“What makes you tick?”

A few days ago, someone on Twitter asked the question in the subject line above. I didn’t have an answer at the time, but the simplicity of the question caused it to stick in my head. Maybe the question stuck in my head because I didn’t have an answer at the time. “Does this mean that I’m going about my life like a company with no mission statement? An essay with no thesis?”

The question continued to roll around in my head, off and on, off an on, like a slow-cycling strobe. What makes me tick, damn it? Work? Art? Orneriness? Then it came to me: what makes me tick is neurosis.

I’m neurotic about work because I’m deathly afraid of being unemployed, especially right now. A life as a graphic designer is a life of waiting for the world to decide that some guy who writes computer code can do your job better than you can. It is a life of waiting for web 3.0. The end of print media. The day when design is considered a stupid luxury, right along with bling watches and pimp cups. It makes a girl nervous, and it turns a girl into Lil Wayne. That is to say that I’m afraid to stop moving. As I recently told a friend after telling him my annual income, “but that’s not cause I’m a good designer…it’s cause I have a good hustle.”

While art certainly does make me tick a little, and good art inspires me to keep going, the art that I create separate from my life as a designer is done for three reasons. One: to keep myself sane, to give the universe a bit of math to live by and to feel a little powerful in said universe. Two: my hands don’t like to sit still, so they tend to make things. Three: the new house has a lot of wall space, so I have to make stuff.

The orneriness is an offshoot of the neurosis. The Brain is always ticking away on something, bringing questions up over and over again until they get answers. Often, the answer is to do something ornery or weird. It’s not that I’m rebellious or punk rock, oh no. I don’t do rebellious things for the sake of rebellion because I’m not fifteen (no matter what my Kool-Aid and vodka habit may imply). I do rebellious things either because they’re funny or they need to be done.

After I sent a poison pen email to the president of Former College regarding the conduct of a former teacher, Katy said “did you actually send that? that’s so punk rock.” I sent it because I had something to say. Because somebody needed to tell that guy all of the crazy behavior Former Teacher was trying to pull. I sent that email because it needed to be done.

All of these reasons are why I’ve grown sort of comfortable with my neurosis. It’s very functional if it’s controlled and focused, kind of like the red laser that shoots out of Cyclops’s eyes. Keep the visor on, and you’re a super hero. Take the visor off, and you’re trashing Grand Central Station. It’s a living.