Updated: Jan 11
I had just moved back to the States from Tokyo. I said goodbye to fresh sushi at a reasonable price from a convenience story and clean public transportation that rarely arrived early (seriously DC, what is that about...how do you plan for a metro arriving/leaving the station....early?) I found myself, not only in the middle of an international move, but also in the midst of a career transition. I had left the Navy in 2018, to prove myself to the world that I was more than a uniform, more than a rank. I had moved to Costa Rica, in pursuit of coffee dreams and beautiful weather. I took this coffee dream back to Tokyo winter of 2018 and finally, after a year of grinding, selling coffee, modeling, and working at a cafe, I realized that it may be time to head back "home" for a spell.
That's where my head was at when I drew this piece. "Standards," if you will. If you won't theres the door. I felt a lot of pressure, financially, to figure my life out, NOW. I'd been told my entire adult life that I graduated from one of the best institutions known to man. I had led young sailors "into harms way" across the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. I had been to over 15 countries, lived in three continents, and seen the ocean on a pitch-black night, with no moon, no starts, nothing but the sound of the ocean crashing off the bow of the ship. In the purest essence of the word, I was, on paper, "prepared" to take on the world. But I can almost promise you that a career in the Navy, 10 years given can barely equip anyone for a successful creative career. And, ladies and gentlemen, was what I had signed up for.
It would have been easy if I had just decided to work as a manager in some office, doing god knows what and "winning" in life. But, fortunately, by 29 I "knew" myself, as much as any 29 year old can. No, I had my eyes set on a creative career and I would be damned if I fell short of that. No matter the cost, no matter the challenge. Well, its true, fortune DOES favor the bold, and boy did I consider myself bold. What I wasn't prepared for though, was how spending nearly a decade with firm rigid salutes, unquestionable service, and dedication to cause (or country depending on your viewpoint) had melded me into this stiff persona, who's childlike, youthful, loving, and free personality I had thrown overboard somewhere between San Diego and Yokosuka. "How can I untangle these mental pathways, how do I undue years of conditioning and obeying orders, how can I be me, fuck, who is me?"
I sat at the infamous (to me) starbucks in Pentagon City with my boy Dustin the barista and pondered on my existence (shocker). The more I tried to figure out who this new, post-military Mario was and would be, the more I realized just how entangled I had become up until that point. And as I began drawing this piece, it was almost as if those negative emotions one is conditioned to love and NEED in the service flowed from wherever in my brain they hid, through my arm and into the paper (its digital, so obvs not actual paper).
To me this piece is of course about being placed in a box. Obviously. But its more than just having to subscribe to standards. Something I've realized recently is that its not just society's box that we find ourselves in sometimes. It's our friends' boxes, our partner's box, our family's box, and, most insidious, our own box. Truth be told, at this stage in my life I didn't love myself.
I mean, sure, I didn't actively NOT love myself, but, man, everything I did had to be PERFECT. I had to be the strongest, the sexiest, the weirdest (i know man, i know, doesn't make sense), the funniest, WHATEVER. And, anytime I was sub-perfect or felt that someone was somehow better than me, I instantly became the JUDGE AND the VICTIM. I hated myself because I wasn't (X), and felt at the same time shame for that same lack of (X).
One can imagine the anxiety and insecurity that can arise from so much "self-hate." I thought thats what was needed to be successful, that drive, that NEED for competition, that CERTAINTY of victory and conquest. Well, I'm turning 31 in a few weeks, and I haven't figured life out anymore than whoever reading this has, but I have figured one thing out. If that kind of anxiety inducing self hate is what's needed to get to the top, then this life is way too short for me to give a fuck about any of that.
I always used to hear that the best relationship you can ever have is with yourself, and I really used to think that was all b.s.. Well, I'm here to tell you, two things. The first, is that this post went longer and quote unquote deeper than I intended haha, lets get a joke in here to lighten the mood. "Politics." Ok, the second thing I want to say is that, (and I'm borrowing this from the great Thich Nhat Hanh) the same way trash can be turned into compost, something beautiful, and useful for a beautiful flower, anxiety and insecurity can be used to identify where it may be that you don't love yourself, and can be turned into a beautiful form of CONSCIOUS self love.
Well then folks, if you took anything away from this much longer than anticipated post, its that you're beautiful, fuck standards, and you're doing great. (excuse me as I dismount this high horse). And folks, please, don't be like Bojack. UNLESS, you want to have a dope house full of dope artwork, in which case you should consider checking out my shop where you can get this print, and others like it (that are perhaps less spiritually engaging if that's too much energy for a Sunday night). Until next time my loves.