The year that most want to forget, was a year of incredible opportunity for me, but not without its hardships. It started like every other year. You celebrate New Year’s Eve. The clock turns midnight and, it’s bedtime 😀 … as time passes and years pass you gain a new appreciation of the small things that exist around you. You move so fast day-in and day-out that you can often miss the things that make life truly special. Like my best furry friend, Leia, who looks into my eyes with such incredible amounts of love, loyalty, and dedication. She can’t replace human connection, but she’s a special girl who cares deeply about me.
This and many more things led to a greater appreciation of life in general. Having lived another year, I’m humbled by all that I have which is so much more than so many people who are struggling in the world right now….
…but while life can seem peachy on the outside for almost any human, it’s not always the truth. Like you, I struggled to do many things in the middle of the pandemic. Simply surviving has never been something I’ve had to worry about it. I lost connections with people. I got really sick. I danced around my own relationship-based shortcomings. I failed at work. I failed people I know and well, this should sound pretty normal to you.
This past year was all about refocusing on what matters. It was also about closing loose ends and checking things off the list. From day-to-day chores to gaming and spending time with my life, 2020 was truly a reset.
Today, I share with you some of my greatest achievements and challenges of the year, but before I do I should warn you that I make assumptions, observations and share opinions you may not agree with.
(these aren’t ranked in any specific order)
My family had, and survived COVID in late 2019 but not without losing something. Confidence, I suppose. While my wife never tested positive for COVID, I’m sure I had it. Low energy, body pain, elevated heart rate, oxygen level drops, and some other symptoms. Even if it wasn’t COVID, I took it seriously and the last year was changed dramatically by it. Some family and friends tested positive and others couldn’t get tested at all. This was the story across the whole world except millions of people were losing those they loved.
It has been a trying time and the next 3-5 years will be just as challenging. We enter a new era where humanity begins to understand again, that we are in fact, human.
While I didn’t really plan to see a comet, when I saw some of the photos I felt like I needed to get out and grab some shots. I took two different trips and didn’t know what I was doing on the first outing. I didn’t take a single photo and had driven out 2 hours towards the Oregon coast. On my second trip, I drove 20 minutes from my house and picked a darker area. I set up my camera and my best (not great) lens.
Here are some of the photos I was able to capture.
We had historic fires across the country. The west coast has never been more on fire. The images were devastating. Here in the northwest, we had fires too around the state. The smoke was horrific. I kept telling people that our skies looked like something out of Mad Max. Luckily our family and friends weren’t in harm’s way this time.
For the last year, I made it a goal to produce 1 illustration a week for a year. This is hardly aggressive but given that I work full-time, run a household and run a business this seemed to be plenty and it was. It was challenging enough to find the creative energy to draw. Often times I was scrounging towards the end of a month to produce pieces so I could stay on track. Other times I wasn’t inspired at all.
You can view some of these on Instagram. More will be posted over the coming months.
What I learned most, is that illustration is difficult, frustrating as hell and fulfilling at the same time…and I can’t figure out why. I’ve walked away with a new appreciation for this form of art and I will probably continue learning and improving these skills over the coming year.
One of the things I really had to overcome was to stop comparing myself to people who have been illustrating for decades or even more than 3 years. It’s incredibly difficult NOT to compare yourself to others especially when you’re poking around looking for inspiration. You see all these incredibly detailed pieces and you try to replicate that work, fast. But, nothing comes fast in illustration. It takes time, hard work and dedication.
In 2020, I spent 75.75 hours drawing and about 40 hours on education through Skillshare, YouTube, and Udemy.
Here are some examples…
Designing Better Sites
I’ve spent the last two years really honing in on website design and while I have much to learn, there remains one constant. I’m getting better every day.
In 2020 I spent about 400 hours on-site design. It’s been a unique experience in that I’ve learned more about my creative weakness, emotional balance, and professional candor in 2020 than I have in the last 5 years combined. Maybe this is a slight overstatement, but my point is that you never truly know when you’re in the middle of massive growth until you’ve come out on the other side.
Here are some of my favorite designs this year. You can see more on my Instagram.
Focusing On Health
I lost 60 pounds in a little more than a year. This is a dramatic accomplishment that still requires more effort…and I completed my 3-mile virtual Shamrock Run which was a huge accomplishment in itself given my health scare (see bottom of this blog post).
I fight through physical nagging pain every day and sometimes, every step hurts but that can’t stop you from progress. At times, you have to learn to love the pain because on the other side of it is success.
Right now, I’m learning how to manage my calories by snacking on healthy foods throughout the day. One of the keys to success is to track everything and I use MyFitnessPal to do that because it makes things easier.
How it started vs how it’s going (60lbs later).
Slow progress but I’m trying. pic.twitter.com/HNxfGpOCbU
— Jason Wright (@thewrightjason) October 16, 2020
Connecting With People
Over the last year, I’ve continued to connect with people I never thought possible, but many things in life feel impossible especially if you’ve never tried. Some of the relationships I have, I value greatly and while one could exploit these connections, I do not. That’s probably because I look to gain nothing if not a new friend.
I’ve learned in life that power and position aren’t nearly as important as impact. The things I do today can leave an impact on people in a way that changes the course of their lives forever. It could be a conversation, a tweet, an Instagram post, or a video clip. Your stories matter to someone and if you impact one person you can change the world.
We see this all the time and your daily connections with people are where it starts.
Creating Viral Content
I had a few opportunities this year to build up more of an audience. Often times this was accomplished by posting responses to new Twitter threads within seconds of them getting created.
One of my pieces caught the attention of a small group of people. Here are some of the standout moments from the year.
I mean.. it holds stuff and that’s all it needs to do right?! No need to spend a ton of money on something to hold stuff. 😝😝
— MrsDrLupo (@MrsDrLupo) September 29, 2020
It would look like this 🤣🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/YyuHEEfpd3
— Jason Wright (@thewrightjason) August 11, 2020
— Tyler Schmitt (@tySchmitt5) January 12, 2020
I’m still learning about how to produce content people care about. A lot of it has to do with being at the right place at the right time.
The Brave Few Is Finished
This year marks the end of a 12-year journey. One that’s full of successes and failures. I finally edited and published all 12 episodes on our YouTube channel. It was only recently that I came to realize why it took me so long and, it’s because it signifies the end of a dream.
Working on films was my greatest dream and ultimate failure. It was a time in my life where I pushed hard to do more and be better, but I quit. A small amount of online bullying about my appearance, weight, and sexuality were enough for me to step away from the YouTuber world.
I had no support network, I had no friends and I had no cheerleaders in my life. It was just me. As negativity mounted and as I became increasingly irrelevant, I ended up quitting completely.
To read more about The Brave Few, see my other blog post.
…and you can watch the entire film here. Keep an eye out for new stuff in the future. At the very least, I have one documentary up my sleeve.
This past year I had the incredible opportunity to design a handful of logos which pushed my creative abilities to the limited. One of those was a logo design for a University of Arkansas football player.
I also created a few other logos for businesses. I went on a unique creative journey where I discovered new ways to approach difficult design challenges. This growth has led me to re-evaluate all of my design processes.
I overcame a shoulder injury lasting more than 12 months. I can’t explain where it came from, but in general, I was doing too much, again. So this past year was all about self-control, balance, and readjusting.
Through 6 months of physical therapy and aggressive REST, I finally recovered. While this might not seem like a big deal, it was to me because it was limited my quality of life and I will never take it for granted again.
Ever since I was a little kid I made the decision that I wanted to be “all-time great.” It’s taken me until now (age 37) to realize I already am. The reality is that only I can define greatness and to me, it’s about creating a legacy I’m proud of. It’s about creating an impact through my work and through my character. I’ve done that, without a doubt.
…and I’m just getting started. This is a beginning of a new era for me. My film has come to a close, old projects have been shuttered and other varying “to do’s” have been crossed off the list. So here I am, pushing forward into new territory because I don’t want to do the bare minimum. I want to be more and do more, forever.
In 2021 …
I’ll keep this short, but I want to learn more and do more creative work:
- Write a feature-length script.
- Continue illustrating (maybe at the same pace).
- Play with some Photoshop compositing. Something I’ve done before but is a relevant artistic skill.
- Get 1 commission for digital art…which is next to an impossible task, but we’ll see 🙂
- Produce a documentary around my life’s work up to this point.
- Paint a really good portrait.
- Design something for a big brand.
- Create a few pieces inspired by Pixar characters.
- Lose 100 pounds by the end of the year.
- Grow more of a following and connect with more cool people.
I think that’s everything, for now, 😀 … here’s to a positive and prosperous 2021. Be well and be kind.
Thank you for reading and you’ll be seeing more of me soon.