For today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we get to know cartoonist Julia Wertz.
When you were in your 20s..
What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?
None. I had no expectations for myself or my life in my 20’s because I was really just living day to day. I was constantly surprised by any successes I had; none of them were what I would call “planned.” But most of the things I did were unexpected and caught even me by surprise, like moving to New York or becoming a cartoonist. They were very sudden, impulsive choices and were not part of my plan at all, although I didn’t really have a plan. I found that if I didn’t have any expectations, I was alright with whatever happened. There was nothing to be disappointed by since I didn’t expect anything. I still operate that way.
In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?
I’ve always felt slightly at war with society and its expectations of me, as a woman. Like I said, I didn’t really have expectations of myself, but I certainly can’t deny that there are societal standards for women, and everyone really, such as the basics of being in a relationship, having a steady job, having kids, etc…I’m 32 and have gotten along fine, and happily, without those things. Luckily, we’re living in a time when going against the norm is becoming normal, and those old standards are fading. It’s not so weird anymore to have an unsteady job past your 20’s, or to decide not to have kids. Going against the grain is more acceptable now, but I’d still be doing it even if it wasn’t.
What was your first job like?
My first real job was when I was 16. I washed dishes and then waited tables at a pizza parlor in my hometown. My first job in my 20’s was the same- waitressing at a pizza parlor in San Francisco. I was an excellent waitress but I hated the job. My first non-waitressing job was being a cartoonist, which I started doing professionally at age 25. I still do that job, and I work from home, which is great, but it’s also the fastest way to drive yourself crazy. I worry constantly that I won’t be able to maintain it and will have to go back to waiting tables, because that’s all I’m qualified to do. I have no computer or people skills, so if I can’t keep making it as a cartoonist, then I’m fucked.
What was your first apartment like?
My first apartment was an in-law unit on the outskirts of San Francisco. I had two dude roommates; one was a hippie pothead musician and the other was a straight-laced business major. I only lived there for nine months until I found a studio because I can’t live with other people. Not because of them; I’m just a terrible roommate because I hate sharing my space or being inconvenienced by someone else in my personal space in any way. If I’m not fucking someone, I do not want to live with them.
Did you experience any big life changes?
Being diagnosed with systemic lupus in my early 20’s was huge. I was really sick for a long time grappled with being told my disease was chronic and incurable. It’s probably the reason I didn’t create any plans or expectations for myself, since being sick derailed me for awhile. After that, I just kinda went with whatever was happening or whatever crazy idea I had. Moving to New York was also a huge and very impulsive change. I was planning on leaving San Francisco but staying on the West Coast and almost overnight, I just decided to go to NYC for no reason. But coming here has helped shape my career in a way I’m not sure I could have done on the West Coast.
What did you learn through your friendships and romantic relationships?
The biggest thing I learned is to trust my instincts. If you suspect someone isn’t trustworthy, that’s not coming out of nowhere.Listen to that suspicion and proceed carefully. Also, people I was interested in during my 20’s are very different than people I’m interested in my 30’s, so I’m glad none of my relationships from my 20’s lasted. People change a lot during that decade; it’s good to let yourself grow and change.
How do you feel you changed emotionally?
Part of my 20’s was spent learning how to actually feel my emotions instead of push them aside. “Feelings aren’t facts” is an important phrase I learned, meaning just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true. Feelings aren’t concrete, and they will fade or change soon, so there’s no reason to be afraid of them.
In what ways do you feel your identity changed?
I don’t think it really did. I’ve kind of been the same person for forever. I’ve never really had a “crisis of identity” or been unsure of my opinions and tastes. I’ve definitely changed opinions after further educating myself in certain issues, but I’m always felt very confident with my identity. I’m not always happy with it, but I’m confident in it.
How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?
I became a lot more aware of how many political and cultural things are pure bullshit. I always suspected that as a teen, but I didn’t really have the education or tools to back it up, but in my 20’s I had more time to research, look into things, and affirm that suspicion.
What was the most embarrassing moment?
Probably the time I drank a bottle of whiskey and crashed my friends car into an outhouse while on a camping trip. Then I ran off and hid in the woods for an hour.
Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?
Quitting drinking was the most defining experience I had in my 20’s. I became a lot more open to the world and people and I softened up a lot (in a good way).
Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?
Not really. It’s cheesy to say, but all things that could be chalked up as regrets are just part of becoming who you are and learning valuable life lessons. So I don’t really regret anything.