101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 76

Meet Ed — a cartoonist, graphic designer, actor, and semi-professional pirate.

This morning, we met for coffee. It was a pleasure to learn more about his story and his passions.

Ed has always been drawn toward drawing. When he was younger, he had a friend who was excellent at drawing. “I would come up with the ideas, and my friend would draw the images”, Ed explained. Then, his friend moved away. But Ed’s ideas for drawings still lingered, never quite fading. So, he decided to pick up a pen and bring his ideas to fruition himself.

Ed grew up in a small town in British Columbia, only moving inwards to the city for university. He studied criminology at Simon Fraser University (and also served as their mascot for two years while he was there). He wanted to be a policeman, as he had always been drawn toward police-like characters in television shows. When he graduated from the criminology program, he started working as a security guard. He worked twelve-hour-long night shifts, but the job itself didn’t demand too much of him. “I had a lot of time to sit, think, and draw”, he explained. This time for inward contemplation led him toward an important realization: “I realized that I didn’t want to be a policeman in real life… I wanted to be a policeman on TV.” Literally.

So, Ed became an actor. Being on stage is a liberating experience for him. He is challenged by the different characters’ roles, without feeling burdened by the weight of their lives and experiences. He’s able to separate himself from his character.

Ed likes a good challenge and strives daily to get outside of his comfort zone. “A lot of parents say ‘you can be anything you want to be’. I took them very seriously”, he explained. Whenever there’s something Ed wants to explore, he goes for it without hesitation. “I’m not comfortable feeling comfortable”, he said.

I suppose that’s how he became a semi-professional pirate. He spends some of his time working and performing as a pirate at festivals and children’s birthday parties. He even choreographs sword-fight scenes from time to time. I found this fascinating, as I had never even realized there was a job like that.

I asked him if there was a question he wished I’d asked him. “Good question! I guess I wish you’d ask me what my insecurities are.”

“Huh, I didn’t see that one coming”, I thought. What a vulnerable thing to say.

Of course, I asked him what made him feel insecure and he said that for him, it’s his weight. Interesting. Since Ed was a little kid, he has felt uneasy about his weight. The kids at school used to call him the “fat kid” and even though he looks far from being in that box now, it still bothers him. He described his twenty first year as the most miserable year of his life, as he was over 250 pounds.

We spoke for a while about society’s stigmatization of weight and its pervasive pressures to lose it. Ed knows that there are complications that come with attaching self-worth to weight, especially since being heavy does not necessarily correspond to being unhealthy. After all, muscle weighs more than fat. And, in fact, Ed was at one of the healthiest points in his life when he was quite heavy, because he was so muscular then. But there is still something inside of him wishing he would weigh a little less, no matter his acknowledgement of its inherent irrationality.

I guess I was so immersed in the conversation that I forgot to ask Ed for a photo! Here’s one of his charming cartoons instead:

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 10.38.35 PM

I asked him about the characters he uses and he explained that there are three of them — each one symbolizing a part of himself. One of the characters symbolizes his fun-loving, goofy self. Another symbolizes the wise, protective grandfather inside of him. “I guess this part of myself is why I had wanted to become a policeman at one point. It was coming from a place of wanting to protect others.”

The third character represents his strong, physical side, and is portrayed by a female character. Ed used to practice judo and was even a competitive wrestler at one point in his life. This is where the physical side of him has manifested itself, and I appreciated that he chose a female character to embody this strength.

I’m personally inspired by Ed’s deeply seated self-awareness. It is clear that he spends much time reflecting on who he is and how he feels, and I feel like this is a very worthwhile use of one’s time.

His advice? “Be true to yourself. But first, figure out who that is.”

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