Four Lessons From My “Desert Friends”

Hi Friends,

I hope you had a wonderful end to 2017 and a better beginning to 2018! A few of you wrote to me with your “one word themes” for the year, and there were some great ones out there. Focus. Fitness. Courage. Finish. No matter what your heart is set on this year, today is the first page of a crisp white notebook. May you fill it with the story of your dreams!

One of the really fun parts of starting a new year is when you get to ceremoniously let go of something ugly, or take a look back at the good and understand how much you’ve grown, how much you have to look forward to, and who has been there along the way.

Tonight I went to my mom’s for posole, and she was waiting with stacks of goodies for my sister and I. My sister got to open a time capsule she made years ago as a school project, and it turned out that my mom had been saving some fun stuff from my elementary school days as well. I now submit this evidence that I should have been a Studio Art major, with an emphasis in illustration:

I know, right? Eat your heart out, Picasso!

These were picture books I made as school projects 20 years ago. I’m only showing you two, but my mom had books I wrote all the way through the 6th grade, and then a series of papers I wrote for my classes. So, over the course of a little less than an hour, I got to see my progression from THE DESERT FRIENDS FIND A NEW HOME to one of the research papers I wrote in the 10th grade. All of these sort of make me cringe, but there were lessons and things I learned about myself as I traveled through time, especially reading Desert Friends:

  1. Jake the Snake, Carl Coyote, and Randy Roadrunner were all best friends with a tarantula, so I wondered if I had some level of sympathy for spiders at one point. The poor coyote even gets injured by a car running around by “A” Mountain whereas the tarantula crosses the street unharmed. Why is the spider faster than the tarantula? Because I liked the spider more? Nah, I think it’s because spiders are evil and the little devil probably teleported. I learned that my fear of them has always gone beyond the natural. Carl Coyote deserved better.
  2. I’ve always had mad love for family. I dedicated all these picture books “to my little sister Ciara,” who was barely even about to become a person at all.
  3. I’ve always enjoyed good, darkly epic villains, especially if they have sarcastic or biting dialogue. I’ll leave you to debate who the villain of DESERT FRIENDS is: the sun who laughs maniacally as he fries the paloverde tree, or the guy who bulldozes through the desert and tells the friends “I don’t care.”

Fourth and absolutely the most important: my mom has always been the most supportive person in my corner, because she took these projects seriously and made sure I did too. She, along with my teachers, found the author in me and made sure he loved what he was doing. I can remember how much fun I had making up stories as a 7-year-old. At 27, I still feel that same unfiltered joy even as I write for career purposes rather than grades. I’ve never looked away, and neither has my mom.

This year, I challenge you to do more of what you love, whether it’s a hobby, a career, something in between, or something far off the rails. If you’re still looking for that, ask what you loved to do when you were seven. There are clues there!

Hold that passion, give it a big hug, and thank the people who always believed in you.

Happy New Year!

Jacob Devlin Logo Small

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