My son graduated from The Art Institute of Portland this past Friday the 16th. I really could not be more proud of him. Three years and one quarter after graduating from high school he has his Bachelor’s degree in a field he enjoys. That was my goal with him. To help him find the field of work he enjoys because if you don’t enjoy the work you do in life, life will be incredibly difficult. I know this for a fact. I’ve experienced far too much misery in my past work as an accountant and bookkeeper to know it as anything but the truth.
Before my son graduated from high school he originally thought about going into mechanical engineering at Portland State University. Then he took a pre-calculus class during his senior year and, while struggling through it, decided the engineering route may not be for him. At that point I asked him what he liked to do and to think about finding a career that would include it. He did some thinking about it and came back to me with the idea of going to the Art Institute for Game Art & Design.
I still remember taking him to the Art Institute to talk to an admissions counselor. I sat in the office with them and let him do all of the asking and talking. While I sat there I watched him completely light up while talking about designing and animating and all of the programs that he already had experience with. I knew in that moment that I had to figure out how to get him into that school.
As I’ve learned in life already, loving the work you do is important. We spend 40 hours a week, or more, making a living. Two hundred sixty days out of our year are affected by our work because a portion of those days are spent at work (if you work 5 days a week). That only leaves 105 days out of the year for doing the things you love. If you are unhappy those other 260 days out of the year, chances are you will be unhappy during those remaining 105 days, as well. So, it’s important to find the work you love. It’s, in my opinion, one of the only ways to be successful in life.
My life hasn’t been all that easy. I spent some time in the military shortly after high school, married very young, had my son at a very young age and did my best to support both of us when I finally left his father, as I received no financial help from his father while raising our son. I ended up working in fields I wasn’t at all interested in because I simply needed to work. I eventually found my way to college but took classes in something that came fairly easily to me knowing I would be able to make a fare amount of money to support my son and I. It wasn’t a field I was interested in at all. I was in it for the convenience of it. I did what I had to do to make sure my son had a roof over his head, clothes on his body and food in his belly. I held on to my pride during that time and only asked for assistance from the state for food a few months out of those 18 years.
Had I made different choices in my life things could have been different. But, I made those choices for a reason and I sit here today about to drown in debt from not only my own college education but also my son’s and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have been blessed with the lessons this life has taught me and with an amazing son who has taught me so much about life, creativity and the beauty of the human soul. For these lessons I am eternally grateful.
I am still searching for the work I love as I choose to put it off while I raised my son and made sure he was able to find his way in life. Now I have the opportunity to watch him enter into this new chapter in his life. A time that is filled with so many opportunities. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that he will be successful and happy in the field he has chosen. Which, by the way, changed from Game Art & Design to Media Arts & Animation while he was going to school because he felt that he had more opportunities with the latter. He is very smart, that one.
I can’t wait to see what comes next for him.
My son's animation reel!
Demo Reel - 2011 from Michael Jude Graham on Vimeo.