For today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we catch up with illustrator and cartoonist Amy Hwang.
Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?
I’m a project manager for the architecture department at Eileen Fisher. On the side, I draw cartoons for The New Yorker and have an Etsy shop that sells cat drawings and thank you cards for special needs teachers and therapists. I’m also a single mom to my 4 year-old daughter who is on the autism spectrum (hence, the special needs thank you cards).
I spend my time working, drawing, parenting, and trying to figure out what chores in my life I can outsource. When I have spare time from all of the above, I try to have a social life. Thankfully, my friends are as busy as I am.
I live in Westchester County, NY, but when I was in my 20s, I lived in Manhattan.
When you were in your 20s…
What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?
I hoped to live in a 1-bedroom apartment by age 30. This never happened.
In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?
The pressure to be financially self-sufficient was often at odds with the pressure to be in a job I enjoyed.
What was your first job like?
I worked in a small architecture firm in the Garment District. Every morning, I’d have an egg and cheese on a roll, and for lunch I’d go out and try not to spend more than $5. Other times, I was drafting architectural plans on the computer.
What was your first apartment like?
I lived in a studio in the West Village. It was tiny, but I always had a constant flow of house guests and friends visiting.
Did you experience any big life changes?
I didn’t change much throughout my 20s, but when I was 29 I decided to start submitting cartoons to The New Yorker. From that point on, I had a nonexistent social life because I no longer had free time.
In what ways did your friendships change?
They stayed about the same, though I suspect some were friends because they needed a place to stay when in town.
What did you learn through your romantic relationships?
It’s important to trust your gut rather than to rationalize your decisions.
How did your relationships with your family change?
My relationship with my parents stayed the same. With my sister, we grew closer because we realized we were the only ones who had the experience of having our parents as our parents.
How do you feel society viewed you?
I have no idea. I don’t think I ever cared.
How do you feel you changed emotionally?
I grew a thicker skin and became mellower.
How did you change intellectually?
I became less intellectual, if anything, though I did go through a month or two where I started doing the NY Times crossword puzzles.
In what ways do you feel your identity changed?
I’ve always been who I am, and in my 20s, I would say I changed very little.
How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?
My worldview was pretty set by the time I left college.
What was the most embarrassing moment?
I was at a dinner with friends and told a joke I couldn’t remember very well, so it came out unfunny because I said everything in the wrong order.
What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?
I don’t want to say my entire 20s was a disappointment, but I was fairly aimless and had no real goals for myself, personally or professionally. Now I’m more careful with how I prioritize people and things in my life. I try to make every minute count.
Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?
I lived across the street from the Corner Bistro, which is a cheap but good burger place. Often my friends and I would get our burgers take out (avoiding a potentially long wait for a booth), and eat on my roof deck. It was affordable and allowed us to feel we had something better than everyone else. This was my 20s – living paycheck to paycheck and trying to make my life feel richer than it was.
Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?
I don’t believe in regrets because you can gain insight from all the good or bad or inaction that occurs in life. But I probably could’ve done without the chorizo sausage I ate in Barcelona that gave me food poisoning.
Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?
Nope. Not much happened in my 20s. Ask me about my 30s, and I could write a few books. And I’m only 36!