BY GOLLY. How fast a year goes by, and how much one can change in it.
In order for you to understand the genuine awe and heartfelt gratitude I'm about to express, I need to tell a little tale I don't usually talk about. I don't deny it nor avoid it - I simply don't like to shove it up people's faces. But it's true.
When I moved to Paris, I was chasing a dream. I had obtained a visa by a miracle and spent half of my year-long savings in getting it - so I had 1000 euros in my pocket, a couple of friends I could crash on while I found a room, one suitcase, and an mp3. I was terrified at the airport, once it sank in this was, indeed, France - 11 hours of flight away from home.
My youngest brother gave me a playlist for me to listen on the plane, but to avoid jet lag I slept through the entire flight. Seeing as I was terrified to step out of the airport and begin facing not having a clue of what to do or how to become a paid illustrator, I sat down and listened to it.
One of the songs was Cloud Cult's "You'll be Bright". At that moment, the lyrics brought tears. In retrospective, they were prophetic.
Two years later, I had done everything to stay alive. I babysat, I worked in a small video game company, I got a scholarship. I used credit cards, I borrowed money, I made friends, I fell in love and got heart-broken. I sent out portfolios, I learned french, I met people in the industry, I got rejection letters. And in June 11th, after a very intense streak of work on my portfolio to finally master Photoshop and work faster, I got the Bright e-mail.
It's been quite a year. My life has been turned around completely: my first assignment was to draw some dogs on a street, I now have my own dog that I got to force me to go out for walks because I have so much work I could be shut in all day in the gorgeous apartment I call home, in the beautiful city I love. I've worked with Random House, Top That, Pearson, ABDO publishing and Benchmark - my first book is about to be released for sale and I'm working on the sequel. Somethings won't change, of course: I still feel a thrill of wealth whenever I buy a pain au chocolat (a left over from the times when 1 euro was impossible to afford), and I still delight myself in knowing the city better than most because of the time I spent walking it to avoid paying for the metro. But everything else did change.
So this is a very, very heartfelt THANK YOU. Thank you to the Bright lovely people, who took me in and gave me a shelter, a home. Who've encouraged me to grow, mentored me to strengthen my voice, and given me the confidence to experiment and step out of what is comfortable and safe. Who've been there whenever I've needed them. Who've become my friends, my family. This thank you is to the whole Bright family - to the artists, who are my partners of mischief and fellow Brightlings. To the agents, who are the loveliest people on earth. Specially to lovely, never-stopping Lucie for getting me my first assignment and becoming my fairy godmother, to James for being adorable and getting me the biggest project I could've dreamt of on the very day I had to move out (you didn't know, huh?), to Nicky for being patient, relentless and fierce in her struggle to protect us in tricky projects while remaining adorable, to Anne for having such a sharp exigent eye pushing me to push my pieces and give the 110% in personal artwork. To Florin for enduring endless e-mails and getting me my money to pay my rent. To Vicki and Amber, for not hating me every time I trembled like Oliver Twist to ask for my fees and going beyond the call of duty on my behalf. To K.M. for being K.M. - but for having been my very first contact with what would become a completely different, blossoming Erika.
I still have too many projects ahead. I have stories in my head and in my sketchbook, stories of bears, of socks, of girls with umbrellas and glowing luminous creatures. And I know they will be there to help along, to encourage, and to simply continue to be one of the best things that have happened to me.
I'm sure there'll be many more years together. But none will be as significative, special or life changing as the first. Thank you, my loveliest - from the bottom of my heart, for giving me the chance of earn a living from what I love and helping me become Brighter every day.