This Instagram sensation has a brutally honest drawing for all your feelings
I went to my neighborhood bookstore to collect my thoughts after a particularly melancholy afternoon. I was out-of-my-wits lonely and books always offered companionship. After peering through one shelf after another, on the third floor I found a pristine copy of Am I There Yet?: The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood.
Mari Andrew’s work isn’t foreign to me. Having trimmed down my mindless Instagram scrolling time to (maybe) 15 minutes a day, I keep a constant lookout for her illustrations. Her microblog of sorts is a wealth of watercolor paintings adorned with her distinct handwriting. Having garnered a cult following of 1M followers, the recent TEDx speaker illustrates and writes about feelings that one can’t always concretize. Am I There Yet is the #Adulting self-help (self-care?) book you never thought you needed.
One rejection after another, the 2018 publication became an instant New York Times Bestseller; she never took no for an answer because she knew her story had to be told. As we continue to consume art through a phone screen, her thorough honesty captivates men and women of all ages.
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Overcoming Grief and Loss
In 2015, she experienced a triple axel of tragedies: she lost her father, went through a traumatic break-up and encountered health issues. Hitting rock bottom made her realize that she had everything, in her means, to craft the life she wanted for herself.
She writes about loss in chapter five, The One That I Want:
“This too shall pass.” That’s something a lot of people told me when my dad died. All these young people, who had maybe lost a pet dog, an elderly grandparent, a job, apparently held the universal Wisdom of the Ages: my grief was going to pass. People want to believe that grief, like stubbing your toe, follows a crisp orderly pattern and that one day it’s done and nobody wants to talk about it or has to hear about it ever again.
But the truth of grief involves stepping into the deepest, darkest, monster-infested zone and acknowledging, “This place is the absolute pits and you might be here a long time.” It takes a very brave person to step into the lightless murk of true empathy and I’m fortunate to have a few of these brave souls in my life.
The Art of Empathy
Following this numbing season of grief, her way to becoming included diligent self-introspection. Through the years, she’s always observed people, which she used as a creative power. She created one illustration for each day—with a cheap watercolor paint set from babysitting—tapping in a multitude of experiences. This was her way of cultivating an identity based on a number of different things. She invested in illustration as a hobby until she became the powerhouse she is now. (She doesn’t even consider herself a “good artist.” In essence, she just draws her feelings.)
Pain can feel very useless but this can only be cultivated at a place of profound loneliness—the biggest fruit which is empathy. These seemingly self-indulgent things she thought were wrong with her—a cluttered résumé, rejection and failure—gave her the power to connect with other people.
Am I There Yet?
In Am I There Yet, she navigates the complex world of dating and dissects the anatomy of a heartbreak. She writes about other crucial life experiences like finding your identity, reaching milestones, overcoming uncertainty and finding purpose.
The 32-year-old shares, “I had made myself an artist by simply making art. I don’t have the perspective until I’ve lived it.” There is an astounding gift when you meet people where they are. We’re all trying to figure life out; Mari just happens to have a very successful book deal (and I love her for that.)
Art Alexandra Lara