Light Beam

A comic by Eleanor Klock


Eleanor sits wearing a green hoodie and drawing on a tablet. She thinks, “When did I become so useless? Did I lose motivation when I stopped chasing the proverbial bag and started focusing on art? If so, why am I still so bad at drawing?”

Caption text: At 24, I’m witnessing some of my peers step up a rung or two in their careers.

A woman climbs a ladder and says, “Look! Look at me! I’m leveling up!” Eleanor, standing below, says “That’s very nice. I am proud of you.” Then she says to the reader, “Were you expecting a spiteful retort in response to my friend’s success? If so, consider therapy.”

Caption text: Compared to many, I am at a standstill in both the financial sense. . .

Two expensively dressed people clink glasses of wine while one says into a telephone, “57 original Furbies sold within the hour. Yeah, at full price, can you imagine?”

Caption text: And the creative sense.

An announcer says, “And the Eisner award goes to . . . Matt Groening once again!” Matt Groening, wearing a tiny crown, says “What can I say, I’ve still got it!” while two women drawn in the style of The Simpsons wearing evening gowns and sashes glare at him from behind. One sash reads “Miss Take” and the other reads “Miss Understood.”

Caption text: What are my 20s for? In the workplace, 20-somethings are expected to take advantage of their youthful vigor and say yes to everything.

Eleanor, wearing an apron and slicing cake behind a counter, hears a coworker say, “We’re 86’d German chocolate” and replies, “I’ll get it.” She walks through a busy restaurant full of people conversing and drinking wine. The caption reads, “Simultaneously, it’s when their identities are supposed to crystallize from new experiences.”

In a dark walk-in, Eleanor uses her phone to illuminate a fancy cake. The caption reads, “During the socially acceptable window of adventure allotted to young adults, those who attempt a creative career plummet to a purgatory where one’s work and sense of self are inseparable. (Eleanor falls through a void.)

Eleanor, at home with a cat and a slice of cake, reads from a letter: “We regret to inform you that your drawings and your entire personality suck.”

Caption text: I’ve sought advice from esteemed artists . . .

An aged artist says, “It’s a hustle, but you’ll access your true self!” Another says, “At your age, I drew to pay off my $500 Brooklyn studio rent.” A chorus of artists say in unison, “Just keep drawing!”

Eleanor eats a slice of cake while crying. Her cat is startled. The caption reads: “Those once-inspiring words now distress me. Why should I keep putting my unfledged ego on the line? Why did I even start in the first place?” Eleanor says to her cat, “I love cake too much to be a starving artist!”

A younger Eleanor crouches among a myriad of crayons. She says, “Woah, so many crayons! Thanks, Dad!”

She draws a crude smiling face. The caption reads, “When I was eight, I was told I could achieve anything. Two recessions later, my dreams have begun to lose their color.” Eleanor holds a stack of board games at a yard sale. Her mother says, “You should have played more Operation” while handing her the box for that game.

A man with an elaborate mustache and a goatee, wearing a top hat and bow tie, says, “Step right up to the Wheel of Destiny!” Behind him, a carnival spinning wheel is labeled “Destiny.” Stops on the wheel are labeled “clothes,” “fame,” “love,” “makeup,” “pool,” “gift card,” “body,” “whimsy,” “kissing,” “California,” “president,” “clear skin,” “friends,” “mansion,” “croissant,” and “money.” The caption reads: “The weight of adulthood has settled in, and what once seemed feasible now feels like a Fraud.”

Eleanor takes a closer look at the wheel, saying, “Wait a minute.” The segments now read, “tired from sitting,” “credit card debit,” “ghosted after date,” “mental illness,” “no dental insurance,” “hoarding tendencies,” and “chronic eczema.”

Eleanor crawls through a dark cave toward a small point of light. The caption reads, “Still, I reach for a sliver of light—the possibility of the ideal set of conditions that will give way to my full creative potential.”

Caption text: It’s likely that the circumstances may never align. I’m terrified that one day the opportunity will arise and I’ll be unable to take it. Eleanor plays a game called “The Game o’ Strive” with two friends. One reads a card that says, “Daycare full: all women forfeit their careers and return to start.”

Caption text: The odds don’t look promising. A lot could get in the way… Quick images show the belly of a pregnant woman; Eleanor hunched over a computer, typing intently; Eleanor being offered an engagement ring; and a receipt for a purchase of gummies, frozen corn, chicken, berry yogurt, toothpaste, avocado salad, and toilet paper that totals $293.87.

Eleanor crawls through the cave, toward the light. The caption reads, “What scares me the most is the disappearance of the light beam . . . but maybe in the darkness, I will be free.”

Eleanor holds a candle and says, “Eleanor Klock is an Ifugao cartoonist based in Portland, OR. She will probably never stop drawing.”


Art and Music, Oregon Humanities Magazine, Work, Aging, Creativity, Fear


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