Aside from working on the script, I haven't worked on the comic in two months. That said, this has been for fairly productive reasons that I hope will result in more time to work on the comic long term. In May I shared with my employer that I planned to leave my position mid-July. I gave eight weeks of notice as I am not immediately moving onto something with urgency. However, for some time I have struggled to find genuine fulfillment in my work as a recruiter and finally reached a point where I felt ready to make a change.
My plans are still coming together, but I have a rough sense of what I would like to happen. First, I am not looking to jump into another job immediately. I plan to take some time off and evaluate when I am ready to take on a part-time position to help keep us afloat financially. I am also currently applying to an online Library & Information Science masters program. My parents each served as librarians for over 30 years, and in considering where I have found the most fulfillment in my (non-art) career thus far, it has been in organizing information, creating systems, and helping people navigate them. Once I've found a rhythm with school, my ideal part-time position might be shelving books at a local library or serving as a cataloging clerk. Outside of that, I hope to have more bandwidth and energy to devote to the graphic novel as well as some commissions that I have not been able to take on.
For a long time, I felt that I had two options for work. Either I commit to a day job that offers me benefits, a salary, and financial security, at the expense of my capacity to do art on the side. Or I resume what I had been doing before that: a part-time position with unpredictable hours, no benefits, but more time for art; essentially I saw this as assuming the "starving artist" state where one scraps together income to stay afloat. There seemed to be a third option, in which I force commissions and original artwork sales to be my core source of income, but I cannot imagine putting that much pressure on those sources of comfort and passion and living with that much risk in ever-fluctuating markets for the arts. This has become especially clear in the last year. For a while I considered whether the graphic novel was a possible exit strategy – perhaps if I could get some traction with a book, then it would justify leaving my full-time job? – but again, placing that much pressure on something that has only ever been a cathartic and personal effort just didn't feel right either.
It was only recently that I started thinking about whether there is a middle ground. Perhaps there was a profession and opportunity that would not result in 50-hour work weeks and 15 hours of commuting weekly, but with a stable salary, benefits, and a set of responsibilities that I would enjoy. I don't know why it took me so long to seriously consider libraries, but the instant I started thinking it over, I felt a shock of realization and relief and I could start to imagine other parts of my future coming together. It also feels like an opportunity to continue a family legacy that I've always been proud of.
I am very excited to dive back into drawing the graphic novel once I depart. Lately I have spent my weekends preparing materials for my grad school application and hope to have that submitted by next weekend, and then will wait and see about acceptance from there.
It is a very hard decision to resign after over five years at my current workplace, because I love the people at my current job and will miss them very much, and it means letting go of a version of my future that I had become familiar with over time. Leaving can be so bittersweet. But it is also healthy for me to feel optimistic about my future, so I'm trying to focus on embracing that.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based in Mansfield, MA.