is in progress
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.
March 11th 2011 about 3:00am
I’m biding my time til my flight for Boston. PAX east is upon us and we’re about to show the trailer I’ve toiled over for the recent months of my much treasured Red Vs Blue Season 9. This is a pattern I’ve grown accustomed to in the last 7 or so years. Dissapear for weeks to months sometimes years at a time, devoid of any social life I dive headlong into my work knowing that I can burn brightly in front of a crowd of thousands for brief moment. Not a bad way to live honestly, I choose this over mediocrity.
With little to do but wait I’m scan across my usual regiment of webpages. Checking for messages and not responding to them. I cross Youtube and notice written across the top about a massive earthquake and tidal wave in Japan. I tune into the news report it links to and apparently an off shore earthquake sent a tidal wave to a coastal city of Japan Killing thousands. It was beyond surreal that I didn’t know how to react.
This leaves me not sure what to do. Here I am about to fly off to an event celebrating videogame culture. And here stuck by such horrible circumstance is the country in which videogames means to me. Is it at all appropriate a time to consider celebrating anything? Let alone celebrate ourselves?
Celebrate ourselves. Those words would keep repeating in me for the length of that weekend.
Regardless there’s not much I could do right? Grin and bear, I am about to afterall appear in public. I’ve learned thus over the years that there are times when one simply can’t have feelings. But isn’t this an exception?
I arrive in Boston, I always sign up to do any conventions here because I can also take it as a chance to see my girlfriend. Again, Part of the sacrifice I’ve made in life is only seeing my girlfriend of over 15 years perhaps only 3-4 times a year. This year PAX east is at the newer Hynes center in Boston. By the shore.
I check in at the hotel and then stop by the booth. Although I’m there to work, it’s commonly accepted at this company because I work so much and take so little time off, that cons for me are just really a small break for me to enjoy with my girlfriend. And this time especially I was in no mood to shake hands and sign my name. So I logged as little booth time as possible, only to go back to my hotel and check for any news updates on Japan.
It’s worse than it’d seemed, as the count of missing and dead rises higher. My heart drops lower as I curse my own vanity.
My girlfriend arrives the saturday after from the 1 hr drive it takes for her to get to Boston. We had been fighting about something over the phone that at this point I hardly can recall. But the moment we see eachother all is well. I lover her so dearly.
Spending time with her I forget most of what’s going on in the world. She heals me, and I can actually smile again. So rarely together we cherish our time, and eat the best of foods. I spend my hard earned money gladly on her. Life is good. Downstairs from the hotel of the few restuarants in the area there’s a lobster wrap. Growing up I never thought I’d be able to afford lobster. Now whenever we’re together, or it’s on the company I get the lobster. And it was delicious.
There’s one thing I am required of at most cons. To be on our panel on Saturday where we’re to debut this new trailer. We answer questions and present our latest. Just like last year, where we introduced my joining of this company, and brought the house down. When the time comes we make our way to to the panel room and I meet up with the rest of the crew. I get situated with my co-workers. “How many people are in here?… over 5 thousand?” Yes the room is packed with thousands of people all hoping to get blown away. I get my girlfriend a seat in the front row. She’s only been to a few of these events with me. But she’s beaming ever so proud and bright. Some from the front few rows recognize me. I spend some moments shaking hands and signing my name. Despite my postion, I’ve never felt I’ve become whatever such a celebrity that I’m can’t give people my time. Being overated oftens reminds me that part of my value is knowing my lack of value.
The time comes and I’m to get back behind the curtain, I understand these formalities. Respecting them gives our farce it’s value.
From the stage the view looks a bit different. It looks like this.
Peering beyond the excitement it dawns on me with some horror that this room wouldn’t be enough to fill how many corpses there currently are on the shores of japan. I find my beloved in the front row. And to further despair envision how if ever I could find her in a pile of corpses such as this. Sick to my stomache I shake the images from my head.
If you’ve ever seen me on a normal day shaking my head desperately like this, know that it is because of this. I am cursed with an abnormally strong imagination. Too often my thoughts go to a dark place, a how vividly I see and fear the horrors and desperation. My counter my drug is the body of work I’ve aimed to develop all these years. Fill your life with light and beauty, and hope it all doesn’t come crashing down.
Grin and bear.
If you were at this panel, despite all the comedy and jovialness. Among my crew of colleagues we played the celebrity and did our duties. I mostly remained silent dropping whatever easiest wisdom I could bear to muster.
Then we showed our trailer. My pride and joy of months past, epic in scale it teased of a coming season of Red Vs Blue, unhindered for most by the restrictions of character that were last season. We promised to tell a story that would service my style of filmaking with fast cuts of action and high speed movment. The trailer closes the a bang. Announcing Red Vs Blue Season 9 coming summer 2011.
The crowd was on it’s feet. Cheers roared throughout the theatre. Everyone was cheering my name. This has thus far been the largest response I’d ever recieved. Quite honestly, I didn’t know how to react. My colleagues beside me prompted me to rise to my feet and accept. So I stood, looking out to the audience was blinding. The stage lights in our eyes only allowed us to see a wavering mass of black, and glaring bright lights. I couldn’t find my girlfriend, but I knew she was there, and I was certain she was proud.
We closed the panel answering more questions, and quielty ended the event drifting outwards back to the con. Though reuniting with my love again washed me, I was determined to go back to my room and check the status of the dead.
That would not happen soon for we had the rest of the day ahead of us. But regardless of whatever I’m feeling, I’m always able to drown my sorrows by enjoying my time with my girlfriend. So we went and ate more lobster.
The rest of the weekend past as usual. And we also spent some hours wandering the convention. I also made for some booth time, though I noticed that some fans had noticed my absence. Though at this point I didn’t care.
The weekend more or less over My girlfriend and I part ways. And all I’m to do is wait for my morning plane back to austin. So given time I check up on Japan.
The death toll is near ten thousand, likely more. Somehow I was numb at this point. Numbers that high you start to distance yourself, and it seems less and less real.
In my warm hotel room I read headlines about the recovery process. People huddled in makshift areas in the cold of night, hungry and lost.
“I’m hungry” I say.
“Why don’t you get something to eat.” My girlfriend on the phone says.
There’s not much in the area to get. I guess I’ll get more lobster.
Bidding her goodnight I make my way downstairs. The evening has gotten much colder. As I walk towards the restaurant repeated in me, “thousands cold and hungry” my mind goes blank and I walk right past the past the restaurant towards the docks. Staring into the blackness of the ocean, I was comepletely alone. Muttering to myself of my vanity and selfishness.
There’s a voice in me that tonight has never been louder. Always with every action I partake giving doubt or question to how I live my life. Knowing deep down even my purest intentions have some sick motivation that benefits me. I try to counter by living as honestly and work as hard as possible, but tonight was hard to argue back.
“I’m going to stand here in the cold of night, on this dock until my morning flight. It’s the least I could do.”
“No you won’t, and even if you do, you’re just doing this to look cool.”
“Look cool? To who?”
“Even if there was no one else, at least to yourself. Even you’re attempt at honoring people is a form of vanity.”
“I can do this, and I won’t tell anyone. How about that?”
“I won’t eat that sandwich either.”
“You will, and you’ll tell everyone how in this event where everyone spent celebrating themselves. You humbly went to the cold docks stood and suffered so that you can impress everyone with your selflessness.
“And you’ll talk about how on one of the greatest moments in your life, where thousands of people were shouting your name, all you could think about was the suffering of others.”
“Life to you is one big joke. You don’t really care about people. It’s all a self serving facade.”
“If you really cared about people you’d drop the facade and actually do something that makes a difference.”
As tears begin to fall, I wonder how true these are. This back and forth goes on a for a few hours. Doubt, redoubt. The uncertainty reaches a level that I begin to lose track of who’s talking. Even my doubting voice is beginning to sound self pitying. Underdressed and cold, I remember the sandwich that is still waiting for me.
“You’re gonna do it. You can’t resist.”
I ate that sandwich, I slept in my warm hotel room, and I wrote this blog. I cried alone in the night for Japan. And I am telling you about it. Are you impressed?
A life of vanity is indeed what I’ve chosen. I hope it’s worth it.
Been quite in the doldrums lately. Mostly burnt out from last season on top of knowing there’s no real rest to take if we don’t want to be in the same situation next year. No real worry about the capacity of doing it. Just having the fire for it.
Worries in general a are load I care not for. Money worries and all the same a “plan” for which I have none to speak of. But then I kinda remember that really that kinda how I do things. All this networking garbage that I still don’t trust actually works. I realize I’m not going to do it your way, cause that’s how I roll.
Man do I hate scrubbing those corners of my mind that I’ve neglected using for months to years on end. CSS this and html that, I’ve finally got something going here again. Last time i had to take this down due to massive amounts of spam and junk mail. Anyhoo still working on this a bit, but more or less making some small strides.
Two steps forward, one step back.