Birthday 32, the Pain of Regret, and That Blog of Zhangah


You guessed it from the title, today is my birthday and I’m officially 32.  I have a friend who gets panic attacks when he thinks about turning 35. But for me, I’m thoroughly enjoying my 30s and I’m not one to reminisce on my fading youth. Although I do miss being 8 and spending blissful summers drawing without worrying about bills, I certainly wouldn’t want to revisit the dark decade of my 20s. Sure there were some good moments in there as I clung onto that Bacardi in hopes of being forever 21, but there was just so much searching, trying to fit in and  people-pleasing that I’m happy to put behind me. It was also just a confusing and depressing time because I wasn’t making art that I particularly liked and eventually stopped altogether. Coincidentally, I came across the following Steve Jobs quote this morning on the Daily Inspiration Blog which I wish I could send to my 20 year old self:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been in a bit of funk as I pondered how realistic it is to be 32 and still pursue the dream of creating comics and stories, along with millions of more talented (and younger) artists, in the hopes of one day touching someone. But then I remembered an interview with Jimmy Gownley, the author of Amelia Rules, on the Paper Wings Show. Towards the end of the interview, Gownley, who once worked on comics in the wee hours of the night while supporting a family and working a demanding job, says something to extent that if you want it bad enough, you just have to suck it up. If you are interested in learning about making and publishing comics, I highly recommend that you listen to the interview, perhaps even multiple times to digest the rich insights and information. Although I regret to say I’m only lurking these days instead of engaging on the Chris Oatley site where the Paper Wings Show is hosted,  you might be interested in going through the great content and even check out the course offerings which has personally helped me to grow tremendously in digital painting and storytelling.

Where am I going with this? Well I realize I want my birthdays to be more meaningful rather than just another excuse to consume excess sugar. Today I want to take the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned and to hold myself accountable for my goals. So five years ago, some well-meaning friends casually asked what I would do with my life if money wasn’t an issue. Now remember 5 years ago, I was still lost in the “dark ages” and I couldn’t give them an answer. I became especially frustrated when that question lead to an inquiry about art-making or, more accurately, lack thereof.  Over the next few years, I would go through tumultuous feelings, more intense and gut-wrenching than the worst breakups, and that feeling my friends, is the pain of regret. The regret of giving up on my passions too easily, the regret of not fighting to keep an artistic practice, the regret of buying those $90 pair of shoes instead of going to an art class, the regret of watching life pass by. Yikes, it’s no wonder at one point I felt like 29 going on 80 and the worst part of all, I didn’t have anyone to blame except for myself.

So I’m writing this for the long road ahead, not just for my future self, but for any creative who may be treading on hard times trying to live their dreams. Through ridicule and rejection, through fatigue and hopelessness, just keep practising your craft, even if it’s 15 minutes for yourself. For all it’s worth, there’s a strange person that sometimes goes by Zhangah who is practising with you. For now, I’m okay with being 32 and just starting the journey of realizing a childhood dream of making comics. As long as I’m taking action to give my dreams the best shot I’ve got, the pain of regret hasn’t come knocking. In fact, I’ve become more adept at managing my time and resources to the point of devoting 40+ hours per week to learning, researching, blogging, drawing and writing – on top of doing the work that feeds the bills. It’s not always easy but it has proven to be possible.

Thanks so much for making your way through this scattered post. I hope you’ve found a point or two that may be helpful to your own endeavours. Sure it’s my birthday but I say let’s all have some cake to acknowledge the hard work of the creators and bloggers out there who follow their hearts and keep at it.

And so the collective scribbling continues…

Quick update: I’ve changed the name of the site to “That Blog of Zhangah” because “zbook” is sadly taken. I’ve known this for a while, couldn’t think of anything else, so I just went with the obvious. Ooh and what you’re seeing at the top of the post is the new Zhangah cards (or rather my rusty graphic design skills and Photoshop tricks). I’ve been thinking of making cards since last fall because I was surprised by how many potential collaborators (and even clients) you encounter outside the door of the Zhangah cave. Any ways, the shipment is on the way and the cards will be handy to have around, even if I decide to just secretly stuff them in my favourite reads at the corner book store.

15 thoughts on “Birthday 32, the Pain of Regret, and That Blog of Zhangah

  1. Happy Birthday Zhangah! I’m so much encouraged by your post to keep my passion in drawing burning despite my busy schedule at work (which is non-arts related). Will be here, too, practicing with you! 😉

    1. Hi Sabri! Thanks so much for the birthday wishes. I’m so glad to hear that you continue to find the time to pursue your passion of drawing. That just made me smile 🙂 I really enjoy your works, especially the anime ones, and truly look forward to following your art in the coming year and beyond!

    1. No problem at all! Thank you for sharing your works 🙂 One of the most awesome things about blogging is meeting other artists and seeing a wide range of styles. It’s really inspiring!

  2. I can relate to all of the time I spent NOT creating art and feeling bad about it. I have no idea where my current art practice will take me, but it will not be something I regret! You are brave for holding true to yourself. And I really like your business cards.

    1. Thanks so much Susanne! I think you were one of the first blogs I followed when starting out on this art adventure. I remember being drawn to your paintings, the minimalistic compositions with bold colours and the overall soothing quality. I can also relate to having an art practice and not knowing where it will go, which can be both exciting and initiating. It made me realize that you have to be comfortable with uncertainty and just keep playing until new compelling directions are revealed. I really look forward to seeing more of your process, drawings and paintings and where your art practice takes you next!

    1. Hi Almo, thanks so much for the encouragement! I’m loving your cartoon snippets of life and admire you for continuing to draw/write while holding down a day job. I’m very much looking forward to going back to your first posts and getting more of your unique insights into this crazy thing called life 😉

  3. Happy belated birthday, Zhangah! And here’s to many more years of practice and creation, artmaking, writing, and craft. There are many of us walking this lonely road–and we are here, and we are with you.

    1. Hi Amy, thanks so much for taking the time to drop by with birthday wishes! I really appreciate all of your personal experiences, creative projects/directions, and insights you have shared through your blog as well as in our email exchanges. Your words mean a lot to me because it certainly does get lonely sometimes when you spend countless hours hunched over your computer and sketchbook (ouch stretching) while putting on the everything-is-okay face in front of concerned family or friends who don’t fully understand the creative path. Thank you for being there and I’m excited for the sharing of our adventures to come!

  4. Don’t get this stuff into your head though I know it’s hard not to. You’re very talented and talented people are lonely indeed. Cheer up and happy birthday and joyful forthcoming days. : ) If I could be nearby we would talk on the matters but only this way is acceptable, alas.

    1. Hi Yuriy, thanks for the supportive words! I think loneliness is just part of the deal of being human. I think we all have times when we feel misunderstood, alienated, etc. Despite all this, it’s great to have found a safe place to express these feelings and to meet so many like-minded creators who are on a similar journey 🙂

  5. Absolutely agree with what you say. Being human and thus like-minded or nearly like. Like hovering with the wind blowing the same way. I’m rather poetic when it comes to this. : )

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