[Originally posted in the July 18th edition of my weekly email]
I don’t really go back and read my older books too often. Not because I’m embarrassed by the work, more so that it becomes easier to see the mistakes you made and missed opportunities. Sometimes, looking back at your older work can put a big spotlight on who you were and it can be uncomfortable to read.
Recently, I’ve been starting to reread my own stuff for this very reason. To look back at mistakes I’ve made, take note of them, and work to improve them. I look at things I would do differently if given the chance and keep that in mind moving forward. For example, if I were to redo Clusterf@#k, I would likely save the vampire gang for the second volume. At the time, I didn’t know if I’d ever make another comic so I crammed it all into one book but I’d probably do it differently now. They would probably still have a cameo to set up for their inevitable story, but they would’ve left after Issue #3. It would have given the D.E.P.D. story more room to breathe and I could have fleshed out more of the vampire gang in their own volume. Breaking it down like that helps me remember to try to give my stories room to breathe and not cram every single thing I want into the book. It’s something I keep in mind moving forward.
I also look at life in a similar way. I reflect back on things I’ve done or experienced and try to learn from them. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to look back and see mistakes you made, but being able to break it down and learn from it has so many benefits. It can help to go back and see friendships where there were tons of red flags you missed in the moment which you can be mindful of. Or times where you said something thoughtless and hurt someone that you can make sure not to repeat.
That doesn’t mean wallow in bitterness or live in the past, but look at them with a desire to learn from them. Ask questions about why certain things happened and be honest with yourself. One thing I had to realize from my memories of Japan was how I failed to establish clear boundaries with people. I let people talk to me in ways that I wouldn’t have allowed in the US and I didn’t let people know when they crossed a line. I can’t really be super upset because I let them and I didn’t shut it down the first time. So moving forward, I’ve made a resolve to be more clear in where the line is and vocal about when people cross it. It may make people uncomfortable, but they will respect my boundaries if they respect me.
It’s hard for me to completely explain but a big part of therapy has been looking back and gaining context to events that help give a better understanding of the how and why. Once you learn from it, you can adjust and not repeat those mistakes.
There may be discomfort at seeing who you were, but it pales in comparison to the reward of gradually becoming who you were meant to be.