Fashion illustration Stories

Not a Hero

April 20, 2017
Fashion illustration Alessia Landi Aldraws watercolour hero t-shirt tulle skirt model orange self-acceptance

So typical Al, I claimed in January that I would write a post per week… I look back at my last post and it’s dated 21 February. Oh well.

I actually have a good excuse for this absence from my illustrated diary: I did a major commission for L’Officiel Singapore and Louis Vuitton back in March (I know, right?? Sometimes I still can’t believe it… Maybe I should just write a post here to fix it black on white, what do you think?) and things have been pretty hectic ever since.

You know, at a certain point I started to feel like a super hero: I was feeling so cool, able to juggle my 10 hours/day job with posting on Instagram every day (which means an illustration done every night), preparations for the live sketching events to come, drawing commissions and my personal life. I was receiving at least one new request every day for my illustration services. I had lost a few kilos and I liked what I saw in the mirror. I was feeling awesome, unstoppable.

Basically I was living my life 100% like *insert sunglasses emoji*

And yesterday, right in the middle of a huge live sketching engagement for Piaget (yes THAT Piaget, the brand of the watches full of diamonds that I could never afford even if I sold a kidney) I crashed.

I woke up with some pain in my belly but I went to work anyway. By 11 AM I was on my way to the doctor with a colleague who was trying to help me walk and holding me up every time a colic was arriving and I was screaming (literally) for the pain.
I will spare graphic details, but I decided there and then that I would never give birth without a total anaesthesia, if labour is even half the pain I was experiencing in that moment.

Long story short, I spent the day in bed trying to cope with the pain and of course last night I missed one of the Piaget events, leaving them in the emergency to find a replacement for their event last minute.
And you can’t believe how mortified and guilty I felt about it. I felt sorry for them, because I put them in a difficult situation and I felt sorry for myself, because I worked so hard to finally get this type of commissions and now that I had it I was jeopardising it.
But more surprisingly, I simply couldn’t believe it: how could I do it? How could this happen to the girl who always delivers and never gets sick? How could I dump an engagement last minute like this?

I woke up this morning so depressed about this whole thing that I had to pause for a minute and think about it: why am I feeling so bad? Why could I just not accept that, for as bad as the consequences were, it was totally normal to fall sick? Why could I just not stop beating myself up and accept that sometimes it can happen to screw up because of events that we simply cannot control?

I realised I just couldn’t stand the fact that I am human and, as such, that I have flaws. That sometimes I can get sick too and sometimes I just can’t get done all the 3768 things I plan in my impossible agenda. That I can try to control my life as much as I want but I will still be subject to unplanned and sudden events
I realised that as a human this was the obvious consequence for how I treated my body in the last couple of months: the weight loss wasn’t due to a healthy diet, but to stress and skipped meals because of the rush. Pushing myself to post on Instagram daily meant that I was never going to bed before 1 AM every night. And I was so sure I was managing my personal life so well despite being so busy, but the last two times I talked with my boyfriend we had a fight so probably I wasn’t that good at it either.

I live in a city that celebrates hard work and never giving up as some of its highest values. The pace and the pressure are insane, but everything is so well organised that you really start believing you can actually do it and have it all. That you can actually be that hero that manages to get everything done and never disappoints anyone.
Transports are super efficient and cheap to support your crazy running around, food is available 24/7 everywhere so your meal won’t take you more than 20 minutes and will require zero efforts, any type of service is ready on demand and just an app away.
Everything in this city is constantly whispering in your ear “Don’t you just want to grab all the opportunities coming at you? Accept one more offer, do one more late night, show how good you are”.

But I am human, I am no hero.
My psychologist has been telling me for months: you have to treat yourself with compassion and kindness. It’s useless to beat yourself up if you’re not perfect because nobody is and you shouldn’t try to be.
I guess I’ve always kind of ignored her on this point, because that would mean I’d have to stop for a while or let go a little. And I didn’t want to.

I learned a very important lesson today.
Not only to take better care of myself, but mainly to stop pretending perfection and stop punishing myself if I can’t reach it. Perfection doesn’t happen? So be it: I need to understand that dwelling on what I wasn’t able to achieve yesterday is not going to bring me any further tomorrow.

Because for as much as you try to be perfect and control everything and anyone around you something out of the plan can happen and WILL happen. Better start learning to deal with it now.

And now I am going to get ready for the third Piaget event… You see, in the end the consequences weren’t that horrible 😉

xxx Al

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  • Reply Tinneke April 22, 2017 at 6:54 am

    I always enjoy reading your posts, Al. You’re such a great writer! And I love your illustration (as always)! Your talents remind me of Garance Doré – great with words and illustration, but in your own Al-style of course. I’m glad you’re doing well and attending such exciting events! (you go girl!) But I understand you by the urge to be perfect. I’m also working on that point, I think it’s a modern ‘disease’ 😉 Because we’re influenced by media etc. I don’t have the energy of drawing and instagraming every day, after a full-time job. (How did you do that?!) But in my mind I want to do this, to reach my goal faster. But then I’m neglecting other things, like household, my husband, family or friends, even just doing nothing, to be relaxed,… I also really need that. Sometimes I’m going cuckoo because of all the things I want to do, but I don’t have enough time! I have to choose, but when I – for example – choose to draw, it has to be perfect/ good, because there’s no time to practice. I need material I can show immediately. But I’m learning to spend time in practicing my skills, it’s important to experiment. And drawings I think aren’t good, I also have to show to people as a work process (and this is really hard to push on that send button!). I also think there’s something beautiful about imperfection in the world, I just need to accept this for myself. This is such a contradiction huh?

    I wish you good luck with all your upcoming projects/ events and your self compassion 🙂 I think you’re on a very good track!


    • Reply Al May 12, 2017 at 2:31 am

      Tinneke, I am so sorry for my super late reply. When I read your comment I was like: wow, that’s exactly me!
      I used to have (well, I still have it a bit) your same issue: I have no time, so when I make something, it has to be perfect. In my mind I go like “I have no time to waste in tests and sketches”. But recently I discovered how important tests and sketches are, because exercise (and exercise that doesn’t necessarily aim to “perfection”) is making me improve so much… And I’ve also learned that letting go of perfection and drawing only to get that instagram-perfect image is the way to go. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying to go on this path.
      You ask me, how do I find the time to post on Instagram almost every day? It’s simple: I don’t do anything else LOL. I don’t watch TV, I don’t relax, I don’t cook anymore (we eat out every night, but in Singapore it’s feasible and incredibly cheap, not like in Europe). Going out and seeing friends is limited to weekends (and not even every weekend, in case I have a commission to prepare or an event). And you know what, I think I’m about to lose it. I don’t know how long I will be able to do this anymore. But I have something inside that is pushing me like crazy and I just can’t stop. Maybe one day I’ll snap and I’ll just stop drawing all together for another 2 years :p but for now I feel like I need to hang on and keep doing this.
      Please pray for me that I won’t reach a nervous breakdown :p
      I think you really should show more of your sketches and work in progress. First of all they’re beautiful and second, I think forcing yourself to show “imperfection” and work in progress will help you to let go and live your evolution as an artist in a more complete and relaxed way.
      Try it 😉
      Many kisses xxx

      PS: Garance Dore’… I wish! :p

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