What Matters: Timothy Goodman on Not Living a Life of Could Haves and Should Haves

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Debbie Millman has started a new project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an ongoing effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer 10 identical questions, and submit a decidedly nonprofessional photograph.

Up next: Timothy Goodman, a New York City–based artist, muralist, illustrator and author of two books. His drawings and words have adorned products, walls, galleries, cars, billboards, magazine covers, people and clothing lines worldwide.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Reading in a random park in a European city or getting drunk on a hot NYC summer night with an old friend.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

When I was 9 years old I would turn my bedroom into a “game room” where you’d walk through a path of board games that I set up. I’d invite my family to walk through and experience the journey. Then I instantly tore it all down. When I was 11 years old I got really into heavy metal and I bought all these metal magazine and put the pages up all over my walls. Then I tore everything down. My bedroom was always very curated, and I was fascinated by the fact that what I created could be so ephemeral, that what I made didn’t mean as much as I thought it did. I still feel that way.

What is your biggest regret?

I hauled buckets of wallpaper glue upstairs for 14 hours a day, at $7 an hour, for five years in my late teens and early 20s before moving to NYC to go to SVA. It was then that I decided I was not going to live a life of “could haves” and “should haves.” I had no money, so I devoted myself to figuring out how to move to NYC and pay for a college education. Since that moment, I have gone after every single thing I ever wanted in life. I have no regrets … well, except for not seeing Bob Dylan in concert. He’s my fave artist, and now I’m worried I won’t get the chance again!

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

I don’t, really. People stay with me forever. I romanticize, commemorate and sentimentalize every single thing. My sun is in Cancer, and my moon is in Scorpio, so I’m doomed.

What makes you cry?

My grandma, who is the sole reason I’m a creative person, becoming more and more riddled with dementia every day.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

I’m not one of these creative people who can’t appreciate what they’ve “accomplished.” I don’t take my career or my life for granted. We can quickly move on to the next thing and still have pride for what we’ve created in the past.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I want to believe in it, because every ancient teaching in the world points to an afterlife. I just don’t know what my relationship is to it yet.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I don’t hate anything about myself. I used to think it was a curse to feel so deeply; I used to curse at myself and anyone who hurt me. Now I know it’s my biggest blessing, to really care so deeply for something.

What do you love most about yourself?

Honestly, it’s my loneliness. I feel lonely a lot. I can be in a relationship or single, happy or sad, [and] I still feel lonely a lot. However, loneliness can be a friend. It keeps me curious and searching for things in life. A lot of times, it’s when I’m the most creative, it’s when I feel the most alive and the most honest. I’m thankful that I get to feel so alive during these times because it feels like my special little superpower.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

Definitely nothing healthy or cute. Gimme a double patty with a side of fries and a chocolate shake from Shake Shack.