Day 16: Wholly Strange and New

Challenge: Can you remember a moment in your life when you had life in yourself and it was wholly strange and new? Can you remember the moment when you stopped walking a path of someone else, and started cutting your own?

Write about that moment. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, let the miracle play out in your mind’s eye and write about that moment in your future.

A long time ago, I think before I was even 21, I was floundering around Chicago, trying to find a path. I was in a drama-filled relationship that, while very exciting, was not particularly good for my self-esteem. I was working as a not-very-talented secretarial temp, a job I fell into because I could type well and the money was relatively good. I hadn't really considered college, I had no concept of what I might want to do, and I was deeply unhappy.

I don't quite recall how it came about, but my dad was headed to Atlanta for Dragon-Con, and I ended up tagging along. I think it was just because I was desperate to get away from my life. I vaguely remembered going to Gen-Con as a kid and didn't remember it being particularly exciting, but I think I just wanted to go somewhere. Anywhere.

As an aside, for those of you who might be confused by a father who attends gaming conventions: my dad is a fantasy illustrator who used to work for TSR, the company that created Dungeons and Dragons. I grew up around skulls and dragons, reading books about fantasy worlds and magic. I am weird by genetic inheritance.

Anyway, the trip was life-changing. My dad was working in his booth all day, so except for giving him an occasional break, I was on my own. I wandered the convention, and fell in love with the art and the people. Then I wandered off into the city, and felt comfortable being by myself and in my own skin for the first time in a long time. I remember basking in the sun and heat of Atlanta, feeling free, feeling for the first time that my future was ripe with possibility.

I don't remember the exact timeline after. I floundered around for a few more years, and I attended a lot more conventions with my dad. Somewhere in there I started to dream of school, and of becoming a digital artist (I originally went to school for 3D animation). I took advantage of my dad's name and my secretarial background to get an administrative job in the gaming industry (at FASA). Again, I was a terrible secretary, but working there was fun, and the art department was interesting, familiar and suddenly a possible career path. I started school and eventually moved over to their sister company -- FASA Interactive/Virtual World -- as an digital art/design intern, and that was one of the best jobs and learning experiences I've ever had. The people there were so incrediblly talented, and I learned so much. I eventually left because the work load was enough that it was interfering with school (and I was a little bit tired of drawing bullet holes on robots) but I regret that decision a little bit to this day.

It's been a long and winding path since, but that trip to Atlanta reminded me of where I came from and was the very, very beginning of who I am today. So far, I'm happy with where it's taken me and where I've landed. May the journey continue. Thanks Dad!