There’s a new convention on the calendar, put on by the irrepressible and alarmingly driven Onezumi Hartstein. Not only is she the driving force behind a new art and webcomic convention, she also draws a couple of webcomics of her own, as well as provides advice and guidance to aspiring web artists. Shoehorned around all this are a day job and a dedication to fitness that make us say, “Damn, woman.”
After a fair bit of wrangling, strategic tentacle deployment, and the dangled carrot of a future arm-wrestling match, we managed to duct-tape her to a folding chair long enough to drag some answers out of her to see exactly how she fits this much energy into one human body.
ShrinkGeek: First, a bit of background for folks who aren’t privy to your brand of insanity – who is Onezumi, and what kind of geeky stuff does she do?
Onezumi Hartstein: I’m a webcomic author, artist, and online personality that likes kicking life in the nuts.
I draw Stupid and Insane Defenders Against Chaos and My Annoying Life – 2 Lovecraft-inspired comics. I have a blog that has art tutorials, random geeky life bits, makeup tutorials, and anything wacky that I can think up. I also just started a new fandom convention called Intervention. It’s focused on independent creators and fans that live on the internet like Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance and Molly Crabapple of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School. Ben Bova is premiering his new webcomic at our show with Rob Balder and Bill Holbrook. Everyone should register now because it is going to be epic.
Also, I think Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of the best movies ever to be made.
You do a lot of your exercise to address underlying health issues, correct?
Oni: Oh yeah – my ligaments are messed up, so my feet collapsed when I was a baby. I didn’t walk until I was 4. I’ve had multiple major surgeries to try and help me, but none of them have worked very well. Most people’s feet are levers – mine are, as my doctor puts it, “a bag of bones.” I’m not horribly disfigured or anything, but I am constantly in a lot of pain from the knees down. I’m unable to wear 99% of all shoes on the market. I wake up in the morning and immediately grab my feet because of the pain. I actually want to move to Florida to escape the winters in the Northeast because the cold just makes it so much worse.
Walking for me is 4x harder than it is for a normal person. I like to keep in shape so that I can handle the extra work. I kind of overcompensate in a manic way, honestly. My doctor always just stares at me wide-eyed while exclaiming that I “must have a ridiculously high pain tolerance.” He won’t stop me from being active, but the fact that I tend to hurt myself enough to make me skip a few days every few weeks kind of modulates it. I can’t handle jumping very well, but I insist on doing it anyway. I just really don’t like accepting limitations. I can be an idiot.
Since a lot of folks might feel like they’re trying to do too much, or be overwhelmed by the notion of doing this kind of stuff, how’d you get into it?
Oni: I started out with martial arts when I was 14 because it was fun for me. If something isn’t just a little bit fun for you, it is probably not the best choice for a beginner – or you need to make up a silly game to make it fun for you. Psych yourself out if you have to. So many people get discouraged if something is too boring. I used to pretend I was on Mortal Kombat! That was my secret. I love that game to this day. This doesn’t work for everyone, though.
I’m getting my husband into working out now and he hates it. In his case, I’m not sure he can ever find this fun. If you are like him, the best bet is to get someone to push you and encourage you. It’s hard, but it has to be done. I think it helps to write down your workouts so that you can look back on what you have accomplished. You might not see a weight loss right away, but you can look at that knowing that your endurance is getting better and your metabolism is probably waking up. Make sure you find some way to measure how awesome you are.
What’s your normal fitness routine like? How do you make time for it?
Oni: I try to work out for a minimum of 3 days a week. Sometimes I do 5. Since I have been crazy busy working on Intervention, I’ve had to scale back temporarily to just doing the workout DVD for 3-5 days a week. I miss going biking and working with weights! After Intervention, I’ll be going back to working with freeweights and I’ll try to add a day where I can go to the local goth club to dance.
As far as making time goes, I found that if I tricked my brain it was the best. I learned through trial and error that if I work out early in the morning before work, I’ll be too asleep to know what is going on. My brain doesn’t start thinking very well until 10:30AM. Working out early was the WORST THING EVER for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, it was a routine that no longer bothered me. I am the opposite of a morning person. Strangely, after forcing myself to do this for 2 weeks, not only was I not awake enough to register how abhorrent working out at 5 AM is, but I had more energy during the day and was happier. I don’t know if it works this way for everyone, but it sure worked for me. It’s not easy, but I accept it now.
You do a lot of sparring-type stuff? Do you get any flack over that, or is it an empowering thing? Or doesn’t that even factor in (you just do it because it’s fun)?
Oh yes, I used to spar a lot. I actually haven’t sparred for a bit because it’s difficult to find a school that does it here in New Jersey. I asked about it in at least 4 schools and they said that the laws here make it almost impossible. I miss it a lot.
I’m sure people thought I was weird when I used to spar with the guys. Believe it or not, I actually got a lot of flack from some of the other women at one of the schools I attended. Some of the women were super nice, but a few were very jealous. They would make up rumors about me claiming that the only reason I was there all the time was that I had a crush on the sensei. I was totally oblivious to this. It couldn’t have been farther from the truth. When I found out these women were talking about me, I was pretty upset. I actually felt more insulted by the rumors these women made up than if a guy had called me a derogatory term. I actually ended up leaving one school because of this. The instructor was so freaked out by these untrue rumors that he started avoiding me. It was truly sad. One day after class one of the women hit me in the face in the locker room as a joke. I realized at that point that it was time to move on. It was like High School all over again.
Annoyances aside, I still really didn’t care much about what people thought. I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I’d rather spar and be able to handle myself if a situation arises than worry about much else. I’ve been in quite a few street fights, unfortunately. I’ve been lucky enough to not live in a bad part of town since college. I am a firm believer that the best strategy is to not get into a fight – so in a way I am glad that I haven’t needed these skills recently. They are good to have, but I never liked using them.
Sparring in class is fun, though. I miss it. MORTAL KOMBAT BABALITY! Heh. I also like being silly – can you tell?
No. Of course not. *shifty eyes* Do you bring your husband, Harknell, along for any of these shenanigans?
I did drag Harknell to some of the classes, but he got a bit disturbed by them. He can’t handle watching his wife get hit at all, so once was enough. I tried to teach him how to spar but he almost started crying at the thought of hitting me.
I think that a lot of folks would be reticent about slugging the one they love, so I can’t say I blame him. Any secrets to being so CEO?
Don’t give up. If you fail at something, it’s just a signal that you need to change directions, not stop.
Thousands of failures and/or rejections are the path to a success. Things don’t happen overnight. Fitness will help every aspect of your life. I used to be a depressed procrastinator, but being active was instrumental in me finding my confidence and drive. If people bring you down, you need to cut them out of your life and make your own family. Associate with people who inspire you, be healthy, and never let them take you alive! The rest will follow…
…and don’t forget to wear a funny hat!
Fortunately, I am equipped with entertaining habedashery.
We’d like to thank Onezumi for swinging by, and if you’re interested in hitting Intervention, it looks like it’ll be quite the to-do.