I missed a party tonight. But I’ve missed a lot of parties. And a lot of time, when I talk about sacrifice, you’d think all I’m talking about is missing out on a few drinks with friends. And for most people, that’s the beginning and end of sacrifice. Most of our lives are constructed around the philosophy of accumulation. Wealth, friends, girlfriends, contacts, contracts, comics and success. We always want more. After awhile of wanting it for so long, we even believe we deserve more. And then we eventually believe, we have a right to it. When all the things we believe we should have, aren’t ours already, we hate ourselves. I don’t got a problem with hate, but hate based on a false sense of self-importance, is just another way of being full of shit. When you recognize that there’s a price to be paid for all the things you want, and that price isn’t just money or time, but even your own self-worth, then your own self hate just turns into another way to keep going.
I am frequently lonely, depressed, angry and filled with hate. I can feel it in my throat sometimes, like I’m gonna well up and start bawling on the street, or just start choking someone. But who’s there to choke, I don’t blame any one for my life, and when I was a teenager, I just thought about killing myself for awhile. Took me til the end of college to actually get help, but there’s only so much to be done. I am unable to be happy, it’s not even something I aim for or want, because the sacrifices in my life aren’t just mine, but stretch back a generation.
When I look at my work, the fact that I draw comics for a living (for now), I’m incredibly grateful, but more so, I’m responsible. I can look at my parent’s lives, and see for every step they took forward, they lost something irretrievable. My mother lost her teaching position in Cuba for saying Jose Marti was more important to Cuban history than Fidel Castro. My father spent 10 years of his life in Cuban prison for selling fruit on the black market. My mother developed schizophrenia after having 4 kids. My father lost access to my siblings and me when they separated due to her illness. My mother became homeless. My parents are in their sixties now, after all that, I make a decision on a Sunday night, to not go to a party. All the things I want, I realize I’ll be paying for, for my entire life.
I look at comics as a luxury job. But like any luxury, it has a high price. It means that when I’m depressed, I still gotta draw. It means when I’m lonely, I still gotta draw. It means when I’m horny, I still gotta draw. You lose girlfriends, you lose regular friends, you make plans and break them, you tell your own parents that you can only stay one night before going back to work, you miss your family, you miss your friends, you lose your health, you lose your weekends, you miss beautiful days where people say “You gotta go outside,” and all those things always seem so small at the time. After a while though, you start feeling like you’re just missing having any joy in your life whatsoever. But its still a luxury, because it’s a choice, and my parents didn’t have a choice. It means that I don’t have a choice to fail. Being poor doesn’t just mean you lift yourself up by your bootstraps, it means those boots have gotta last long enough to support 3 generations. Being poor isn’t simply a lack of wealth, but a lack of choices. I’m still poor, but I’m paying off a debt to my parents. I’ll always pay it off, cause I want my future kid to not have to pay off anything to me. For him or her, they’ll have more choices.
Not only will they be able to choose whatever career they want, they’ll be able to choose to be happy as a life goal. When you want something for so long, you believe you deserve it, you believe you have a right to it. What I want is a freedom from poverty, and the pursuit of happiness, but not for myself, but for my future children. People laugh or make jokes when I say I believe in the American Dream, but they don’t know what it means half the time. Because the things I want, that my parents wanted for me, are just basic human rights. And it’s all academic theory for most people, they don’t got no context to understand that the dream isn’t something you do while you sleep, but when you’re fighting. They draw a comic, and they don’t see that they just drew with their own hands, the roof over their head and the food in their stomach. To most people, it’s not a luxury to draw comics, because it’s not a luxury for them to have rights. That shit is just normal. Its not a luxury to go to college, or travel the world. I still haven’t left the country, and people hear this and act like I’m just another dumb American. Well, I am. I’m another dumb American who’s a son of immigrants who can’t afford to leave. You have the right to go wherever you please, and for most people, it’s not a luxury to go build schools in a third-world country, and then come back and be a smart American.
I was given the world, I didn’t make it, and all I wanna do is entertain it. I pay a price to be my own boss, make my own hours, tell my own stories, wake up whenever I damn please. At the end of the day, I don’t ever feel satisfied, because I don’t feel like I deserve it, because I don’t feel like I have the right to it, because at 27 my father just regained his freedom, and in her thirties, my mother lost hers. You’ll trade your freedom for security in a second, if there’s a gun to your head, and fuck Ben Franklin for saying who deserves what. It can all just be taken away, and so I don’t care about being happy now, I just don’t want to be homeless.
This article previously appeared on Think Faest