In a week or so the current state of my home will be finished.
For those unaware, a couple months back my family home had burned down (I made a post about it here https://arzonaut.newgrounds.com/news/post/1124871 .) Suffice it to say, I had to go on a rather long hiatus and resort to living life as a homeless vagabond, seeking shelter anywhere I could find it. It wasn't as if my family had kicked me out and we had gone our separate ways. Rather, it was the mere fact that I would not be able to get anything done living near the remnants. I won't go into detail, the internet is no place to throw away your personal matters, but as my parents stayed to work on the house, I went out to find work and not burden them with another mouth to feed. What followed was the strangest time in my young adult life as I can recall.
After a fire, there are no saved memories, you can't see what you look like. All you have is your head.
I had first left around Halloween of 2020, to reunite with old family friends who graciously allowed me back into their lives to help me. Years having passed, I had that "I'm old" feeling hit me seeing once new-borns turned into teenagers. While the kids went trick or treating, I had stayed behind as if I finally upgraded to sit with the adults. They had asked me what I was up to before all this, and I explained briefly about some of the animations I was making and other projects. Most of it met with the questions about what job I was really after, or if I had plans to return to school. The answer to that, I still don't know. However, I did have a job lined up near the area as the plan was for to me help make some money to pay for repairs needed on the house.
As if by some act of divine intervention, or just plain coincidence, I got a job working at what was originally my first job. Five years ago, when I had lived in the area, I worked at the UPS store part time as I went to school. When I left, I referred a friend of mine to work there in my place. I was shocked that because he still had worked there, he was able to get me a job there as well. Hell, even my old manager was still working there. Days flew by as I went from working week days, to working on the house on weekends. Anything I made would go right to funding repairs, and thankfully also during that time I started a gofundme to raise money. This on top of the donations I got had really helped out a lot and boosted morale for my family. To not disturb anyone, I wouldn't stay in one place too long. I would move from relative's guest rooms, to friend's couches, to neighbor's garages, just until I had to leave for work again.
The nights where you're hungry are the worst. It's far too late to go out at night without causing some disturbance to the courteous people who let you sleep in their homes; and even if you did somehow make it to where food was, how can you afford it? In dire times, every dollar counts. That money spent on yourself could feed your family, or buy material. So, you resort to sleeping through it. All you know is, you have somewhere to sleep now so don't push it. Whatever tomorrow brings, you can find food then. My mother always said "you never know when you'll eat again, so savor the meal you have now. "
People always ship the strangest stuff at UPS.
It wasn't until after Thanksgiving where I felt like things had began going back to normal. Yet, like the oncoming winter, it brought a cold, unsettling, feeling. I thought as if my life was some how regressing rather than progressing, and that working the job and drifting from bed to bed was only the beginning of the end. On top of that, I felt horrible for my parents having to manage a lot of the work done on the home by themselves. Only hearing the stories after the fact brought me great grief. Even life on the road for me had its fair share of horror stories as well. One such incident resulted in a loss of a friendship and to keep it brief, it was over a girl. I needed to clear my head, and just like that an opportunity presented itself.
You see, at this point the house was stripped of walls and ceilings, and the electrical was currently being done mostly by my father. Unfortunately, none of us (between me and my parents) are professionals and we needed outside help. Thankfully my uncle is an electrician, what luck right. The only problem was who was going to make the 10 hour trip going to pick him up and drop him off once the electrical was done. I answered the call and , well, I gave my blessings to my boss and co-workers and told them I would leave to help my parents finish the electrical. I left on my journey to Key West, the southernmost point continental United States.
My uncle being a contract electrician also got us free nights at a local hotel. I was near my home working days on the electrical and spending my nights in a warm bed I could call my own briefly. Christmas time I remember routing cables from a junction box across wooden beams and simultaneously risking injury shocking myself or falling from the rickety ass burnt ladder, but I lived. A metal tool did knock my head in good later that day though, but we ended that day like most days that week. With local food heated up on a hot plate and "Christmas" beer. I understand now why every manual laborer has alcohol on hand, how the fuck else do you get through that kind of grueling work. When it was time to drop off my uncle, I had the go ahead to stay new years down in Key West to relax.
Key West. Home of Hemingway, Truman, and multiple cocks.
On the days I visited Key West, I spent them walking around a lot. To cool my head, I was mostly by my self and tried to see as much as I could see. The tropical rest stop has macabre feeling to it all because the whole place is built on bone. Just off the shore you can see the scroungers still digging up the wrecks of lost voyages hoping to find hidden treasure. And to the left or right you'll see construction of the vastly rich building their artificial beaches as to drive up the cost of living. With typical Florida weather, you'll have beautiful sunny days hit with bullet rain, and back within the hour. But one thing you can never escape from the corner of your eye is the over abundance of roosters they have. I thought they were fine, but my uncle swears that if he hears them crow outside his window again he'll pick up find means to punish them legally.
I didn't have any money for trinkets or museums, so I walked all around where I was allowed. Often, I would sneak into places that weren't too heavily monitored due to the busy season. If you want my suggestion, check out the cemetery at the middle of the island. Besides being the highest point, it's open to pretty much anyone, and it's packed full of unmarked stones. Then go stop by the naval yard, you can see some sweet World War 2 circa weapon of destruction suitably named a destroyer. Which looks just about as effective at destroying a city as I am kicking over a sand castle. On new years, I fished and went by the local park beach; and I had never felt such bliss as I did that day when all I had to do was sit, fish, and drink. By the beach I could see waves crash the rocky shore line and I thought that I'll be damned if I don't swim in that. By night fall, I called my close ones and looked at the stars.
They say even prisoners decorate their cells.
When I got back, I also came back to reality. The house still wasn't done and now I was unemployed. I'm sure if I had asked, I could've gotten my old job again but I wanted something more. I don't mean that in any spiritual way, I mean I needed more money. In a sense, I was trying to justify my situation by fulfilling my responsibility to pay back my parents. Even if the fire never happened, you put 20 years into a kid then you'd better expect some kind of pay out, or at least that's how I saw it. Either way, I found the job I thought only existed in tv sitcoms, Fight Club style movies, and catch-22 books. Not having any real prior experience, I lied my ass off and got a corporate job way down-town in Miami.
For the first time in my life, I unveiled the truth behind all those inside jokes you see about people who work. you wake up early, but never early enough to beat traffic. You drive though rush hour, half praying you become the next wreck that makes everyone late. You clock in an unmarked building and dig through spam. You work till' break, half the time you're just staring at a screen. If your boss asks what you're doing, just toss out random numbers and projections. You stay over time catching up on missed work, then, before you leave, get the notice to come in on the weekend. Get home unreasonably tired and unmotivated to, for example, draw or animate. Browse a bit, and knock yourself out. Day in, day out, 5 days a week. All the while saying to yourself "another day, another dollar."
About 2 months in of this, I had almost become numb to it all. I mean, after all, I had convinced myself that this was the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do. The money was good, and even if I never saw any of it, the joy of showing your relatives your hard earned cash never got old. During the commutes to and from work are when you're allowed to think. I got to day dream about all the ideas I have in mind, unfinished projects and broken promises, and all the things I say I'll get to eventually. I'm solely talking about me here, and I'm not sure you can relate, but in this big field of animators you want nothing more than to convince yourself you have the time and skill to do it. That daunting task finishing a project, when it's easier to just put it off. Every small stride I made, working my first animation jobs on the side. To animators like us, that shit is the best feeling on earth. It's right then that you park your car and walk into work.
It started out like any other day, I got out of bed and shut off the alarm. As I'm walking out the door, I'm doing my half prayers, (you know, those things people brought up catholic but kinda lost now say under their breath in a sarcastic manor.) I ask God, if ever there were a day to show me something then today's the day. I'm driving to work right, it's raining like fucking hell and I can barely see out my windshield. That's when traffic slows to a halt and I'm forced to start heading for the right lane. I think, fuck I'm gonna be late for work again, and I see it. The cause of the slow down was a crashed SUV, couldn't tell the make or model the way it was, completely flipped. Worst of all, the driver was hanging out of the wreck like some kind of movie prop. Though the rain washed some of his blood off, you could tell he was dead. The passenger, if there was any, had been mushed between the roof of the car and the asphalt of the street. All the while, every other car was honking, exclaiming that they too now going to be late for work. I never knew that dead guy, but I kinda felt like I did. Chances are he was driving to work just like the rest of us and he died going to his 9 to 5. For all I knew, he never even paid off his car, if it was his.
I decided right then to quit. I called my boss to drop the news and cut off all communication for the day. When I got off the high way, the rain had started to clear up. Then, all the sudden, it felt like a great day to go to the beach. You know, ocean breeze hits you different when you're a free man. Sitting on the sand, all I could do was think about what I wanted to do with life. All I ever do is get blown off course. Because when you find out you wanna do art early on in life, you deal with the non stop doubts others give you, and you yourself give yourself. It never goes away. I could try a hundred more jobs and I'd still never be as happy as when I'm making cartoons about beloved characters getting pissed on or drawing butts because butts are fun. I saw a lot that day, and for the first time in a long time, I came back home.
As of today, me and the folks are still doing minor detail work on the house. When I came back after my day in the sun, I basically resorted to staying close by the home. If I wasn't gonna work, I figured I'd work on the house full-time. Every day felt like a project and some days were harder than others, but we got through it the same. In all honesty, I never felt closer to my folks. Slowly, we pieced together a home that people could, y'know, live in and not appear as if they were squatters. Now, all that's left for me to do is figure out where to go from here. I can't predict the future, none of us can, but somehow I think through all my half baked choices in life, I'll get to where I wanna go.
Special thanks to @Derpixon, @Jazzhat, @Snackers, @Ninjamuffin99, @Carmet, @oofRowdy, @Xinxinix, @MKMaffo, @Afroninja360, @Coolprinter, and others for the donations. You have my, and my parent's, eternal gratitude.
Thanks to @PhantomArcade for helping me out get animation work and convincing my mom that I could potentially make a living doing what I wanna do. @Spazkid for giving me the idea to start a gofundme and always promoting my work when I do commissions, basically giving me work when I didn't have a "real job." and @TomFulp for giving me a tablet when I thought my cintiq didn't work anymore, the fucking legend.
Thank you to my best friend @frootlupin, and his family, for building me a new computer when my old one had a wooden beam fall on it and I thought it was dead for good. Plus all the other shit you guys did, lol.
And thanks to Newgrounds, this ain't a book or a memoir or some shit but it's the only site that allows me to post something like this. Without it, I'd probably be nowhere.