Eleven years ago Nicolette Wood left her tight-knit family in Miami and headed west — all the way west — to pursue her dream of doing animation. At only 29 years old, “Nico” has made a name for herself as a successful television animator in LA. With her dream career securely underway, Nico can now focus on finding balance and contentment in her personal life… as she puts it, “figuring [herself] out.” Cannabis has been one of the friends she has called on during this journey of self-discovery.
I come from a very big family — I have 30 cousins and they all live in Miami, my whole family is still there. You know the saying “it takes a village”? Well, I was literally raised by one. Moving to LA to go to animation school was something I really wanted to do, but I don’t think at 18 years old I realized what a huge deal it would be, moving all the way across the country and away from my “village.” Choosing to stay and work here was a big decision too, and eleven years later, I am still finding my way and carving my place here.
I’m half Jamaican. I grew up in Miami with my mother’s side — all my Jamaican families. On my Jamaican side, everyone is very conservative and no one smokes weed. It’s something that’s looked down on. Although that’s a bit strange since we make really good rum and have a lot of Jamaican Rum punch parties! It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned that Jamaicans had a reputation with weed, so I didn’t start smoking until my early 20s. I had started working and I moved in with some friends and we’d roll, and smoke together, and watch movies on a projector in the living room. It was a really fun time, kind of the time I started feeling like I was building a life for myself out here in LA.
Cannabis feels like a very good friend. Just like a relationship with a friend, my relationship to cannabis has really evolved. ”
Now, cannabis feels like a very good friend. Just like a relationship with a friend, my relationship to cannabis has really evolved. At this point in my life cannabis is almost always something I enjoy on my own. Since my professional life is about making art, I can become overwhelmed by the idea of making personal work. I second-guess myself. I discovered last year that a few puffs from my pipe helps me relax enough so that I can focus and sit down and draw. One of my favourite routines is to come home after work, eat something for dinner, set up all my art supplies and then take an edible I am familiar with (so I know what to expect from the effects) — and then I’ll start working and start to feel it kicking in, and it feels great. Or I’ll smoke some weed, draw a bath, and reflect on things that have felt bad or overwhelming in my week. I can focus on my art and on my thoughts — these rituals help me figure my shit out.
Going home to visit is a surreal experience. I was back in Miami recently and while I was there something really clicked for me. For the first time I saw my mother as a person, not just as my mom. I love my family but being around them can be draining. I’ve been realizing that I’ve felt trapped by guilt, and shame, and a desire to be understood by the people who raised me. There are things about me that my family doesn’t understand and probably never will. I am recognizing that they will likely never change, not really, and it can be very freeing to accept that kind of truth. How can I embrace who I am and what I want and what makes me happy? I’m actively asking those questions. The goal is to get to a place where you can tell yourself: “I deserve to be happy. I deserve to live my best life.” And then from there, go out and get it.
In my early 20s I became close friends with one of my roommates, and we would smoke weed and talk about the universe; the wonders of planets, stars, how many moons Saturn has, how big a galaxy is… It was lots of fun, and sometimes silly, and light, but there was also something expanding inside of me during that time. Talking about things so much bigger than my little world helped me to feel more comfortable to talk about really personal, intimate things too. Cannabis has helped me focus my thoughts, imagine wonderful things, and grow as a person. It can be as simple as taking some time to see the big picture. To zoom out. To laugh out loud. To just be.
Work isn’t everything: take up a hobby.
Choose something that you look forward to but that’s slightly out of your comfort zone — trying new things and learning new skills helps keep us curious, sharp, and optimistic. Nico recently took up “jam dance” classes at Contact Improv studio. “I’m not a very good dancer but that doesn’t matter because the whole point of the class is there are no rules. You have a partner, like in acro-yoga, and once you dance with someone you learn like where to put your body so that they can lift you or spin you or maybe you just roll on each other. I felt that I needed to get more in touch with my body and not always be drawing or looking at a computer screen.”
Express yourself creatively.
We’re all creative beings: making things, writing, or even doodling on the regular can help us tap into our creative center and make us feel more fulfilled. Nico makes zines and comics as an outlet for personal expression outside of her work as an animator. “There’s nothing more precious to me than this time I take for myself. When I don’t make time for it in my life I’m a mess.”
Find a crew.
It’s important to surround yourself with a community of people you can feel like yourself around. In LA, Nico says she has found her people: “My friends are queer women of color who, like me, love anime and weed. I love to take long walks with a friend and a joint. We will walk for hours and talk about the things on our minds. Our parents or jobs or micro-aggressions we experience in our day-to-day. We work those things out. Everyone deserves to have space to feel like they can be one hundred percent themselves.