STEP by STEP

 

It’s really hard to start something like this. My thoughts fly a million times faster than my hands trying to type them and I’m not sure this will come out how I truly want. But I’ll get over it, because this is important.

I’m writing this on January 31st 2017, a little over a year and half since I graduated from my Bachelors at FIT. A lot has transpired in the time between tossing my graduation cap and my fingers currently landing on the keys to write this sentence, and while it may be trite to say, I’ve experienced many ups and downs along the way. At the moment I’m at the a down working towards an up. For the past few weeks I’ve found myself in a position where it has become inescapably apparent that I need a change in my life, this blog is part of that change.

This first post is a reflection of my experiences post-graduation and the lessons I’ve learned, this post is a manual in dislodging the stones at the cave entrance, a flag in the sand, a declaration of my pride in my progress and an enthusiasm to move forward. This post is a lot of metaphors.

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‘The Living Room’, my thesis piece which doubled as a stage for my lecture.

The week of graduation I was firing on all cylinders. I had just hosted an exhibition with the help of a wonderful team of friends, given my first form of lecture, survived a 4 hour graduation ceremony, and then next day worked on an application for the Typography Summer School (Spoilers, I got in!) while on a plane to Japan.

 

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That last part still blows me away. The day after graduation I hopped in a mixture of cars, planes, buses, and trains for a total of 21 hours before arriving in the small town of Fuchu, A quiet suburb 30 minutes outside of Shinjuku. For three weeks I would participate in the Japanese language study abroad program with the Bunka Fashion College. I had never been out of the country for longer than a day and now I was half the world’s distance out of my comfort zone. I guess you could say this trip was a big deal for me, well it was and I wasn’t going to squander it by just being a passive tourist on a school supported vacation. For me this trip was a chance to turn out the lights and see how my eyes adjusted to the dark, to forget all preconceived notions I had been exposed to in order to experience a place for the first time. I wasn’t worried about projects, or having an expectations about how my trip had to go, I only focused on being open and present.

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Outside of my dorm room window sat a Ginkgo tree just out of reach, a leaf from that tree was the only souvenir I really wanted. But it was the only one I couldn’t have.

If you open yourself up to the world it will open up to you in return. I never expected the things that happened in Japan. I never expected the unending kindness of the strangers around me and lessons they were willing to teach me. I learned a sense of foundation in my life, a grounding I can always come back to when I let my load get too heavy. I learned an appreciation for slowing down and giving myself more time for things I might have missed otherwise. I learned that moments are only as special as you let them be. I learned that no matter where you are, literally or mentally, sometimes you have a shitty day and need to sit alone on a walking bridge and take a deep breathe, and that’s ok.

I could go on and on but this was only three weeks of the year and a half I wanted to cover so I’ll have to promise to save it for a future post. (note: These experiences didn’t have to come from Japan, I wasn’t using Japan as excuse to “find myself”. These experiences happened because I in general pushed myself the furthest I’ve ever been out of my comfort zone and whether good or bad accepted everything that resulted.)

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Photo by Emily Fleischman

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Even though I didn’t intend to make any projects during that trip I was so overwhelmed with how much those experiences had poured into me that I couldn’t help put something back into the world. 9 disposable cameras, 1 dorm scanner, and broken phone later and I had produced ideas for 3 separate works that I feel sum up my experiences I wanted to share. A zine and poster series on street poles I found around my dorm, a flag representative of the objects I latched onto the most during my trip, and photo book currently in production focused on challenging the lens of tourist photography of Japan.

Over the summer I spent a lot of time taking short trips with friends, camping for the first time, and producing small projects for the sake of exploring new ideas. Including a music video for Megaweapon and zine based on my friends experiences as Pool boy’s (This zine would be featured in a small show in the UK). Early in my post-graduation experience I had decided that my life would not hinge on financial success but on satisfaction in my relationships, health, experiences, and my dedication to developing work on my own. This decision was a big risk that would pose a lot of challenges. My biggest challenge in this time, and one I am only getting ahold of now, was the development of a routine and motivation to self initiate projects for my own purposes. It was easy to think of excuses why things weren’t worth my time and I wasn’t good at enforcing my own deadlines.


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At the beginning of August I received important tool in battling the problems I was experiencing, my process. I participated in the Typography Summer School, hosted by Fraser Muggeridge and Other Means, with special guests Julian Bittner, Yoon-Jai Choi, Geoff Han, and James Goggin. For only one week students worked on client based projects covering a wide range of design problems and challenges. I was tasked with creating an accessible print-on-demand publication. Going into this program I challenged myself to make a hard left in relation to how I approach a project, instead of leading with concept and letting it influence production I reserved the order, letting the challenges of production take priority.While I learned many things during the week one of the biggest things I gained is a sense of foundation in my process. Having only a week to work on a project in between lectures and trips put a lot of pressure on everyone forcing them to hit the ground running and call on us to really evaluate how we accomplish tasks. I’m very proud of the things this program revealed to me, the habits that are good and the ones I need to change. For me I was surprised to find out despite how people may view me, my process requires a lot of thinking about rules and setting guidelines for thinking. The applications for 2017 open on March 1st, if you are an expected graduate or just need a week to push yourself I seriously can not recommend this program enough.


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For the rest of 2015 I would found myself in many different places doing many different things. I formed a design research duo with Shannon McLean under the name Other People, Places, Things, where we engaged in a variety of projects challenging education systems, recording unconscious patterns in our environment, and lightening the mood for daily commuters. This duo became a great outlet for me to engage in focused yet fun projects while I still figured out what I wanted to do with myself. Unfortunately I was at a bit of a loss of direction and couldn’t find a space to trust and commit myself to, and purposely taking a less financial stable route had drained my options and energy for things outside of projects. I started getting caught up in stress of “catching up”, whatever that means. That wouldn’t stop me from remaining active in life and meeting some people that would become very important in my life, like the Japanese Artist Rei Nakanishi, the Riso Press TXTBOOKS, and the Graphic Design Studio Play Lab, Inc. What I was lacking at the time in financial stability I was gaining in the building of a community. But at the time I couldn’t focus on it and found myself over time fall more and more into distress and distraction. I wasn’t diving into scary things as much as I was in the summer and I was becoming complacent with just wanting to make things for myself to fill the time, but this soon didn’t become challenging either.


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Original Illustration for Hug Yourself from Time to Time Pins
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The process of making these pins was very important to me, it was under my complete control so I had to put a lot of trust in myself.

I can’t remember what was going through my head when I came up with the idea for my first enamel pins, I had a random thought for a doodle one day and wanted to see if I could quickly do it. I then posted it on facebook and was blown away by the response. This response alone is why I decided to push the idea forward and make the pins. The response made me realize my work needs to not be just for me and sometimes the things people like most from me are the honest ideas rather than the ones I try to make perfect. To be honest my pin could have probably been seen as a cry for help, my confidence was shot and the slow pace of my actions was wearing me down. I was in desperate need of what I’m doing now. But the idea of breaking the “course” I thought I was on scared me. Either way the pins were a huge success and still sit as something I’m really proud to have put the effort into. I hope they can sit as a staple for the type of work I want to be doing with my time.


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Photo by Olga Ush

For the next 10 months I would get to experience first hand a lot of the details that play into the roles of a studio. First I interned for Play Lab, Inc, working on branding for Venn Arts and a music video for the band Pity Sex. The energy and personality of everyone there truly inspired me as everyone played a different important role and were highly motivated as their actions played into the bigger idea of the studio. They would be my support when I asked for it, challenged me to always bring my best, and called me out when I needed a reality check. Which is how I learned about how much my lack of focus was starting to plague my life, my sense of openness was gone and I was in a consistent mode of panic 24/7. Socializing became tough and I found myself getting quieter than usual which really sucked when I was surrounded by such energetic and sociable people. I struggled to rely on myself and turned too much to others for answers, breaking my trust in myself down further and letting myself get easily distraught when I couldn’t find the answer to something in front of me. I wasn’t sure how to deal with it, it felt like fog had built up in my head and hid any hope in my mind for change. I would drag these feelings into my internship with Studio Lin.

I was extremely proud of myself for getting into one of my dream studios and being able to work under someone with so much experience in the type of work I want to do to. By the end of my time there I had helped create a book and set of posters for Architecture Studio MOS. But during my time with the studio my panic was at an all time high, nothing I did felt like enough. I was fixated on work, everything outside of that had dissolved from view. I felt like I had been left in a glass ball at the bottom of the ocean and all I could do was save my breathe before the inevitable. My relationships were in constant danger as I failed to keep contact or started becoming a drag unable to think of anything but my self. For the first time in a long time I felt truly alone in the world.

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Illustration from ‘Give Me Shelter’, a zine about secret clubhouses, and personal spaces we build up by putting ourselves into them.

I was very excited to finish up my time at Studio Lin, because I was catching on that a lot of things I wanted to dedicate myself to were getting left behind and the rise in me of needing change was bubbling through the surface. So upon leaving I threw myself to the grindstone, releasing a new zine, getting a piece into the Endless Editions Biennial, and finishing my grad applications. But it didn’t help, time felt like it was slipping and this self imposed “Sabbatical” felt more like an excuse to confirm my complacency. Days start to feel prison cells, if I couldn’t complete a task or feel satisfied with my progress in a single day it was a catastrophic failure and a sign I’d make no progress. Planned events felt like dooms days, and conversations with my girlfriend started to feel like my mouth was a greeting card with a recorded message of my self-doubts because when I opened my mouth its all that came out.

After a couple of long talks with my girl friend and my best friend Chester, I came to a life changing realization. I was the problem, I was ALWAYS the problem. I had done a complete 180º turn from the person I was when I graduated. I had lost sight of everything that was important to me. When I first graduated my heart was set on many things, and while I am proud of the progress I’ve made so far, becoming caught up in an invisible game of “catch up” was never one of those things. While I am happy about knowing that happiness for me does not include a stable corporate job, it was never my intention to focus my time into solely stressing about what to do instead. I never wanted to be someone who spent more time thinking instead of acting. I never wanted to be who I realized I was last week. I never wanted to be nothing.

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So I’ve decided to act, to shake away the moss thats grown over me and knock down the stones that have built up inside me, making room for life to fill me once again. Stretching my muscles for the first time in a while I’m making the first steps up the hill again. No matter how much it may scare me and no matter how tired I may get I will take in the world with each breathe and exhale through a smile. Until I find myself at the peak gazing at the view through a patch of sun in the trees. For the past week now, I’ve stepped back and I’ve done something I’ve needed to do for a long time, I forgave myself. Doing so I now have the strength to finally move on, to be myself again. To look closely at my life and understand how I truly want to spend it. Now and always is the time for change, the time for a fresh start. It won’t be easy and I’m ok with that. As long as, I open myself up to the world, I know it will open itself up to me. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got some work to do.

2 thoughts on “STEP by STEP”

  1. My eyes were misty by the time I reached the bottom of your vulnerable reflection. Sharing specific places, people, and moments made for an especially relatable reading.

    Like

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