Why Bother Starting a Creative Career at 30

Comics: Jennifer P. Cheng

Turning 30 can be daunting but I didn’t think it would make me panic.

After all, as an Asian immigrant living in the United States I often got mistaken as someone still in her early 20s.

A month before my 30th birthday (in January 2018), I panicked.

I took a good, hard look at my life.


“I was not creatively fulfilled.”


I was pretty satisfied with the relationships I had in my personal life, but I was not happy with my work life. The job I had was labor intensive and draining, people bickered and gossiped to survive the brutal and fast restaurant environment, but most importantly…

I was not creatively fulfilled.

I had to be honest with myself about what I truly wanted, but was afraid to pursue.

  1. Recall a memory of when you first refused your calling:

This memory took me back to my 4th year in college when I finally switched my major from business to art. Initially I chose illustration as a concentration, but quickly switched to Art History after comparing myself to my classmates in life drawing class. I felt that I wasn’t good enough to be an illustrator. I don’t know why I didn’t have the willpower or grit at the time to push through the challenges, but I chose Art History because it‘d get me to that piece of paper, and personal freedom, faster.


“I was afraid to pursue illustration in college because I didn’t think I‘d be able to get to where I wanted to be.“


I was the first person in my family to finish college with a bachelor’s degree. My parents grew up in Taiwan: my mom finished high school and had to start working full-time to support her family, and my dad attempted an Associate’s degree while having a day job but he quit school after a year. I had to get that paper at the expense of developing independent thinking and career ambition. (It took me 7 years to finish school. I spent my late 20s aimlessly wandering and searching for my purpose and true happiness. But that’s another story for another time.)

Back to the fear.

2. Recognize and unblock your fears and shame:

I was afraid to pursue illustration in college because I didn’t think I‘d be able to get to where I wanted to be. I allowed the fear and shame of having talented classmates who drew better than me decide my career fate. I also felt the shame of being a late bloomer without the grit to pursue what I wanted. Why couldn’t I get my sh*t together earlier?


“I also felt the shame of being a late bloomer without the grit to pursue what I wanted.”


Ok, ok. Don’t get stuck in the dangerous self-shaming portal. This is not the purpose of this article, nor is it healthy or productive.

Vulnerability — checked. Honesty — checked. Career goal — checked. I am 30 years old, unfilled in my current job, and I really want a career in illustration. Now what?

This self-honesty talk made me realized that I really have nothing to lose at this point. I stepped on the gas paddle and was determined to accelerate on the path where I was afraid to drive on.

Comics: Jennifer P. Cheng

3. Give yourself small actionable dares towards your goal:

I started giving myself Weekly Creative Dares, which are small, actionable steps towards my career goal, and posting what I learned from my dares on my IG Stories (under DARES) for accountability. Friends and family started commenting on my progress and cheering me on; some of them even told me how I inspired them to pursue their passions! This made me realized that I wasn’t alone in feeling the fears and shames that blocked me from my creative potential.

My friend Jeremie Claeys is an illustrator who, like me, loves pictures and words. He created The Illustration Book Club after being inspired by Brene Brown’s books, Daring Greatly and Braving the Wilderness, which were about courage, vulnerability, and belonging. I stumbled on his work while preparing for a self-initiated interview project and we connected via emails. We even met in person at an illustration conference a couple months later! He illustrated every chapter of Brene’s books with his illustrations and wrote his articles based on her books. Eventually, some of his illustration friends read the book too and wanted to be part of his project!


“This self-honesty talk made me realized that I really have nothing to lose at this point. I stepped on the gas paddle and was determined to accelerate on the path where I was afraid to drive on.”


We all have fears, shame, and pain that prevents us from connecting to our purpose or authentic desires. When we are willing to be honest about the fears and shame that we carry and dare ourselves to unblock the parental modeling or societal programming in our subconscious mind, we can create space to receive what we want. I highly recommend watching the Formula & Magnetism or manifestation quick tips from Free & Native. I wouldn’t have the courage, or clarity, to challenge myself every week with creative dares to pursue an illustration career without Lacy Philip’s tools.

Examples of my previous dares:

  • Dare 01 : Attend an Illustration Conference or Meet Up
  • Dare 04 : Print Business Cards for a Local Creative Event
  • Dare 05 : Organize a Virtual Drawing Club and Start a Newsletter
  • Dare 06: Make a Zine and Sell at a Local Zine Fest

Right now I’m about eight dares into my Weekly Creative Dares. My tolerance to do things outside of my comfort zone is much higher now. I am less hesitant to act on my ideas. I felt more connected to what I authentically want in my core and braver than I was before starting this dare series.

Do you have a dream that you refused in the past? Are you happy with where you are in life without it? If not, what are you waiting for?


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