friends or family more than once every 3 or so years, if you live outside of more than a 1 mile radius, if you see your girlfriend of 15+ years only perhaps 3 times a year.
My day consists of:
1. Wake up
2. Brush my teeth
3. Drive to work (across the street)
5. Eat something at my desk while working
6. Skype “quality time with girlfriend” while working
7. Watch something together while working
8. Work till I’m tired
9. Shift my category of work to something I can do while half conscious
10. Go home (back across the street)
13. Start over
This process goes on every day of the week, throughout the year. I am quite literally at my desk whenever I am not sleeping or in the shower. If you are not a complete prisoner of yourself, you are not my kind of busy.
2 months earlier voice messages and emails had started showing up about mom’s condition. That she had taken a turn for the worse and I should come home. My initial reaction, like my reaction to anything that takes me away from my desk is, “but I’m too busy.” For the uninitiated the easiest way to describe what I do is animation, a category of storytelling that consumes every ounce of my being. I’ve made a name for myself by working hard, not something I was known for growing up. I can’t recall if I was simply disinterested, or if the formula I’ve found that keeps me going is simply too pacifying that it makes things like dealing with the real world a passable hindrance.
“Workaholic? Please. That’s sounds like something lazy people would say.”
So my mother, the one who gave birth to me is dying. Frantic emails and voice messages from my older brothers and sisters biding I drop everything and go home ASAP kept flooding my inboxes. Now this year happened to be perhaps one of the most pinnacle years for RvB. We are in our tenth season, and we have a monstrous amount of work ahead of us that we’re uncertain we’ll be able to finish by deadline (despite tripling the size of the team.) Considering I play a huge keystone role to this whole project. It’s perhaps the worst time possible for me to cut and run. Is she dying right now? Oh there’s still time? Maybe I can fly next week. With the most inappropriate amount of hesitance, I started collecting my work to take with me. I booked a ticket. I started creating shots that I could work on offsite. No joke, in a perverse level of dedication I planned to be working while my mother was on her deathbed. Was this my way of not dealing with it? In my head unlike the rest of my family who were mourning, I thought it better that I honor my mother by doing her proud. I think this was true. Only time will tell.
It’s June 22nd 2012 and my flight approaching. I check my messages to find that they have changed. My mother had passed. Oh and it’s also my birthday.
I can’t recall what it was that I felt upon hearing the news. There was pause, and then logic in its ugliest form reared itself.
“Well why am I even flying now?”
Did I really think that? Yes I did, not only did I think it, I said it, to Matt, to Kathleen who were both aware how in the thick of it we were with RvB. Both of them being my friends (and human) understood the weight of a parent passing. Apparently more so than I… I think.
2 days after I’ve turned 31 I’m in Providence Rhode Island with the rest of my family. It is pretty difficult for my large family to be together all at once. We’ve thus scattered about the world onto our own lives, some of us also not being able to actually afford flying. But somehow all 8 of us manage to be together again for the first time in over 10 years, minus our mother.
Going home and being with my siblings in this time of remembrance conjured up old thoughts in me as well as brought new ones I didn’t realize were always there. Because everyone was this mode of old tales, we talked about things mom used to do, how she lived, I discovered how she was in her final days.
I found out they had to take the starter out of the car to keep her from going grocery shopping. They told me how despite having help in the house she would get up every day to cook and clean and work. And that it was impossible to stop her despite her organs failing one after another. Up until her body stopped working she didn’t. I started to realize I of all people understood her the most. Work isn’t a choice, not when it comes to surviving.
There have been moments the past few years where I’d felt cursed by our family’s upbringing. I’d often say that we were born poor, and that we were raised to think like poor people. Most of my brothers are unemployed or in debt, and I wasn’t an exception for many years. I felt some pride of being able to break our family’s mold by taking a chance on living what I thought was a different life than what I was raised to be. But I understand now that I still learned something very important without even realizing it.
33 years ago my parents dragged our family here from the war on their own two feet, it was a matter of survival. We came to this country with no money, and not being able to speak the language. My mother pregnant with my older brother, and then myself a year after, found a job, learned the language, and provided for our family. My father who had suffered from post war syndrome was little help. So all I can remember of my mother in those early years was the she was never around. She was never around because she was busy fighting, she fought for our family to survive, because she had no choice. That’s why you work, because the alternative is unthinkable.
I realized that at a level beyond excuses my mother’s spirit lived on within me. Perhaps long before now that she passed on surviving with no alternative. I recall it was the 8 years ago when we first realized she had brain cancer that I started getting my ass in gear. Back then they told her she had perhaps months to live at best. I remember her being in the hospital, hole in her head, only to come home and be walking as soon as she could stand. The cancer had come back several times over the last 8 years only for her to literally walk it off each time. In choosing between laying down and dying, and getting up and doing something, there was no choice. She went down swinging, she achieved something great, there were no other options.
I feel the same way about my work, because I have no feelings about anything else.
It is now sunday, it’s raining, the wake is upon us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a corpse before, not sure how I should act about it. Of course it was quite, somber, the air was thick with the pretense of formality. Some of it is real, wasn’t sure where I stand.
Finding my mother’s corpse, she looked peaceful. I felt peaceful. I began thinking that saying goodbye, and mourning over someone passing. That’s something you do for yourself. Somehow coming here and seeing her one final time, all I could do was smile. Everyone took their time paying their respects, somehow I didn’t feel odd in the slightest being the only one in the whole room smiling ear to ear. I can’t recall if it was pride for her or myself, maybe there wasn’t a difference at this point. Seeing her empty vessel I only felt that I’d finally managed to do something right.
All the time she’s known me I’d been a delinquent and a failure. Even though I was known to be intelligent and perceptive, somehow my report cards ware always bad news. From being left behind a grade, to failing out of multiple schools, the things I did spend my time focusing on, Legos, videos games, drawing, no one would ever think it would amount to anything. At least at the very last minute I was able to pull it together and rise above my lifetime of failure, and make her proud. She managed to see me on stage accepting an award for a show in something. In a category of work that she could have no understanding of. And nor did I do it knowing she would’ve seen me do it; the only thing I had to focus on was doing it. And to my delight I was told she managed to see it.
The answer to why I came? To find out something I kind of already knew. To confirm it further.
From seeing her body to when we carried it to the fire, I could not stop smiling. I suspect some even found it odd as I caught a few curiously tilted heads. It’s a tad odd, even I found it a little surprising. Upon my mother’s death I left work only focused on what I should be doing. I returned to work without missing beat, but with a better understand who I was. Going from slight uncertainty about my level of appropriateness. To what was honestly my natural reaction to her death. And then being completely certain I was honoring her in my own way best possible. I work because there is no alternative.
Getting away from my work pretty much equates to paralysis, I simply don’t know what to do with myself when I am away. I hope the same for others, because I’ve always said the world looks very different, when you’re pushing yourself every second you’ve got. Have I succeeded? I’ve succeeded in being more than I was. Only to understand it all looks no different from yesterday, just a little bit clearer.