Today’s post is about the dangers of trading your health for your passion.
Now I know that at first glance this seems like a no-brainer sort of thing.
“Of course you shouldn’t trade your health for your passions! Uhh..Duh?!”
But it’s not as clear cut as that.
This is probably more geared as a warning for younger artists, just getting into their careers in the art industries..But it should also serve as a reminder of sorts to all my old industry veteran friends out there.
When I was a young animation student at Cal-Arts way back in 1990, there was a printout that made its way around the school.
It showed several drawings of the progression of an animator through the years.
Starting off as a strapping young energetic lad and ending with him as a hunchback, old fat guy!
At the time I don’t think many of us (being energetic strapping youngsters ourselves) really thought all that much about it other than it being funny.
But boy oh BOY! Is there a lot of truth to that little cartoon.
Again, in school, you are passionate! Driven! Full of energy and zeal!
And you take that right into your pro years after animation/art school.
But I’m telling you, It’s very easy to fall victim in many ways to your tunnel vision passions. So much so, that it’s a shocker to find out that the very thing you love…..is harming you. Maybe even killin’ you.
When I was starting out, brand spanking new in the animation industry, I weighed a pretty lean 145 pounds. Slim and trim! Heck….I even had a little bit of a six pack goin on!!
But it didn’t take long for that six pack to dwindle down to a very *fluffy* 1 pack.
Before I knew it, back problems started creeping in from too many countless hours at the animation desk, and in recent years from being hunched over a wacom tablet.
This didn’t change later when I got into game development.
And one day in November, 2013…I doubled over in pain.
Leaned over and whispered to my Art Director (whom I shared an office with)
“..dude…I think I have to leave. I’m having some serious chest pains…”
I drove myself home (foolishly), and called my doc. Who then told me to get to an E.R.
I laid in the hospital bed with my wife by my side…I couldn’t move I was in so much pain.
And it wasn’t just pain…It was as if my entire body was being crushed.
It hurt to breathe!
They gave me a cocktail of drugs
(including Nitroglycerin), to get my pain and blood pressure in check. Which, by the way was off the charts high.
Like….red alert dangerous.
With my wife by my side, we waited for them to come back and give us some news as to what the heck was going on!
Turns out it wasn’t a heart attack (Thankfully), but extreme hypertension.
Due to their tests, they wanted to admit me for the night so they could monitor me and take additional tests (which included an MRI)
To make a long story even longer, I went home the next evening…with the news that I was seriously teetering on either a massive heart attack or even possibly a stroke. And was put on meds to quickly stabilize my blood pressure (of which 4 of them I STILL take to this day.)
I needed to change some things in my life.
So…how did I get here? This once young and energetic kid!!
Reduced to an over night stay in a hospital, barely able to move, tied to an I.V.
Well….quite simply, I let go of the big picture. Fell victim to a sort of tunnel vision that we artist types get.
And that’s “the passion”.
The passion for what we do. The passion for what we love.
So we hunker down.
We do long, long, LONG hours at work. And then go home and work some more!
Early mornings…long nights.
Hunched over a desk.
(many times with the studio catering those lunches so that they have you STAY at your desk to get more work done. )
Lack of exercise. Because well…it’s hard to exercise when you’ve chained yourself to your desk.
And of course, lack of good solid sleep!!
If any sleep at all.
*Long hours and over working.
*Lack of sleep.
*With extreme stress…
Is it any wonder why you find yourself in a world of hurt?
And, if I’m being totally honest about it. It also has a bit to do with fear.
Like the fear of being FIRED.
Much of that is irrational fear. But there is that thought turning around in our heads..
“Man!! I gotta really have my nose to the grindstone. I don’t want them to think I’m just sluffing off!”
Look. The studios (or your clients) don’t really care about your health. They don’t.
Yes, they’ll say they do. And yes, they’ll tout all of their HR health awareness programs. And you may have a GREAT health care benefit plan with them.
But really, what they want is the work in on time or even better- ahead of time.
And quite honestly…your health is not their responsibility.
It’s up to you, to keep yourself in check.
To push away from your passions.
To take a dang a break every now and then.
To look into what you can do to make your work days work FOR you. (health wise).
To make sure you’re eating REAL food! Hah! Not just non stop burgers that balloon your weight as well as your blood pressure.
Get some sleep!! Good sleep!
As well as getting a little exercise every now and then.
Something I STILL need to get better at.
And don’t forget:
Remember the ‘little’ things
Or more accurately put, Remember the important things.
Wives, Husbands, Daughters, Sons, your girlfriend, boyfriend, friendships, pets!
Take a day, go to the park. Breathe in some fresh air. Get out of that wonderful, stuffy studio and take a real look around you.
Share a laugh with the important people in your life.
All of this stuff feeds into eachother. You’re Life experiences will make you not only healthier…but it will make your work better.
It will help you approach it all with a fresh eye.
Give you MUCH more to actually ‘draw’ from!
Ironically, when you only ‘hunker down’ at your desk., it’s a lose-lose situation for you on both issues.
Grinding away…..day after day after day. Willingly and happily….for your passion and love.
You actually *rob* from those passions, by robbing yourself of those IMPORTANT life experiences, that feed your soul as well as feed your creative muscles.
You also rob from those important life experiences:
Your Wife, Kids, pets, friends, health, etc when you deny spending any real quality time on that front.
It is a never ending battle we as artists fight day after day. But if we don’t find that balance, and fight to keep that balance and perspective…The ultimate loser, is US.
So find that balance.
Do your art. Do your work.
Squeeze your loved ones. Walk the dog! And every now and then eat a dang salad and take a long walk.
Then, hopefully you won’t turn into a hunchback before your time!