In today’s Schoolin’ Life column, we catch up with illustrator and sequential artist Mildred Louis.
When you were in your 20s…
What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?
I was fully expecting to have my whole game together! I think growing up there was this idea that once you’re 20, you’re an official adult, and being an adult meant that everything was going to fall into place. Definitely didn’t work out that way though, hahaha.
In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?
I think I had a lot of skewed expectations of myself growing up. It took a whole lot of effort and work to rework how I saw myself and to detach the weird expectations I had being a WoC growing up in this society.
What was your first job like?
I worked at a bakery in a slightly well off part of the city. It was okay. In terms of first jobs, it was about as predictable as you can get. Getting by on tips with below minimum wage pay, a lot of intense people who want their coffee a very specific way and/or their cakes made immediately even though they put in the order last minute. It was… a learning experience for sure, hahaha.
What was your first apartment like?
My first apartment was at college and I didn’t even have a door for my bedroom! It was a complete stereotypical experience with three other roommates in a two-bedroom (and one office) apartment. We eventually became one of the party apartments on campus which was pretty cool and made for a lot of entertaining memories.
Did you experience any big life changes?
I feel like the answer to this question is kind of complicated. I did in some ways but not like as if there were any major moments that suddenly happened to trigger these changes. It was more like a number of things happening, me learning from them and subsequently growing and changing from them.
In what ways did your friendships change?
Being at the end of my 20s,my friendships have changed a lot. I used to be friends with a lot of people who just kind of fed off of my insecurities. I spent a lot of time trying to feel accepted by people that I ended up letting myself become attached to, people who, at the end of the day, really weren’t that good for me. On a brighter note, I have some of the absolute best friendships I could have ever imagined now in my life, so that was a major plus side!
What did you learn through your romantic relationships?
I learned to definitely not settle, hahahah! I thought I had incredibly high expectations for a very long time and dated some people who weren’t quite up to par. When you’re in college, there’s a lot of expectation and pressure to date and hook up with people, so you end up rolling into whatever to keep up with people around you.
How did your relationships with your family change?
We talk a whole lot more now than we used to. I think now that everyone’s grown up and doing their own thing, it’s easier for us to connect since we have a greater sense of independence.
How do you feel society viewed you?
In a lot of ways I felt invisible. It always seemed like there were a lot of attempts at erasing myself or my identities because I wasn’t packaged in the way that society was saying I should.
How do you feel you changed emotionally?
I’ve become significantly more secure in myself! I feel less like I need to go looking for someone to help fill a hole in me or to help reinforce how I feel.
How did you change intellectually?
I became a lot more aware of the things going on around me and even more aware of just how much I do not know.
In what ways do you feel your identity changed?
It became more secure and defined. I feel more like I’m me instead of being someone that I think a lot of people around me thought I was or expected me to be.
How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?
It’s become in a lot of ways more cynical but also weirdly stubbornly optimistic. Being so connected into the internet means that it’s hard to not be aware of the things going on not just in your own country but internationally as well. It’s hard not to feel like things are getting worse and worse because of it, but I think in a lot of ways, it’s caused me to feel very steadfast in holding on to hope that things can get better.
What was the most embarrassing moment?
Hahaha… I’ve had a lot of those but I’m not sure if I’m over them enough to share!
What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?
I don’t know if I had one singular experience was the biggest disappointment. But I think overall, they just taught me how to avoid being in those situations again
Who was your biggest influence and why?
I didn’t discover her until my slightly mid 20s but ever since then and to this day, it’s probably Janelle Monae. I just really admire how true to herself and her vision she is, as well as how incredibly aware of what kind of impact she can have on her surroundings she is. It’s something that I really hope to embody as I develop my career further.
Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?
I think there’s been a lot of moments that have happened. It’s like the world is finally at this point where we can’t actively sit and deny a lot of the travesties that are happening. The internet has made it hard to ignore and there’s active dialogue happening to hopefully try and change the current state of things.
Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently? You know, I was a person full of so much regret for so much of my life but I’ve finally gotten to this point where I’ve accepted the things that have happened and, in some really weird way, am grateful that I went through them. I don’t know how things could have been any different but I do know that what I went through got me to where I am today.
Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?
Oh boy… I feel like there are a lot of things that have defined the last decade. I mean, the decade has had events spanning from the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement to the Curiosity landing. This decade has been full of incredibly impactful events that I’m not sure you could boil it down to one single story.