Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Comfortable In One's Own Skin

"The moment will arrive when you are comfortable with who you are, and what you are– bald or old or fat or poor, successful or struggling- when you don't feel the need to apologize for anything or to deny anything. To be comfortable in your own skin is the beginning of strength.” Charles B. Handy

Instead of a NESCBWI conference wrap up, I would like to chat about something else. The conference was a big part of it.

I have never been comfortable in my own skin. During my childhood, I was never all that good at sports although I tried. Books smarts, meh, I did okay. I was the quiet kid in the back of the room with a pencil scribbling onto paper. Drawing my favorite characters from Famous Film Monsters magazine, comic books, movies, and cartoons. Not one of the popular kids which was fine with me. Just give me something to draw and I was happy. But I never felt like everyone else or that comfortable being the "art kid". I felt like an outsider because there were not that many "art kids" and if there were more than one, we were friends. Don't get me wrong, I had other friends but they never understood the love to draw or how I was searching for my "skin".

It seems I've spent half a century searching for my place in this world. Like a stray dog with a case of the mange, often chasing my own tail. Going round and round and round until I fall over dizzy, exhausted, and frustrated. Chasing this dream and then that dream but never finding my true passion. Everything changed this past weekend.

It took presenting a workshop on sketchbooks with my talented, hard working, and incredibly brilliant copresenter, Renee Kurilla Zulawnik, for me to realize that I have finally found the home for me. I want to be a part of the book world until I can no longer hold a pencil or until my tired old bones decide to move on to another adventure.

What was about this weekend that did this? The people. It was that simple. It is the people that I've known for a while and the new folks that I met. They support you as you struggle to be seen and/or heard, cheer for your success, hurt with you from disappointment, and rally you when you are down. We cheered as one for Kevin Barry, Marlo Garnsworthy, and Renee when they won their well deserved awards for their artwork and portfolios. We felt for those who struggling to get noticed or are too shy. We welcome you. Write and/or draw, you are one of the "art kids"

I questioned myself for about two weeks before our workshop. Did I have anything really to offer? Will I let Renee down? Would I look like a fool? Well, maybe I did but in a very fun, costume wearing way. But something happened during the presentation, I felt at home. It was okay. I am okay. Our fiends where there for support and to listen. The feedback after our workshop was phenomenal. Renee and I were thrilled, elated, and numb. I think we were a tad shocked too. We did it! As the above quote says "... the beginning of strength." A couple of "art kids" were approved by a room full of "art kids".

The book world is a family and the conferences are a homecoming. I am so lucky to be part of it. It took 4 plus years of going to conferences, listening, learning, shaking off some shyness and not standing in the back of the room, trying to hide. I know, it is hard for someone 6'5" to hide but I did try. Yes, this is the world I want to live in. To be with the other kids who never had a real place in the world. To be welcomed, loved, and made to feel at home. Comfortable of being who we are. Liking this skin that covers our pain, happiness, struggles, and creativity but no longer hides it.

This "art kid" has become comfortable in his skin.

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