For the past 6 months Emma’s life has been a stagnant pool of water - still, static and stationary. Actually, it is moving. It is changing, but ever so slowly and slightly that you hardly believe it is. As the sun comes up and goes down, her fingernails grow 0.1 millimetre, about 50-70 billion cells die in her, and she gets older each day by the law of nature. However, Emma is stuck, stuck in the heavy, thick, muddy water that clings up to her chest. It is so draining, the water slowly drains her spirit out of her pores and constantly feeds the dull pain in her chest and makes her immovable.
Emma craves for a change. A movement. A flow.
Once someone said, ‘It is pain that changes people.’ It is true; pain is a great force that moves water and creates waves, even tsunami. Emma’s friend, Annabelle, was cheated on by her boyfriend of 10 years. She dumped him, moved abroad, lost weight, changed how she dresses, then met her now-girlfriend and moved in with her, and they are now talking about adopting a baby. Emma is not looking for that much change, but some change, or any change.
She looks down at the water that surrounds her and asks, ‘Am I not suffering enough?’
At the same time, however, she feels compulsive comfort in her familiar flat haunted by the ghost past. The flat is filled with 3-year worth of memories with her ex. She really should move out the old shell. But, in a quiet sunny afternoon or in a warm summer dusk, alone in her or their flat, she can hear the soft whisper of sweet memories. Emma’s brain knows that she has to get out of her comfort zone to the vast, unfamiliar sea of infinite possibilities. But her heart tells her otherwise.
About a year ago, I’ve started this illustration-writing project called Emma to deal with my post-breakup emotions. Now looking back all these stuff I drew and wrote, I must say that I feel profoundly proud of myself to realise how far I’ve come. I’m definitely in a better, if not perfect, place than where I was 12 months ago.
One of my challenges I set to myself after my self-esteem was crippled by the breakup was to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. It ranged from making calls rather than texts/emails and learning how to make French macarons to going to a country I’d never been and joining online dating sites. The results were varied, but it didn’t matter. The process matters more than the outcome, I believe.
Actually, the most nerve-racking thing I did last year was to take a part in a picture book masterclass camp in a remote Spanish village with award-winning illustrators (Alexis Deacon, Benji Davies, Chris Haughton and Jorge Martin). All participants, except me, were published or experienced and undoubtedly talented illustrators/artists. I knew I was getting myself into something out of my depth and I was worried that I might make fool of myself and feel miserable. However, the seven days with those amazing people in the amazing place turned out to be one of the best experience in my life. I’m not just talking about creative aspect, but also personal aspect. For the first time in the 6 months, I totally forgot about the heartache and the ghost of the past. It was so liberating and I was truly happy without trying. From the moment, something snapped inside me. I came back to London, feeling like a reborn child.
I chose this image as the last piece of this Emma story. I didn’t write any accompany text because this is my story and I don’t know the ending yet. Also, I wanted to leave it for people, who have been through the similar situations, to create own interpretations.
The hardest thing I faced last year was ‘letting go’. To be honest with you, I still haven’t fully managed it. I still think about him occasionally, if not everyday. It doesn’t cause me bitter feelings any more but it still brings a pang in my chest. I hope one day I can let go of the fish I loved to the bone and find a new one. I guess only the future-me would know the ending.
You can see the completed Emma zine project here. Hope you like it 🙂