This shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve jokingly said “I don’t know why I’m in Animation, haha” for so long that the stark realization of the fact didn’t set in until one night after going to some legendary animator’s live animation and q&a talk. I can’t even remember his name. It was about a year ago, in my sophomore year. He spoke endearingly about 12 hour work days —which made me cringe in my accidentally acquired front row seat— and how “if you’re passionate about animation, you’ll love every minute of it.” Walking back to the bus stop alone I was worried about the fact that I could never devote 12 hours of my day to animation, and my safety became an afterthought.
I looked into switching my major that night and looked into my current major. I hadn’t really heard of it before, and I hadn’t taken any classes for it previously. I didn’t want to gamble on something I hadn’t seen or done, and I also didn’t want to go to another optional major that was everything I didn’t want to do with my life but at least wasn’t animation. After that night, I promptly entered the 5 stages of grief that I have finally come to the end of.
Stage 1: Denial
I’ve quit so many things in life that I didn’t want to quit another thing. When I was little, I was in numerous sports and physical activities, eventually all that I quit. I went through 6. I have a habit of cutting things off when they no longer serve me, so I stubbornly refused to add another thing to the list of quits. I thought that maybe if I got to other classes that weren’t from an unqualified animator teaching us (note: not a teacher in any aspect) I could regain my love for animating. After all; I loved my Action Analysis class. I met some great friends there. And I was partially right; I loved 3D Modeling and 3D Animation. And I wound up loving Rigging, which was a surprise. But not every animator SCAD hires can teach adequately (at the bare minimum), and that was something I had to learn the hard way.
Stage 2: Anger
I never knew that I could get so angry I could feel my soul leaving my body, but I learned a lot of things in the past year. My friends felt my fury from my stance alone and they couldn’t even see my face. It was the second revision of my project, and I was proud of it. That was my mistake; I actually enjoyed how it came out. In animation classes, it doesn’t matter if you like what you did or if it came out right. What mattered was that our teacher liked it and it was what they wanted to see. Which usually I have no problem with, except when he said, “You could continue to revise this forever; I’ll never be satisfied.” As an anxiety-ridden perfectionist, I was on the border of crying and of tearing his glasses off and shoving the shards into his eye sockets.
I came out of the class more confused than I was going in. I would arrive after a lively, uplifting 8AM class to find myself falling asleep from him talking in circles for two hours in mediocre English before letting us work for the last half hour. He implied some controversial choice beliefs, one of them low-key encouraging racist depictions. One day he opened class by showing a short film of people having sex for the longest seven minutes in my life. Just walked up, turned the lights off, put on the film, and then turned to us going on with business like watching soft porn at 11am on a Tuesday was an average thing. I’d come home from class ranting and raving every day I went. I used all four absences to skip his class to save my sanity. That’s a full two weeks of class.
Stage 3: Bargaining
I decided that animation as a job wasn’t for me during that class in Spring 2017. I found myself preparing for a different career path, along with graduate school in order to allow myself to have the opportunity. I was thrilled; I made my first excel sheet in years and began comparing different colleges and their programs. I even visited one of the schools this summer. At that point, I knew I wasn’t going to be in the animation field, or at least, not in the art department. I still was in the delusion that I would get my degree for animation and somehow apply the second degree to it.
Stage 4: Depression
I’ve been saying “animation sucks and so does SCAD” for so long, but it truly hit when hurricane Irma did. When I fled my Mom’s house to my school to then get ordered to evacuate again, I escaped up north back to the Poconos where I spent my entire summer. Driving up to the mountains I almost cried; I didn’t want to return. What was the point of going down to the devil’s armpit where I got swindled of money I hadn’t even made yet on awful classes I had no passion towards? The hardest thing was the drive back to the airport. I knew I couldn’t avoid it; I already had moved my things in. I already paid for the semester. There was no back-up plan to transfer or switch schools; the whole summer I thought I could continue with animation. You know how much animation I did this summer? I started one animation and never finished it. I drew one digital art piece. You know how much writing I did? Over 400 pages.
Stage 5: Acceptance
If Screen Design got me to the edge, then 3D Production was the final shove. The professor was awful. He went too fast in explanations and nobody could keep up. When we didn’t know something because our past teachers had (also) been low quality, he’d tell us, “well, you should already know this. How do you guys not know this?” and when we told him our teachers hadn’t taught us, he asked, “you put it on your review of the class, right?” (I did. I nearly filled 2,000 words of additional comments on two different teachers explaining how absolutely awful they were. Not that SCAD actually cares, of course, but that’s another post for once I graduate.)
The final drop all came down to texturing our models. Naturally, the newest version of the ever-changing program had some bugs in it, and this caused the program to crash whenever I tried to do something with the model. I’m someone who has no shame when it comes to asking any professor for help. We pay for an education, and pay to learn. I wrote a detailed paragraph explaining I tried x, y, and z, and asked if there was another way to do it. I also included the error message I continually got. He responded with three short, uncapitalized sentences that were very clearly something off the top of his head from reading maybe the first sentence of my paragraph. This continued another two times with mental auto-response e-mails, and I continually updated my answers and tried what he suggested despite having already done it all myself if he took the time to read my first e-mail. My last e-mail (to which he responded the next morning to with his final response) I essentially declared I gave up due to being on the verge of a mental breakdown and asked him to take a look at it because I put it in the dropbox.
When I returned back to my room to find his (second) e-mail sitting in my inbox, I promptly lost it. I declared to my friend in the class that I was done with the project, class, and animation itself as my major, and that I was going to switch my major or transfer out. I don’t think she actually expected me to follow up with it. I wouldn’t have either. What finally did me in was not just the simplistic, uncaring responses of my teacher, but the fact that I could spend an entire career using a program and still not know what a simple problem was because of how much is going on in the inner workings. I could have everything working as it should and there could still be a problem. That just doesn’t cut it for me.
So, what major did I wind up picking?
Dramatic Writing. I would’ve switched sooner had I been able to get into my Dramatic Writing 101 class before now. I didn’t want to take a bet on a class I didn’t even know if I’d enjoy nonetheless be any good at. I am absolutely in love with writing, and dramatic writing is another medium of writing that I am excited to get under my tool belt for creating stories. Theoretically I could transfer, but that would require me to essentially restart my college career because I doubt any of my animation credits would apply to anything. I only have to take one summer semester to catch up, and I can live with that. Because I’m still planning on going to grad school for Creative Writing, I decided to drop that minor, and instead minor in Animation. I’m now a Dramatic Writing major with an Animation minor.
I was terrified at first of the change, but the more people I spoke to the more secure I felt with the decision. Going into my animation class the next day I watched the teacher go to help someone and he chuckled, asking her if she was the one who was freaking out the day before. I was about to answer that I had been the person, but she said she was, and I was taken back. This man was quite literally laughing from our class’ collective suffering, and the final stab was that he told her that many people experienced the same problem, and to just export it without the hair and turn that in. I managed to get my update in before I presented, not that it really mattered considering I’m dropping the class, but for the principle behind it. While the Animation department might not have morals, I have a few and I stand by them. Now I actually look forward to my future and feel excitement to learn that I haven’t felt in over a year.