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The Business of Disappointment, and The Long, Dark Tunnel

Life is not what we always intend it to be, nor does it ever work out the way we expect. I mean look at me, you think I wanted to open this store? Heck no I didn’t, You think I am happy to work all by myself, wearing all the hats of my business? Absolutely not. You think I enjoy missing out on opportunities to hang out with my friends or miss occasional life happenings because I have too much work to do? Most equivocally no! Do you think this business was my first dream?!? Well, it sort of was, but that is not the point! How in the world did I get to this point? What in the world am I even going on about? I am talking about how listening to yourself and thinking divergently leads to unexpected results. More specifically, I am talking about how Bitknight Designs was not the artistic career I wanted, but the path I found myself choosing regardless. 

Originally, Bitknight Designs was born on the spiritual back of a dream, a dream to have a platform where multiple hard working and talented people could have an economic playground to strut their work. Before that idea, it was a website where I hoped to get friends and peers together to discuss interesting and fun topics. Before that idea, it was a place where I hoped cooperation and passion for change could affect the small world around it. Before that, Bitknight Designs was once called “Argo Spirit,” and it was the iCarly for college kids of the University of West Florida. At least that is what I had hoped it would be upon my return to the rigorous academic life. 

You see, I have realized something about myself after many years of hard work and self discovery. I want to work with people. More specifically, I want to work with fellow hard working and driven individuals. I want to work with a team of people who are not afraid to start from scratch, a team who is not afraid to get their hands dirty, and a team who is not afraid to try new ideas. Let's get more specific. I want to find a team of people that will value my creative input, a team that is interested in my work, and a team that wants my work to be a part of their business. 

I only made my choices because of these realizations. I only arrived at these realizations because of my experiences. My experiences are the reasons why I turned “Argo Spirit,” which is completely devoid of any familiarity, to the final platform I now sell my work on. The experiences I am talking about all lead to the exact same feeling, the feeling of disappointment.

When I was younger, about the age of elementary school, I used to madly impress everyone around me with my drawing skills. My parents shared the same enthusiasm for my doodles and told me I could be anything I wanted to be. With that simple, but impressionable combination of positive reinforcement, I made the arguably hardest and most premature decision of my life: I wanted to be an artist! From then on, around the age of six years old, I wanted to be one of the best artists the world had ever seen, because I so naively believed I could be.

Back then I thoroughly enjoyed making art and I was legitimately one of the biggest nerds growing up. When I first saw Kaiba summon Blue Eyes White Dragon from the show Yu-Gi-Oh, I was in complete awe of how cool that moment was. The only way I could contain my reaction was to try and draw Blue Eyes White Dragon over and over again until I got him looking just like his trading card. This feeling of bringing my favorite dragon to life is what made me feel good as a person. It was great having praise for my drawings, but it was the feeling of drawing him that made me feel like I was validating myself more and more as a person.

Between my belief I could be one the best artists of my time, and my love of the escapist nerdy culture, I found myself at the mouth of a deep and dark tunnel. Not knowing what it was back then, I examined it with a brave curiosity. I looked at the threshold of that tunnel with reckless abandon and immediately decided to enter it. I had officially taken my first concrete steps into a world I knew not what I was getting myself into. 

An entire 14 years passed since those innocent days of trying to redraw Blue eyes White Dragon and that moment I entered that tunnel. I had found something along the way that I always knew I would have to face one day, the career of being an artist. For me, the limitless amount of options had stunned me into a frenzy of indecisiveness and inaction. I was officially still stuck in my tunnel and the future was not looking bright for me. It felt terrible to not decide on anything and my feelings were only getting worse as time crept on. Life was slowly getting worse, and that tunnel I fell in was only getting smaller and smaller. A new feeling began to crowd my tunnel to share its company with my delusion, and its name was fear. I was starting to become afraid of my career because the time to do something was encroaching, rather I liked it or not. 

That is when my long lost cousin from Georgia and I had reconnected. He already had a business selling props and it was clear he had direction and conviction in his life. That was the first time I saw my cousin in almost a lifetime of separation and for the short 3 days he visited, he agreed to take me back to his home to see his lifestyle. When I arrived in Athens Georgia, he and his girlfriend were renting a small but antique home that was just a walk away from the local downtown scene. This was my first real taste of what life could be like outside of my sheltered hometown lifestyle. To say it was a culture shock was an understatement, I was blown away and enamored by the experience. I visited for an entire week. In that short timeframe his girlfriend and him agreed I could rent a new home with them in Athens, once their current lease was up, and help my cousin with his business. I was nothing but excited for this move. For once, I seemed to have found my way out of the tunnel entirely, a sort of left turn out of nowhere if you will. This felt like the perfect opportunity for me. Afterall, what could be better than helping family succeed and getting a chance to learn along the way? I only had a couple months to prepare for, “my first real bootcamp of life,” as I like to put it now. I gathered all my belongings, said my goodbyes, and made the move over a 3 day trip. 

When I arrived, I was ready to learn and give my cousin and his business my all. The tunnel was nowhere in sight and all that laid before me was a huge valley instead. To my surprise, he decided he wanted to start a new business and this time I was going to be an integral part of it. I went along with it because working with him is what I wanted to do. For two years we built and maintained an etsy shop. He brought all his vigorous experience and technical expertise of 3D printers as business owner. I brought the critical soundboard and all the creative prowess of an educated artist. The business was a complete success in its first year. More than a success, it seemed like our company was only the beginning of an economic empire that would thrive in this world. We could be our own bosses and make plenty of money to give the phrase “well off” a run for its money. I saw the possibility of our future and it was endless. 

For countless reasons I decided to make this move to join him but for countless more I decided to leave. I nearly lost myself. The darkness of despair had taken me and for a moment I thought it was going to get me for good. My feelings of dread were only getting exponentially worse with each passing day until one day I simply could not take it anymore. At the height of this, I realized something terrible had happened, I was down that tunnel once again, only this time it was much deeper and terribly darker. I realized I was cornering myself into one of two options down that tunnel, either I keep choosing this business that is not me nor what I want to do with my life or leave, simply because I know I needed to. Even if I knew I would be completely poor all over again, even if I was about to completely start my life over from scratch, even if the life I was about to choose was not going to be as financially secure, I had to leave. I had to choose me, no matter how much it was one of the hardest and saddest decisions of my life. 

There I was again, stuck in the tunnel, but at least I knew I was walking down a much brighter path. I realized I had some new accomplishments that accompanied me along the way. I learned so much and I grew tremendously as an artist. I learned to make time for my art no matter how busy my life was. I learned what it was like to truly be on your own with little to no support around you. I learned what it was like to commit to something. I picked up some terrible personality habits that weren't me, but I grew tremendously as a person. But most importantly, I learned how dangerous it can be to not listen to your needs.

With my disappointment from the Georgia experience fresh in my heart and mind, and my acceptance of the dark tunnel, there was only one place to go and that was back home to Kingwood Texas. Returning to my parents' refuge was somewhat of a relief for me, but I could not rest until I made a plan to get back out there. I had two goals: one was to start my own business doing what I loved, and the other was to go to school to finish what I started. I only had two years of college left to complete, thanks to some on and off semesters at community college prior to Georgia. Creating a business seemed like it was going to be the easy part. I did just do it straight for two years in a row. Not to mention, I was ready to do the business for me, and no one else. Even better, finishing school was the part I was most looking forward to. I missed what it was like to be surrounded in an environment that challenges you to be a better artist. I missed having conversations with people that understood what I was going through. And on a more secretive note, I was hoping I could find another brilliant mind to partner my business with. The tunnel was still all around me, but for once there was light ahead once again.

In no time I decided I would live with my parents while finishing school. This would allow me to save money and allow me to hyper focus on my academics. It was not going to be fun living with them, but it was the smartest decision for me to make. Afterall, I invested all I had in the business and I had no other prospects. This meant that my parents were now in the driver's seat now… oh boy. There was only one major problem left in the way and that was the fact that my parents were more than ready to move back to Pensacola Florida. With my plan of attending school while under my parents roof, and their newly found destination already in mid, there was only university that made sense for me to attend and that was the University of West Florida (UWF). It was not my dream college by any means but I was ready to roll with the consequences of my actions. 

Helping them move was one of the most painstaking endeavors of my life. I was officially in limbo those two months because I had no job to work, no friends to hang with, no space to start my own business, and no school to commit to yet. It was hell. The only thing I did to cope was satiate my addiction to play League of Legends to pass the time. I had terrible frame rate and atrocious wireless internet to play on. It was as awful as you could imagine. At least I was researching what to do next with my life and I was still making art for myself. Despite my unhealthy coping mechanism, this was one of the most exciting times of my life. I felt free again. Pensacola was where I would restart, only this time it was entirely in my hands and the only person who could disappoint me was myself.

In no time, upon moving to Pensacola Florida, I got a job as a bartender on the weekend evenings at a local wine tasting room. I had an Instagram that I was building for my business that had just peaked its first 500 followers. And I was officially enrolled in my first semester at UWF. There was only one thing left to do, and that was to be the most kick ass art student I could possibly be while keeping my eye out for potential people to start a business with.

Before I knew it, another two years had passed. In that time frame I helped ignite the fire for the alpha chapter of the international honor society of art called Kappa Pi, I helped rebuild a dying swing dance club from the ground up, I earned my way onto the president’s list every semester possible, I appeared in my first underground art show, and I won both dean’s choice and 1st place in artistic appeal in an innovation contest at school. I did it. I was officially the most kick ass art student I could possibly be and it felt phenomenal to do that for myself. There was only one problem.

Despite all my hard work, giving people all the best reasons to invest in me, and directly inviting people to work with me, I never found my dream team or a business partner to work with. I found people who went above and beyond in their studies, some their extracurriculars, and others their time management. I found plenty of people that went toe to toe with my mentality, these being some of the best peers of my life. I found people with skills too, some that were making me question why they were in art school to begin with, but many others that impressed me and kept me invested in their work. Out of all those people though, I never found the partner I was looking for. I must have been looking in the wrong places, or in too convenient of groups, or maybe that person just does not exist but I’ll never truly know the answer. Sometimes, life just does not work out the way you want it to.

What mattered is I followed my heart, I tried my best, and I was unsuccessful in my search…mostly. I am currently 99.95% sure I found my wife on the very first day of class, but that is a different story to tell, perhaps I'll share that one day too. Regardless, I made Bitknight Designs because it was a back up plan. It was the, “screw it I’m going to do it myself plan.” It is the last place where I wanted to invest myself in and yet I find myself here anyways. Please do not get me wrong though, I absolutely love what I do, but I would prefer if I could share my creative input with a team I can cooperate with rather than use it to serve just myself. Regardless, here I am: a one man team developing a website dedicated to a local up and coming artist who is in love with pop culture media. My artistic career has officially begun, even if it is more of an isolated journey than I would like. Oh well, I am sure there is no way that my life could get any more isolated than it already is…(said me January of 2020…What is that? Is that some sort of dark tunnel up ahead?)

 

Please feel free to leave a comment if you are interested. The next blog will be about my first year of business in the middle of the pandemic!

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