Still here, Still alive: Linda Chung

Still here, still alive: Linda Chung (@lindachungart)

Olympus OM2n - Kodak Pro Image 100 + 2

It’s been 2 years since we started this pandemic. To say that life changed for everyone would be an understatement. We’re asked to work from home to curb the spread of COVID-19. For some the transition to work from home has been easy-peasy, but unfortunately not for others who are used to having a structure in place, and their sense of identity is tied to the office. 

Working from home has its perks, some that I have benefited from for years of working freelance. The commute to the office is within the confines of your house, which is great especially during a time when corporations are raising gas prices to make up for their “losses” in the first year of the pandemic and increase their profit margins as a cherry on top. The home office gave us the ability to work in an environment we’re most comfortable with; no more shall we dress up to be “presentable,” we can now work in our PJ’s and hide from the blinding sunlight and its unbearable heat during the long commutes. We are granted with extra time for ourselves to really smell the scented candles and burn sage to ward off bad vibes. 

While the perks are great, the line that separates work from home becomes much thinner. It’s difficult to step away from the computer after clocking out. Demands from the office are in your home computer, sitting in another room, calling to you like a ghost. I want to introduce you to an artist who has been working from home throughout this prolonged pandemic; Linda Chung (@lindachungart)

Linda has worked in the animation industry since 2016 and is currently working as a background supervisor on a Hulu show called Solar Opposites (it’s a fun show about aliens living on earth, check it out).  Her illustrations have been in a few shows and her ‘LA East’ print series are sold at Chunky Paper in LA’s Chinatown. When the timing is right, you can also find Linda co-teaching a background design class with Warrior Art Camp online. She has also contributed art in the recent publication ‘RISE: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now’ by Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, and Philip Wang. 

Question 1

The pandemic has created new work environments for everyone, and those unfamiliar with the working from home lifestyle will find it strange breaking out of their routine. It’s become hard to separate work life and home life, especially if you work under a company that may demand more and some individuals might be compelled to work longer hours to finish a project. They’ll commit the long nights, weeks, months, their soul (maybe) and burnout. What kind of burnout did you experience working from home (how do you describe, tight deadlines, the computer spirits calling you to finish)? How do you take care of yourself to keep going and not develop a negative relationship to your work and craft?

During lockdown, I started a new job and I was very eager to prove myself—especially since I was jumping into the middle of a hectic production season and had no formal experience as a lead designer. I didn’t feel like I was good enough as a lead so I would try to complete everything myself and worked extra hours and weekends to finish. Tight deadline? I’ll work late. Unexpected workload? No prob, I’ll take it. Holidays coming up? I’ll work a bit so we aren’t too behind. I wanted to do well at my new job, but I also wanted to explore my personal projects. It didn’t help that I had imposter syndrome either. Eventually the stress started to spiral into sleep problems, work nightmares, and anxiety attacks. It felt like my mind was being pulled into so many different directions that I became unable to move in any direction, and then I’d get upset at myself for that. It was a terrible feedback loop.

Of course, during the shutdown, social media became our connection to the outside world, but endless scrolling just brought me down. Most of the time, I felt like a shit artist because people on the internet were juggling ten things and posting art every day and getting hundreds of likes—and I’m sitting here pressing control Z for the past two hours because I can’t draw a tree. So I thought piling on more work would help me be a better artist, because I would be getting more practice and thus more experience and confidence. It did the exact opposite.  

Near the end of 2020, it was clear that I was unable to set boundaries for my work hours, and my partner noticed my mental health was deteriorating. My bedroom became my office and I couldn’t relax anymore because it felt like I had to work or be productive in some way while I was in it. So I moved out of my parents’ house and lived with him. What a huge relief a change of scenery could do! I had a separate room for a workstation and a bedroom to find peace in. I know that I’m very fortunate to have that option and support, so I thought 2021 was going to get better.  

But I was a determined dumbass. Instead of taking it easy and recovering, I thought I could fix whatever I was doing “wrong” that caused my burnout. I told myself that I just had to manage my time better and 2020 was a test run. I wanted to prove I could be a “good artist,” whatever the hell that meant, so I said yes to a bunch of side gigs.

I think I got lucky with my art projects because they all had nothing to do with animation. I purposely turned down any freelance that had to do with background design. Maybe that was the saving grace in keeping my relationship with art alive: finding a creative outlet that’s different from your creative career. Also cutting out Instagram; I set restrictions on my phone and keep to it. And big credit to my husband, who is thankfully not an artist, and drags me out of the house every weekend. This may sound foolish, but I’m trying to trick my dumb brain into reframing self-care as a personal project since I’m so used to lists and schedules. It’s working and I’m feeling better about this long-term project of healing. 

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