409: Drawing Ourselves “Alive” (Tillie Walden)

                “The message of the comic doesn’t really feel right anymore (I need people) but I appreciate the positivity.” -Tillie Walden introducing “Alive,” a comic she drew years earlier, in Alone in Space: A Collection

                “Alive” tells the story of a young woman, alone in a spaceship, whose job is to repair complicated machinery. And she loves that life. As Walden playfully acknowledges how that expertise and isolation were once alluring, and aren’t any more (“I need people”), I’m struck by how making a way of life (through art) can also mean making a “way” that you later realize is not your way. How drawing a path can also be discovering the way you will not walk.
                Sometimes, for me, that’s been dangerous. I get enamored of how I said something, how I described it—if I could draw that path, then of course I should walk it, right? Walden teaches me again here: I love her soft kindness, her “appreciation,” in dealing with the past self who wrote this comic. Instead of getting worked up about the difference between the way of life she imagined then, and the one she imagines for herself now, she notices the differences while leaving gentle room for a was, an is, and growth between them. That’s something I want to practice. For example, when I was young—eleven, maybe—I dealt with some of my loneliness by pretending I wanted to be an outsider (I’d just read S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, after all!). Silly, you could say. Counterproductive, absolutely. But also an attempt to understand and find balance, an attempt in its own strange way to connect, and I appreciate the care that was in my loneliness, the attempt to imagine my way into a being that felt closer. I appreciate drawing the paths: the ones I hope to walk, the ones I don’t.

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