How Steven Created Meaning When his World Turned Upside Down
The following post is a short story from my visit with Steven Sudell in October, and the lesson he taught me. Steven passed away on Wednesday, 11/28/18.
Extending his arm towards me with drawing book in hand, Steven asked, “Do you wanna see my drawings?”
Me: “Yes I’d love to! What are we working with here?”
Steven: “I started drawing my friends and family as different animals.”
Each page was a wild animal with a one or two line caption below: She is an elephant and really cute but she poops a lot.
I burst out laughing. Steven’s Mom looked over and gave a broad smile, “Yeah, there’s not much filter anymore."
I turned over another page, and then another. Each time, Steven would give me the low down of why he chose the specific animal for that person. Only a few weeks later, Steven would move from these one-on-one showings to becoming a YouTube phenom. His channel, TheWeevster18 went from 0 to over 15K subscribers in a few weeks (it's now over 327K), and he began drawing more things: small pieces for family, a hockey stick for Charlie (a recently relapsed hockey player and fellow sock designer). The video below was one that Steven pre-recorded shortly before passing.
Hours later, on my late night drive back to Boston, I kept replaying that interaction. Only eighteen months earlier, that same kid was playing youth sports, and now, with tumors throughout his brain and spine impeding the use of his legs, Steven was spending most of his waking hours drawing. His life had dramatically changed in such a short amount of time, but here he was spreading this positive energy. He was entirely confined to his bed, but he was adapting. He was creating meaning through his artwork and the people closest to him.
Many of us millennials have this idea that a life of meaning can only come from a few specific places: from love, from pursuing passion, from god, etc.., but Steven was proving that meaning can be made, that it can be created, even from pooping elephants.
Rest In Peace, Steven.