New Year, New Hope

TR has been a frequent contributor and supporter of Beneath the Tangles. He joins us again today with an article about his personal hardships working in the OEL manga industry, as well as encouragement for others who endured a painful 2021.

For many of us, 2021 was a challenging year. Whether because of the passing of a loved one, personal illness, financial hardship, or the loss of an important relationship, we have all had to endure something difficult. All of these struggles, coupled with the unending pandemic, for many compounded 2021 into a mountain of misery.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

Twelve months ago, things seemed entirely different. 2021 was supposed to be the year for many of us. For me it was going to be an important milestone year. In the manga industry, the fifth professional year is seen as a time when everything finally starts clicking together. They say if you can hang on and toil away in anonymity for meager wages for four years, sometime around the fifth, you will finally get your big break.

That big break came as an opportunity to join a startup studio. Leadership lauded some lofty goals and promised a lot. However, after a while it became evident that there were some serious misrepresentations. Some jumped ship; others like me hung on, picking up the slack, digging in and making sacrifices.

As the studio’s project delays kept piling up, some self-inflicted, others unintentional, it increasingly became apparent that the project would likely never succeed. I became despondent as the sacrifices I’d made ended up being in vain.

What was supposed to be a year of success had instead devolved into a year of failure, punctuated by huge losses both professionally and financially. Unfortunately, when you commit fully to one project, it means having to pass on other opportunities. I thought I had made the right choice by not giving up, by working harder for others, by giving all because Jesus gave all. That was how I was raised.

Twwk can attest to the intense struggle of this time as I reached out to him on several occasions asking for prayer. This article itself is something I debated even writing because I only wanted to share something that would be meaningful and spiritually beneficial to others. Could anything good come from something so bad? For weeks I prayerfully considered what could be shared from this soul sapping experience.

Eventually the following hard-earned lessons surfaced:

Adversity Breeds Appreciation

If everything in life came easy, then nothing would have value. Throughout 2021, I ended up engaging with a lot of other professionals during my project tasks, more so than ever before. Some of these individuals went above and beyond. As difficult as this year was, reflecting on what others did for me makes one realize how treasured some people are, and I appreciate them all the more.

It’s not entirely different from Deku’s challenges in My Hero Academia. He’s encountered so much evil and hurt in his early “career” as a hero, but also so much kindness, particularly from his classmates and mentors. Uplifted by their strength, he’s encouraged to continue to move forward rather then simply dwell in darkness.

I learned that rather than reflecting only on what went wrong in 2021, I should look to the things that went right. It’s hard to be upset if you are instead appreciating the positives. Gratitude has a way of changing one’s attitude. And while it may not immediately improve a bad situation, having a different outlook will yield positive results when engaging with others.

Failure Isn’t Wrong

Looking back, while the struggles may seem like they were in vain, the reality is that no journey is perfect. A diamond is only formed after undergoing intense heat and pressure. Rather than thinking of our failures as “wrong,” consider that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots and lost almost 300 games in his career. Yet he learned and adapted, eventually becoming an all-time great.

Consider this: Not trying at all is worse than trying and failing. Thomas Edison experienced over 1,000 failed attempts at inventing the light bulb. The issue was the filament, the thin wire that glows so hot it generates light. Most materials simply disintegrated. Had Edison given up, what would the world be like?

One project—no matter how all-consuming it may have felt for a time—does not define your career.

Sacrifice Reflects the Savior

During the recent gift-giving season, I heard a poignant statement: “It’s not about how much it cost to buy, it’s about how much it cost to give.” This echoes another phrase heard long ago, “Give until it hurts.” Up until 2021, I can’t say I ever gave until it hurt…

Now I had.

That level of giving makes me think of everything that Christ gave up. Abandoning a heavenly throne encircled by angels for a lowly feeding trough surrounded by livestock. Then tried for a crime He did not commit. Finally, He was nailed to a tree to suffer the most suffocating, agonizing death possible, just to sate a screaming, bloodthirsty mob.

Jesus had every right to be enraged at the injustice. How treasonous of humanity to treat the Creator so! Yet He willingly went through with it. Ultimate love making the ultimate sacrifice. To save an ungrateful species.

My meager givings, however painful they felt in 2021, are nothing in comparison.

But for the first time in my life I feebly touched the robe of Christ through the act of giving “until it hurt.”

How I appreciate the Cross even more.

Hope is Eternal

The arrival of 2022 means a new year and new hope. Thankfully a year is only a year. Hard times are not forever. They are simply a season in life. And much like winter yields to spring, things will eventually get better. We just have to have the courage to continue on. The Savior assures us that there will always be a spring.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

Whatever season of life you may be in—however cold and dark—trust that you WILL be FOUND.

4 thoughts on “New Year, New Hope

  1. Thank you for such deep and personal sharing.

    I, too, had a worse 2021 than 2020 as if such a thing were even possible. Tied to my career and an extended job search that led down blind alleys (where I was metaphorically mugged) and an unshakable feeling that something was wrong with me. I applied at well over 100 places, had several multi-stage interviews only to be rejected. From jobs I was practically a unicorn for, that should have been easy wins. Sometimes they were even rude about it. I’ve been in my profession for nearly 25 years so this hurt badly.

    During this dark time I also reflected on Jesus. And the wonderful allegories in anime and games. They are what kept me moving forward in the face of so much defeat.

    And what did God do? His usual thing: the last minute save. Is it just me or does that happen a lot for you? Like literally the last possible moment to turn things around, something happens and it has God’s signature all over it. So right before Christmas not only did a land a surprise job, it is by far the best job I’ve ever had in my life.

    I share this as a message of hope. I just kept praying that God put me wherever he wants. I’ll even be homeless and live under a bridge if that’s where He needs me. “I am in your care” I kept repeating. And God exceeded all hope, as He does so often and well.

    My friend, may your 2022 just explode with grace from God. Let our clever Friend show you why you had to pass through the darkness of the last year to lead you to a promised land. For you and all the rest of us misfit toys, may we find God’s signature everywhere.

  2. Yes, let me echo Sojiro by saying thank you so much, TR, for sharing such a deeply personal reflection on the disappointment, shock, and reflection that come when things go terribly wrong. Too often as Christians I think we immediately assume that we are to blame somehow when things don’t work out, that we’ve made the wrong decision, gotten off track somehow, failed to hear God properly, all that stuff. Of course, that does happen, but it’s far from always the case. I’m so glad you were able to work past that kind of self-recrimination quickly, and instead focus on finding the Lord’s presence with you in the midst of the wrongness of the situation. Such an encouraging story! Blessing you with a completely transformed 2022!

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