It's finally beginning to register - very, very slowly. It's going to be unbearable when the full weight of it sinks in. I already feel lonelier than I have in years, and I know this is just the tip of the iceberg. FT didn't help me work out my problems. It just kept me distracted for a while, and now I'm even deeper in the hole.
It meant so much to me at one point, is this all it amounted to? Something I could hardly wait to finish because it was so frustrating? Disgust that I couldn't have done better? What happened to the last four years? I don't remember anything important. Maybe nothing important actually happened.
My apartment's almost exactly the same as it was four years ago. I didn't have a purpose then. And then for a while, I had a purpose, no matter how stupid and worthless. And now I don't have a purpose again. And all I have to show for all the anger, all the frustration, are some fragments of memory that don't mean a hell of a lot of anything. All that work and effort, for a takeaway I don't even understand.
One difference is that my apartment is emptier now. A lot of the things I still use for FT I've used since day one - my drawing board, my scanner - while others - the DVDs I used to watch while I did the strip, my original Wacom tablet, all of the books I bought hoping in vain they'd help me improve somehow - are gone. In a way, having thrown out all that stuff makes me feel like I've thrown away part of my memories of FT.
I have a real hard time letting go of things. Sometimes I even get serious pangs of nostalgia over games I played in the past. But this is different. It's bigger, and at the same time smaller. A game is a brief, focused, intensely colored experience. In a way, it leaves a stronger imprint than something you live with day in and day out for years on end.
I can remember many of the dozens of games I played and the movies I watched over the last four years. But I can't remember all the pages of FT, or even very many of them. Only bits and pieces, mostly of times NEAR when I was working on FT, most of them from early on in the strip (I think), and only rarely of when I was working on the actual pages themselves.
I remember coming home from school when I was at Mira Costa, dead tired, getting a nap on the couch and then working on the page straight through until 3 or 4 AM. I remember nearly memorizing the dialogue from Chobits and Ai Yori Aoshi, and the commentary tracks from Fight Club and the Kevin Smith movies. (Those are all gone now.) I remember having class at the crack of dawn after nights like those, and limping into the library afterward to crash on the comfy chairs downstairs. I remember driving to the supermarket and listening to the Xenosaga soundtrack. I remember leaving the door open summer nights while watching all that anime, trying to stay cool enough to keep working. I remember listening to an interview with some actor from the Simpsons while I shaded the Nyr Candela page, and I remember hearing some English politician blow up at a BBC interviewer after the elections there in spring 2005, while I shaded a page with Mika and Evan talking in Nyr Mara after the confrontation with Sydney in the shop. I remember laughing while I played Oblivion and listened to the Digital Strips guys unload on FT, in a podcast with audio so terrible it made mine sound like they're produced by Leo Laporte himself.
So you see, I do have a lot of memories, but most of them aren't of working on FT, and they don't form the kind of comforting net I'd like to have to encapsulate this time of my life. I should have kept a journal. I haven't gone back and read the comment posts lately, but I suspect they'll only patch the fringes of the gaping holes in my memory. Even the mundane, stupid details are worth writing down somewhere, if not necessarily in public, because some day down the road they'll be more important to me than they are at the time.
It would be nice if I believed things will get better from here, but I don't. Back when I started FT, I had opportunities: I could have tried to get the most out of my college years. I'd have failed, but it was an opportunity. I also had an opportunity to create something great. That was the opportunity I chose, and I failed at that too. Now I am just months away from a profoundly useless degree and a career that will probably begin, and end, at McDonald's.
And in three months from now, any progress I've made as a result of working on FT will have evaporated. Because even if I do start another site, I wouldn't be stupid enough to commit to something like FT again, and that's the only way I'd ever keep drawing enough to maintain any ability at all. After that, I'll be completely devoid of merit altogether.
I don't know how much I've ever explained how I actually started doing FT, instead of just thinking about it. It all started in early 2003 with a bet between me and my friend Adam. He wanted to do a comic and I wanted to do a comic. So we made it a contest: we'd each do a page a week and see who could go the longest.
Adam, I don't know if you're reading this, but thanks, man. It's been four years of hell, but I'd do it all again in a minute.