Flashback Series: Go Ahead And Be A Monster But Don’t Forget To Smile


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
- Howard Thurman

Colorful art illustration of a half-wolf and half-girl funny monster in yellow dress on blue background by Alex Mitchell.

Tick-tock tick-tock.

Death is something we prefer not to think about. It’s our biggest fear but it’s also our biggest mystery. Yeah, we should all definitely think about death more often. Maybe even obsess about it.

We’re all going to die.
Having spent most of my life as a perfectionist, the idea that we’re all going to die has not been easy to accept. There’s a part of me that honestly believes I can keep myself safe by trying harder.

But yes, no matter how spotless my kitchen is, how organized my tools are, how healthy my food is, how biodegradable my detergent is, how tidy my email inbox is, how many likes I get on Facebook, or how much love I put into my artwork, I am going to die. And, well, so are you.

Colorful art illustration of a big-headed many-eyed funny blue monster in yellow dress on blue background by Alex Mitchell.

More often than not, I forget this undeniable fact. And spend lots of time stressing over how to promote my projects or why I’m not selling more. And then I do this little mental exercise where I imagine myself very old and on my deathbed. I imagine what that me would say to this me.


Would I say that I wished I’d spent more time cleaning house or reading books about marketing? Or would I say I wished I’d spent more time making art or being with my loved ones?

Colorful art illustration of a one-eyed horned funny green monster in yellow dress on blue background by Alex Mitchell.

Tick-tock tick-tock.

I feel a sense of urgency. Because I don’t think I have the time to worry about not being smart enough, clean enough, or successful enough.

The only thing that should worry me is not living fully.

The only thing that should worry me is not getting my art done, not leaving something behind that can help someone else.

These are my monsters.
Writing is my way of figuring out how I feel about the world. The books I write are like treasures that I leave behind - proof of my existence and yearning to share a little joy. Because we're all on the same journey, don’t ya know.

The first book I ever created came after I spent several years exploring my monsters, bringing my dark side to life through paintings, sculptures, and puppets. I made my monsters responsible for my anger, insecurities, and anxieties. And the more outrageously horrible I made them, the more absurd they became. By naming my monsters and shining a light on them, they got a lot less scary.

And with time, my monsters showed me that having monsters is what makes me feel alive. Instead of hating myself for not being perfect, I can embrace all of what makes me me. I can live fully.

Life is messy. It’s so not perfect. And neither are we.

We can spend all our time keeping our monsters locked up to appear more in control. Or we can relax.

Colorful art illustration of a strange smiling girl with green hat in yellow dress on red background by Alex Mitchell.

Tick-tock tick-tock.

Again I feel a sense of urgency. Because I want everyone to be okay with their own monsters. We don’t need to wait until we feel perfect to love ourselves. We don’t need to wait to live fully.

Go ahead and be a monster but don’t forget to smile.

The best way to love life is to love yourself.

Welcome to my Twinki-Winki world where a rebel can give life advice and a fashion misfit can give style tips. Oh, yeah. Because I’ve figured out what satisfaction feels like. And I want the same for you:

Satisfaction feels joyful like when you’re happy to be alive.

illustrations: ©2013 Alex Mitchell, Go Ahead And Be A Monster But Don’t Forget To Smile, A Bilingual Poem Picture Book


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