Tagged: Melbourne

Schoolin’ Life: Ariel Ries

In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we meet animator Ariel Ries.

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Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

I’m a 21-year-old animation student by day, creator of the webcomic “Witchy” by night. I’m from Australia but I’m into my second year of living and studying in Denmark at the moment. In all likelihood, I’ll be living here for another two years.  I draw a lot, watch cartoons a lot, and cook a lot.

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

My 9 year (number of years until I’m 30) plan at the moment is: finish school, get a storyboarding job in LA, live there for somewhere between 2-5 years, either build a big enough audience that I can just make comics and live off my patreon, or be well known enough that I can get a steady stream of freelance and move back to my hometown, Melbourne, Australia (while working on comics on the side!). Hopefully it’ll work out.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

Most of my personality crisis happened in my late teens. I was a mixed, white/Southeast Asian confused about my sexuality and how I should label myself in a whole bunch of ways. I had an athletic, bulky body, brown skin, and a big chin, and the only Asian women I ever saw in media were wispy, pale-skinned east asians. many people told me I wasn’t “Asian enough” but my appearance prevented me from ever feeling “white enough” or “feminine enough,” too. Learning about intersectional feminism has helped me so much. Learning about the social constructs of gender has helped me shed doubt about myself and learn to be proud of every part of myself, be it queer, Asian, masculine, or feminine.

I’m thankful that I never had to have this same problems with my career goals. I’ve been interested in art since I was 8 and my parents supported me wholeheartedly in my ambitions. I’m friends with a lot of people with very healthy views about art, authenticity, and the toxic opinions about artists held by people both inside and outside the animation industry.

What was your first job like?

My first long-ish term job was at an art supply chain store, and it was like working for Big Brother. The head office would send in people disguised as shoppers to spy on us, we had to up-sell everything, and we went through about 1 manager every 6 weeks because the bosses blamed the company’s performance on the workers, rather than, say, bad business decisions. We had to stalk everyone in the shop and ask if they needed any help constantly. It was definitely aggravating for the customers, but it was part of the business’s employee protocol. I hated a lot of it, but at least it taught me how to talk to strangers!

What was your first apartment like?

I’m still living in my first apartment and hearing horror stories from other people makes me feel blessed about the roommates I share it with. Rural(ish) Denmark is a great place to have a first apartment because you have easy access to cute furniture and all the apartments are super charming.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Well, I uprooted my entire life in Australia to study in Denmark, so that’s a pretty big one. I do occasionally feel homesick, and I do miss my friends and family a lot, but my friends here are cool too and I consider myself a pretty well adapted expat. the fact that everyone here speaks perfect English makes living here a lot easier.

If all goes to plan too, I’ll be living in LA in a few years. I visited LA earlier this year and I’m not gonna lie, I don’t love it, but I have good friends there and at least you can actually get good Asian food, which is almost non-existent in Denmark.

In what ways did your friendships change?

It’s very hard maintaining long distance friendships, especially when you have at least 10 friends that you wish you could keep in contact with. The time zone in Denmark is almost the reverse of Melbourne time, so I can only Skype people on the weekends, and there’s only about 5 hours in which I can call people! It blows. That’s not to say all my friends have forgotten about me, when I was back home in the summer everything with my best friends clicked perfectly back into place, so I’m lucky that way. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could be there for my friends though.

How did your relationships with your family change?

Since I’ve moved out, it’s a lot easier to deal with my mother. She’s super dependent on me and my sister for self-worth, and I think having both of us out of the house will help her to find fulfillment and self-worth elsewhere. so, less of a relationship change, more of a dynamic change. I think me and my dad’s relationship  has improved actually. I probably talk to him more now that i set aside an hour a week to talk to him and mum. he’s worked 9-6 my whole life so I didn’t see much of him when I was back home. hopefully our relationships will continue to head along this path!

As for my sister, I think we’ll just miss each other. we get along super well but we’re both busy people and that’s hard when you’re 30 hours apart.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

i don’t know how much my worldview will change in the next decade. When you’re a world builder, you naturally learn a lot about economics, people, and the structure of societies. I take a vested interest in social justice and the progression of humanity. I’m cautiously optimistic about our ability to overcome the climate crisis, the cannibalistic nature of capitalism as we know it, and the bigotry of the privileged. I only hope that in time I will become more optimistic, not pessimistic.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

Thankfully, I haven’t arrived at this point yet, but I just assume it will be something job related.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

I can’t say he’ll remain my biggest influence, but we had a teacher last year named Mike Nguyen. I’ve always valued being sincere in my work, and when he lectured us on the importance of authenticity when creating something, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. He told us that as long as our art is honest, it will resonate with others. Hearing an industry veteran say something like that helped me believe there was a place for someone with sensibilities like mine.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

I mean, I’m still kind of hoping that one day a talking animal is going to give me a magic wand and tell me I’m a magical girl, but I’ve seen enough anime to know how that can go wrong.

Schoolin’ Life: Jen Breach

In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we chat with writer and business analyst Jen Breach.

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Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

I‘m a 35 year-old Australian living in Brooklyn.  I’m a writer – picture books and graphic novels – and have a day job as a business analyst for systems implementation projects at Barnard College.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

Oof.  So many.  I truly thought that by 30, I would have a PhD in archaeology and my first novel published.  I was raised with very unhealthy ideas about achievement and perfection.  When I did get to 30, I had an abandoned master’s program and I’d not even finished, let alone pitched or published a book.  Although I understood intellectually that it was okay not have met those unrealistic expectations, I still felt like a failure.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I completely internalized the idea that young women should be pretty, quiet and compliant. How destructive is that?  Those were expectations I could meet, though.  For all the world, I seemed at ease but my own skin grated against me like sandpaper. Oh, to cause a ruckus.

What was your first job like?

I’ve always worked.  I can’t even remember what the first one was. Cleaning houses with my brother?  Or ironing business shirts for a neighbor? It was certainly shitty and poorly paid ☺

What was your first apartment like?

Apartments aren’t common in Australia.  Most students and young people will live in a standalone multi-bedroom family home, sharing with other students. The first place I lived out of my parents’ house was a cute-as-a-button pale yellow weatherboard cottage in a Greek-and-Italian neighborhood in Melbourne. The whole bit: rose garden out the front, concrete back yard with a huge old nectarine tree that the nonna next door would precariously climb the fence to steal from.   I shared the house with an alcoholic, a narcissist and a film student bodhran player.  The arrangement fell apart is a spectacular way after two years but when I think back on it, the sun is shining on that house and the yellow looks lovely against a bright blue sky.

The first true apartment I had was in the East Village when I moved to NYC at 30.  It was a third floor walk up, the smallest space I have ever occupied and completely awesome.

How did your relationships with your family change?

At 19, I came out as bisexual to my parents.  Their response was a quoted bible passage and then we didn’t speak for six years.  It was catastrophic. When we did speak again we didn’t have a single conversation about the estrangement. It took me another nine years for me to talk about it with them and to understand that while ideally a parent will love their child, it’s not always true.

The change, in all its big and tiny ways, was understanding and accepting that the fantasy that mine could be a close, loving, nurturing family was impossible.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I grew up in rural Australia in the 80s.  While Australia is a wealthy, educated Western country, attitudes are still very provincial, especially out of the cities.  I did not even entertain the idea that I was attracted to women until I moved to the city for college at 18.  Understanding that I was bi was like wearing a bespoke suit after two decades of ill-fitting hand-me-downs.  When my parents saw my new suit and disowned me, I was really lost. In some ways I am oddly grateful for that catastrophe – it galvanized the way I saw myself. if I’d paid that enormous, painful price to understand and live my sexual identity, it didn’t make sense to be half assed about it.

The other change in identity came much later in my 20s when I shifted perspective from “I want to be a writer” to “I am a writer”.  I went to the Emerging Writer’s Festival in Melbourne one sunny cold early winter day and had my idea of what it means to be a writer turned completely on its head. I had thought that it meant you had to be published, you had to make a living off it, you had to be a bestseller – you had to have soaring achievement that proves your “claim”.  None of that is true.  You’re a writer if you say so.  I can’t remember the first time I actually said it out loud, but in my imagination I am timidly squeaking with a grimace and an apology.   In the States I see people way more comfortable with calling themselves a writer, or illustrator, or designer or game maker – which is right.  There’s a greater acceptance here of creative pursuit and activity, that you’re a professional if you say so regardless of how you pay your bills. In Australia creative pursuit is a hobby, not a career, especially in comics.  It’s not true though – if you write, you’re a writer.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

I don’t go in for regret. Aren’t we all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got in front of us?  So how can a choice be wrong?  There are always reasons – good or otherwise – for our choices, actions, or lack there of.  Of course, some choices are bad and we misconstrue some reasons as excuses.  But unless we know we are acting intentionally cruelly or unreasonably or evilly, then we could all stand to be a little kinder to ourselves about our choices and cut ourselves a break.

There’s such a disconnect between what we think a thing is and what it actually turns out to be.  We make decisions based on what we know, what we feel and what we can imagine, not on the actual, real future outcome of a choice.  How can we?  If it turns out to be a bad choice then we have more information to work on to make new choices – either with forward momentum or backwards reflection to make amends for past wrongdoing.
Regret is an inability to see the threads of one’s life and an inability to act without shame or ego in the face of our own less-than-ideal choices.  Conscious action of this kind is the hardest thing in the world to do, but it’s a better place to put energy than in regret.