Waiting For My Real Life To Begin

Yay! I finally get to reveal a major aspect of the new comics: Flashbacks. Since I wanted to keep the comic universe basically in present day, but I really wanted to be able to tell the story of the early days of my comicing career, I decided to juxtapose certain events with relevant and revealing looks back into the characters’ past. I wanted to be able to write from the perspective of someone who’s been doing this (comics, parenting, marriage, etc) for a while, but I kept thinking back to all the weird shit that’s happened to be over the last 5 or 6 years that would make for great jumping off points for story lines. From a storytelling perspective, this is the best of both worlds for me and I’m pretty excited about it.

COMMENTERS: Did you ever get fired from a job, get dumped by a significant other, or in some other way shat upon by the Universe and have it turn out to be a catalyst for a major positive change in your life?


We are putting the final touches on the new HE store which will hopefully launch tomorrow this week(?) HERE.

UPDATE ON THE FANCY DIGITAL SKETCH DRIVE: If you are still waiting on your Fancy Digital Sketch, I am SUPER BACKLOGGED on these. I am very sorry it’s taking so long. Doing 50+ original pieces of finished art always sounds easy, until you agree to do it and take money for it. I am working through them, but if you need yours urgently, feel free to let me know via email.

Have you seen my wife’s Etsy store, “Science and Fiction?” Check out her Tetris earrings!

Tetris Earings!


Comments (56)

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Wesley's avatar

Wesley · 89 weeks ago

Having been a victim of bullying for most of my youth, I came across anxiety training during my teens. This completely changed me from being completely socially incompetent to merely socially awkward but more importantly gave me the self-confidence to go out there and express myself. I’ve since been able and confident to speak in public, which has been a major uplift for me in other areas where I was insecure.

I’m pretty sure that I would have ended up a 40-year old virgin if not for that.

Jeremy's avatar

Jeremy · 89 weeks ago

Laid off in 2009, due to what the company owner claimed was insufficient business, I started my own competing company (with not so insufficient business) and then moved to another country where I now live happily. Catalyst!
This comic was really great! At first glace I questioned why the change in color. Then I saw the “5 Years ago” tag and realized it was a flashback. The blurred background was very effective and I got caught up in the dialogue. And then, the final line caused me to laugh out loud. Well done Sir! 😀

Oh, and the comment question…

Varmint's avatar

Varmint · 89 weeks ago

I’ve been working a go-nowhere retail job that I’d held for nearly eight years, mostly out of complacency and the fear of being unable to pay my bills without it. I’d applied for better jobs on and off over the years and had been rejected each time, and the resulting demoralization had pretty much convinced me that I’d never do better. Recently I’d been facing the prospect of being let go for not meeting a sales quota.

Rather than wait for the process of performance evaluations to begin, I decided rather uncharacteristically to get off my ass and start aggressively applying for jobs in a field that I actually went to school for, because at this point I figured that I had little left to lose, rejection be damned.

Long story short, it turns out that I aced my last interview; I start my new career next week.

2 replies · active 89 weeks ago

That’s fantastic. Congratulations.
Varmint's avatar

Varmint · 89 weeks ago

Thanks. It’s nice to be moving forward again.
Doug's avatar

Doug · 89 weeks ago

I worked at a radio station through college and kept working there for a few years after. Put in over 7 years and was then laid off. My wife and I both worked there, so we were both laid off the same day. We lived in a small town, so other jobs weren’t available so we moved to Arizona. We lived with my parents for a year while I started a new job and made some money to support us. Now, 5 years later I’m a senior level developer/analyst, own my own home, and am loving life so much more. My wife went back to school for a second degree and is now a full time graphic designer. Getting let go by that place was the best thing that could have happened to us.
Flashbacks are cool – I like them! – but I think maybe the color scheme could be less pastel? The pinks/baby blues said “dream sequence” to me, rather than “memory”… Maybe instead of making colors paler, they could be made less saturated? Of course that might just be me.

Looking forward to seeing what you do with them 🙂

I love the pale colours, the strip stands out from the current timeline but doesn’t go all Lo-Fijinksy. A more familiar flashback tone such as sepia or grayscale would maybe too obvious, but that’s just my opinion.

1 reply · active 89 weeks ago

Thanks! I think the effect sets the art apart enough that you know it’s different, but no so different that it’s distracting.
bubujin_2's avatar

bubujin_2 · 89 weeks ago

In June I was let go due to a downsizing that had been in the works over the previous four months. So no surprise there. But the BS corporate was feeding us and the transition has rather sucked. To add insult to injury was that I had a 20-year relationship with the organization but was earlier passed over for a position I was eminently qualified that would have kept me around.

So I’m sort of enjoying at the moment a semi-retired condition. But still too young to be fully retired and still have a kid to get through H.S. and college. So catalyst is still pending on what I want to be when I grow up. Now if I can just get off these damned comics boards…..

1 reply · active 89 weeks ago

I know this is a cynical viewpoint, but one thing I’ve learned from working a million jobs is that a company (no matter how large) will NEVER prioritize your needs over their own. The second word in “human resources” is very telling. No matter how kind or considerate they are when you work there, when it comes to the bottom line you are a stapler, a cell phone, a company car, a vacation, a health insurance package and often a financial burden. Never expect any company that isn’t run by YOU or your family to treat you like family when $$$ is all they see.
In 2002, I was fired. It was a complicated situation, but basically my boss was a terrible bully who had already run two other people out of the department (of four). He used the system to find a reason to fire me.

At the time, I had recently finished my education to change fields, but was having issues finding a position that a) would accept education without relevant experience and b) would pay a decent wage.

My mother-in-law happened to need a database built (my new field). She agreed to pay relo costs to move us and put me in for a security clearance. I agreed to accept about 80% of the going rate (which was still a raise for me).

Ten years later, I’m an in-demand professional with an excellent resume and a great salary. And it probably wouldn’t have happened without that initial boot to the rear.

1 reply · active 89 weeks ago

I think it’s awesome when family can give you a leg up. Everyone deserves help.
Carol Elaine's avatar

Carol Elaine · 89 weeks ago

Colin Hay song title FTW!


I was laid off from Disney over 10 years ago. At the time I’d been there for eight years and, though I hated what I did (some weird hybrid of legal, finance and marketing), I was comfortable.

Getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve since worked in politics – which was fascinating – and I’m currently working at JPL, where I’ve been for over seven years. I love working here. It may not be my dream job (I’m an assistant, but I’d love to do more creative stuff), but I strongly believe in its mission of space exploration. It’s the first place I’ve ever worked that I could actually see myself retiring from.

2 replies · active 89 weeks ago

Do you know Bobak? He and I are buds. If I ever come down there, he’s promised to give me a tour.
Carol Elaine's avatar

Carol Elaine · 89 weeks ago

I’ve seen him around (including at the Wiggle Waggle Walk last weekend), but I don’t know him. You’ll LOVE the tour of JPL. It is awesome.

When he shows you the full scale model of Curiosity (and I know that will be a “when,” not an “if”), that’s in the lobby of the building where I work (Bldg. 180). I love seeing that thing nearly every day.

Becky S.'s avatar

Becky S. · 89 weeks ago

My first job, post-grad-school, was as a tech writer for a financial software company. 30 days into the job I realized it made me feel unclean, that I was overwhelmed, and that I hated the work. But it had taken me 6 months to find a damn job, so I buckled down and did my best to learn how to do the work, in spite of minimal training and oversight. I thought the misery was paying off when I got a $4,000 raise after 7 months on the job.

Then, 1 month later, I was fired. During my performance review. Queue three-and-a-half months of job searching in between bouts of intense depression and anxiety in which I questioned my ability to be an effective and competent tech writer.

I took a job as a contractor building servers at a company a friend worked for. A monkey with reasonable power drill skills could do the job, but I was working with a buddy, the people in the company were friendly and laid-back, and I wasn’t using up my unemployment. The much-reduced comparative salary and lack of benefits didn’t bother me as much as unemployment did.

Then, through a series of conversations, the company realized I was a tech writer with a couple of masters degrees. Two years later I’m the solo documentation person, make a good living, and absolutely love my job and the people I work with and for. All because a financial company fired me.

I’m glad The Experiment seems to worked out just as well for you, Joel.

patti's avatar

patti · 89 weeks ago

i liked the old content of your comic but because it was about pop/nerd culture it sometimes lacked depth, which was ok because it was funny and made me laugh, but im enjoying the new content because it reflects on real life more and keeps me coming back because i feel more invested in the characters and there lives, i like that your people aren’t perfect and have flaws and are struggling. thanks.

1 reply · active 89 weeks ago

That’s really helpful feedback, and basically exactly what I was going for, so thanks!
I think I’m on the cusp of that moment. I’ve been in and out of day jobs for a year since moving back from Florida where I was working a dream job. There are a few things on the horizon that could be potentially life changing but there just out of reach right now in certainty. I’m only 27 and there are things that I’ve done that I can be proud of but I still don’t believe I’ve reached that one significant moment where I can say everything has changed. I did at a time and then it was taken away from me via circumstances beyond my control.
Mike Z's avatar

Mike Z · 89 weeks ago

I worked at a large game company for many years. They didn’t make the kinds of games I wanted to make, but it was fun so I stuck with it even though after a while I sorta wanted to be doing something else. Then they got bought out and were shut down in 2009 (we found out via Kotaku!) and I didn’t want to continue to work at the new parent company making games that were even further from what I liked…so I took the opportunity to try being indie, and started really working on a fighting game. Close to five years later, I’m still having the time of my life working on our game and the fan support is amazing.

There are always ups and downs and stress in any field, but given the choice between staying with something that’s “just a job” and taking the chance to try making something you really enjoy into your career, I highly recommend the latter.

You chose wisely, Mister Joel, because you took the chance.

2 replies · active 89 weeks ago

“we found out via Kotaku!”

That’s beautiful.

What’s your game?

Mike Z's avatar

Mike Z · 89 weeks ago

Since you asked, it’s Skullgirls – I skipped mentioning it because that wasn’t the focus of the story. :^)

And yeah, check it, the article even says “are to be laid off today”: http://kotaku.com/5406449/rumor-rip-pandemic-stud…

Congrats on your employment liberation anniversary!

1 reply · active 89 weeks ago

Oh the actual anniversary was months ago, but thanks.
5 years and still going strong. I wish I had a story like that unless you count that I dropped out of college and went full time working nights. 15 years later I’m still employed full time and can afford all the books i want
Tiffany's avatar

Tiffany · 89 weeks ago

I was staying in a dead end job as a bank teller because it was close to home NV and the hours didn’t suck. I got fired for a customer service mistake the day before my birthday in January. I spent nine months unemployed, playing videogames to escape from a minor depression, sending out resumes on Craig’s list and pretending everything was fine. All while trying to survive on $400 less a month after buying a new house in December.

A week ago I was hired as the funding assistant for an estate planning firm. A bit less an hour than the bank, but a guaranteed 40hrs a week, which the bank wasn’t. Best of all I never have to listen to complaints about fees I have no control over, get yelled at because no one keeps track of their balance, or get robbed at gunpoint again.
Honestly, the robberies were pretty good days.

I don’t know much about academia, so please explain how getting a masters and a PhD is a job. Like, who is paying you to do these things? Also, I think that’s a fantastic topic of study. You and Randy Milholland (somethingpositive.net) could talk for hours.
Mike's avatar

Mike · 89 weeks ago

In 2007 I was studying visual communications at a pretty prestigious art school. Unlike my previous college, it was in a bigger city with much higher cost of living. So worked full time. On black Friday, some kind person looking for a digital camera gave me a virus. It turned into bronchitis and then pneumonia. I missed my final projects and failed out of art school. I was devastated. I went to the associated community college, but I was drinking heavily. I want able to pull my gpa up, so I was kicked out in 2009. Then my girlfriend of three years dumped me, and the job that caused all that trouble fired me. I ended up drinking magnums of wine while reading Hemingway and listening to Bright Eyes. I bottomed out. Since then I’ve realized art wasn’t right for me, gotten redirected on a new career, got engaged to a wonderful woman, and I’m almost 2 years sober. So all’s well that ends well. But seriously, fuck black Friday.

1 reply · active 89 weeks ago

Oh man. That was a tough read for about 9/10ths of a paragraph. Glad things turned around for you.
Neph Sy's avatar

Neph Sy · 89 weeks ago

Back in the 90s I was working at a company that was going through hard times and had entered bankruptcy protection, in an attempt to turn things around. Liked my job (didn’t love it), but hated my supervisor. Some branches had closed, but my location was one of the most successful. One morning my name was announced over the intercom and I had a 5 minute meeting with a Human Resources person who told me that my job did not exist anymore and that I was no longer employed. Only two people were cut from my department, I asked how this decision was made (meaning why I was targeted), but received no answers. Still in shock, I had to go to my part time job a few hour later to work my shift.

So with the help of some severance, unemployment, and the part time job, I had the time and a bit of money to take classes, so that I could get the skills to be self employed. Developing the business was slow as I was still working part time at night, plus I had a temporary teaching job. Then the owner of the store, where I had worked for 8 years mentions that we should talk about when I was going to leave??? She admitted that I was her best employee and had never done anything wrong, she just wished I had never started working in my craft (which she sold at her store!). One of her relatives was jealous of my business and felt threatened by me, since we made the same craft, and applied for the same events. So I was so insulted that I quit, my contract soon ended and I suddenly had so much free time that I was able to apply for more events and sell in more stores. Thus being forced to be completely self employed and more competition for the relative’s business.

Eric 's avatar

Eric · 89 weeks ago

After I finished college I went to work for a company doing web design work. When I started it was great working in my field but it slowly turned into one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Constant harassment from supervisors about deadlines even when all work was being done on time. Coworkers all blaming each other when thugs go wrong and just generally unpleasant work environment which was not being helped by management who made project goal incentives for people who finished stuff faster. It was terrible and was apparently making me terrible to be around. I hit a point I couldn’t take it anymore and left. Making a radical career jump I got a job working in human services. I started working with mentally disabled individuals finding employment and building job skills. Not the most glorious of jobs but I enjoy doing it and I’m happy.
When I was 19 I went to university to try and get a job that would get me a career. Then through a series of misfortunes (including the divorce of my parents) I failed out of school and got a JOB.

Four years ago when the kids were in full time school I applied to go back to university. I was rejected because of my previous grades, but I appealed and wrote letters to the head of the faculty, the head of registration and everyone else I could, and I did eventually get in (there is a lesson in that).

in two years – the year I turn 50 (and 31 years after my first attempt) – I will be getting my BFA with honours.

Reading all these comments really inspires me. I know when my catalyst comes, I’ll be ready for it.

The comic’s new direction is also making this community so great. I love all the honest stories and feedback from everyone. It’s a nice place. I like it here.

1 reply · active 89 weeks ago

PokeyPuppy's avatar

PokeyPuppy · 89 weeks ago

In 2005 my marriage was imploding, the awesome seasonal job I had held for 4 years was coming apart in the worst way, and then Hurricane Katrina wiped out my regular job and home.

I got a job in DC (phone interview), drove from Washington state to DC in 3 days by myself, and started work 8 hours after I arrived. I finished my first day crying on the phone with my husband – the job was great, but I was just a mess.

But having a solid job helped pay for couples therapy, which was REALLY necessary, and the relocation is what landed (a) my husband’s job, and (b) my current ownership of my own business. Since I’ve been called “bookworm” since I was 3, owning a bookstore is a dream job. And both my husband and I are so happy together again. Money problems, PTSD, and chronic depression do not make for a happy relationship!

PokeyPuppy's avatar

PokeyPuppy · 89 weeks ago

Also, I love the new direction of the comic! And the washed out color for the flashback is great – I think it not only marks this as a flashback, but also speaks to the emotional tone at that time.
We both had slings until she didn’t fit in them any more. Just recently passed them on to some friends who have a newborn, but so far he only likes the sling when Im the one wearing it. Sling confidence, i suppose.
thelogos's avatar

thelogos · 89 weeks ago

My long-time partner left me recently after being together for 9 years. A couple of months later, I started hiking every week and playing my favorite sport 2-3 times a week. I’ve met lots of great people. I’m also loosing some weight in addition to having fun times.
Pat Myers's avatar

Pat Myers · 89 weeks ago

Well, I was laid off from my job after 4 years. I wasn’t even upset. I wanted to leave and this meant I got unemployment. So I was able to dedicate my time to making comics and meeting people who weren’t psychopaths. Win-win.
Zach's avatar

Zach · 89 weeks ago

I was doing in-home computer repair and making a grand total of -$250 every month. I was let go for ‘not having enough experience’ (or mouthing off to my boss, whatever). Three weeks later I’m staring at a dwindling bank account, maxed out credit cards and a rent payment I don’t know how to cover. Then the phone call came in.

“Hi. We saw your resume. Would you like to work for Major Tech Company?”

Suddenly I am an engineer making more money than I could have ever thought possible. All because I got fired from a crummy go-nowhere job.

Scarlettb's avatar

Scarlettb · 89 weeks ago

It took me more than a year to get a job after I graduated college. When I finally (FINALLY) did, it was working with a program that provided therapy and foster care to juvenile sex offenders. Let that sink in for a minute. Juvenile. Sex. Offenders.

My job? Admissions. So I spent my days reading their application packets, which were exhaustive, DETAILED accounts of what had happened to them, and what they had done to others.

This summer, the stress of the job combined with my MS and the heat, and I had a serious exacerbation. 6 weeks off on disability. Came back. Cried every day. 4 weeks into being back, my neurologist puts me on a new medication to which I had an allergic reaction that made me literally suicidal. Back off on disability, and was informed on Day 2 of said disability that they don’t want me to come back. Super depressing.

HOWEVER. My headaches are less than they were. My shoulders no longer hover around my ears. I have not cried since the day I left. And a dream job I applied for on a whim is flying me up to interview in person in two weeks. So…fingers crossed that this is the catalyst moment, but even if I don’t get this position, I am so, so glad that I don’t work where I did, because that was literally (and I DO mean literally) going to kill me.

Jon B's avatar

Jon B · 89 weeks ago

I got fired, spent a few days drunk watching Star Trek, and then wallowed in shame for about two months.

Then I launched a distillery. Life got pretty amazing after that. I refer to this year as the year everything changed. I sleep better. I weigh less. I talk to my wife and friends more. I worry about more things, but I care about life more.

Hang in there.

I’m really digging Past Joel’s hair. Any chance of bringing it back for Present Joel?
I was a fresh-faced college grad working my first job in LA as a Story Executive (a pretty BS title anyways) when the 2007 WGA writer’s strike happened. My boss didn’t fire me, but let me know he couldn’t afford to pay me anymore. I hated the job, hated wearing heels to work every day, hated having to deal with stuffy executives all day, but man, the money was nice. I ended up broke and living on the couch cushions of my friend’s dead grandmother’s apartment in San Francisco. (She’d been gone a while, it’s cool. It wasn’t haunted, though we did find some Nazi stuff.)

I worked for Apple for a while and for a small knitting/dye store where I learned tons of stuff about dying and fabric manipulation but would never advance in either company without drinking the koolaid. I convinced myself I was in love with a guy back in Los Angles and moved back down. It didn’t hurt that there were zero film industry jobs in the Bay Area and I had made some new contacts in LA.

The very night I moved back, I met his new girlfriend who is now his fiance. After the initial oh-shit-I-fucking-hate-you, we eventually became good friends and it was at her urging that I published my first book. Now, I’ve published five, and am a steadily working prop master for indie films. I’m not rich, will probably never be, but I love my job and love writing.

Do I wish I had more money? Do I wish I didn’t work 12 hour days? Do I wish I could fly back to see my parents more often? Of course. But last week, I had a 15 on 15 Nerf war with my awesome nerdy LA friends. I’ve had dinner with my greatest childhood hero. And tomorrow I leave for (exotic!) Bakersfield to work on a film with A-list actors. And that’s pretty rad.

Life is insanely crazy. I’m never sure if I made all of the right decisions. I think I made the best ones I knew how. And I’m still floundering a bit but man, what a story it will make!

Kaidah's avatar

Kaidah · 71 weeks ago

I wasn’t really shat on by the universe, but much like the birth of your daughter was for you the impending birth of my first son was the catalyst for a major positive change in my life.

I was once the manager of two gas stations for a local chain and I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t making much, but it was regular and allowed us to do pretty much what we liked. Then my fiance (now ex-wife) got pregnant. I was 23 and we were living in my dad’s basement. The people I’d worked for at the same salary for over two years wouldn’t even discuss a raise with me. Needless to say, I was crapping my pants about how I was going to support my new family. About a month later I was offered a job with the maintenance company that serviced our pumps. I didn’t know squat about gas pumps, and it was for less money per hour but with better benifits and regular raises. I was comfortable where I was, and knew if I cocked up the new job there’d be no going back. Many a sleepless night followed

I then made the scariest decision of my life, and havent’ regretted it since. That was 13 years ago next week.

I took to the job like a fish to water and succeed beyond everyone’s expectations (including my own). My first year I made more than I ever had before (God bless overtime pay), and somewhere around year 7 I paid more in taxes than I had made a year managing those two stations. All because I was going to be a dad and had a family to support. It’s not glamorous, the hours are long, it’s often physically demanding and my clothes constantly reek of gasoline…but I love it and have never once been ashamed of telling my kids about what I do.