I did pretty well in college. My project were displayed every now in then. I made it into a couple of art shows here and there. My professors rarely told me to start over, just how to improve. I'm pretty sure my classmates disliked me for a while. I did ok. I had some crazy expectations of what my life would be like after walking across that stage. I thought I would get my diploma, move to Maryland less than a month later, and then I would be offered a great job right away! Ideal, right? Here's what I didn't consider: I didn't know what I wanted to "specialize" in, I had zilch web experience, I had minimal job experience in my field period, I was moving to one of the hubs of the design world, the United States East Coast. Silly me thought that employers in the Baltimore/DC area would have heard of my dear Christian college, I was wrong. I spent the first 3-4 months applying to design firms in the area, usually not receiving a single peep or even an automatically generated email back. It was hard. It down right sucked. Instead of adding to my portfolio, I looked at it, got depressed, and went to bed. Who knew I sucked so bad? I thought I was in this huge amount of student loan debt to be good at graphic design, apparently I wasn't good at graphic design. I walked into this time with confidence in my own ability, in the job market, in my own plan for success and all of that crumbled. I finally resigned to being a shoe saleslady at Designer Shoe Warehouse because at least I knew what shoes looked good and were a bargain.
Looking back on this time in my life, I realize there were a lot of things at work against me getting an awesome job right away. I've read several articles that talk about recent college graduates being severely under-employed, which helped me realize I wasn't in my situation alone. Also, I can look back and see that God was really looking out for me during that time. He knew were he wanted me, and I'm sure he wasn't super impressed with how I was reacting. There are a handful of other things I'm discovering about myself that would not have thrived in the 9-5 business world as well. I was protected from that, and now I am grateful.
After working at DSW for almost 6 months, I realized that I was terribly unhappy, I was missing design work, and everything I learned in college was leaving fast. I took a job a at a small promotions company in the area along side shoe monkey-ing and accepted an extremely low pay rate because I was deflated. I owe a lot to the enthusiasm of that tiny promotional company, they built up my confidence just enough to take the leap into starting a solo venture in February 2012. I quit DSW, I jumped into entrepreneurship with both feet and I almost drowned because I had no idea what I was doing or why. I honestly believe it's by the grace of God alone that Marc (my wonderful husband, get used to seeing that name) and I didn't rack up more debt in the following months.
So here I am, slowly learning how to be a good designer again, slowly learning how to be self-employed, slowly learning to be confident in what God created me to be – a product of the recession.
The biggest life lessons I learned during that crazy time can be summed up like this:
- Expectations empty from God's plan are meant to be broken.
- You are never alone. You're probably doing better than you think.
- You cannot rely on the approval of people around you (peers, professionals, industry, etc.) for your own self-confidence. You'll be smashed every single time. Smashed, obliterated, decimated. God is enough.
- If you are a creative, don't let yourself stop creating for a period of time. You'll coil up so quickly into what you were a decade ago, keep creating, even if its crappy.
- I am extremely blessed with a supportive husband. He shouldn't have been ok with me quitting DSW because that was logically insane. He trusted my ability and he trusted in God's provision.
I couldn't be more grateful for this season in my life now. I wouldn't be remotely close to the person I am today had I not gone through those things. I allowed myself to be torn down and stripped of my pride early on in my career and through that God's plan and ability have flourished richly in my life. We don't have it all, but that's ok. I keep coming back to Philippians 4:12-13 in all of this "Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." (The Message Version)
My next post will be more about the journey leading me to the purpose I've discovered for my endeavors and some key people that helped me get there.