Saturday, June 30, 2012

Animated People: Erik Timmerman

 Erik helped me work through a lot of issues from my childhood. Or rather, he set me walking down a road towards resolving a lot of those issues. From time to time, we would sit there in his office and talk about our fathers--the good and the bad. In reality, nothing really got resolved during those discussions, but he provided me with an objective, non-judgmental perspective seeded with the hard won wisdom of a lifetime of successes and failures with his own children and parents.

One day, after a particularly intense discussion, I looked at Erik and said that there were times when I wished that he had been my father and I wondered where I could have been in life if he was (or how much further along in life). Erik looked down through his glasses at me, gave me that knowing smile of his, put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair as he always did when he was ready to impart wisdom on his students. "It is our fathers who make us who we are", he said, "and we wouldn't be who we are if it wasn't for them."

When I went to R.I.T., Marla once asked me what direction I planned to take my career. I said that I was going to go back to Michigan and do forensic animation for the family business. In many ways, Erik was preparing me for that experience should my road take me home. As I watch my father's behavior, I see where I learned so many of the things that I do--like the personality quirks and how I behave when I get stressed out. On a daily basis, I get to see why I act and react in a lot of the ways that I do--both the good and the bad. I see the positive behavior traits in my father that I want to emulate and make a part of me as well as the negative ones that embarass me when I think 'is that how I look when I do that?'

Erik was by no means a perfect man, and by the same token, my father is not as bad as my childhood memories would make him out to be. But whether they be our fathers or the father-figures/mentors that come and go throughout our lives, we never truly stop looking for their approval. As I look back on my career since graduating from R.I.T. I wonder, would Erik be proud of what I have accomplished, or would he lean back in his chair, place his hands behind his head and look down at me through his glasses, perched precariously on the end of his nose, and say: "well that's pretty good, but what are you going to do next?"