I was on a climbing trip in Red Rock, NV. Another climber in our group greeted me while in mid-conversation about my week. That week, I had art directed a chocolate photo shoot, attended a vendor event for Dynamite Starfish, and worked on some personal art projects. This is pretty standard for me, but he saw this as a wild array of duties. "How did you get this job?!" he exclaimed. I was completely caught off guard and didn't know how to respond.
I'm going to try to answer this question now. The first thing to note might be that no one gave me this job. It's something that took years, and maybe my entire lifetime, to discover, create and optimize. I believe the process of adjusting my career path has no end. Prior to my first full time job at 27 years old, I had worked 14 different jobs. My family told me to stop working part time jobs and focus on school. They felt this was indicative of how lost I was in life. Maybe they were right. I wandered for a really long time. In my 20's I moved from Los Angeles to Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and then back to California but still didn't settle down. I went snowboarding almost every week, backpacked during the summers, and rode dirt bikes through mountain trails. Although that lifestyle was full of excitement and new learnings, it was not sustainable for me. I went back to school and looked for full-time work.
Sitting still and dedicating myself to full-time design work taught me a lot. I worked on some really cool projects like music packaging for Neil Diamond and Smoky Robinson, and even designed the current sauce packets for Taco Bell. Of course, all of those projects happened because of the amazing team of designers, art directors, and creative directors that I was part of. I was so excited and proud to be working with them, and saw this as my long term career path. This is what I would do for the rest of my life! Probably? But then... the discontent started to sink in. I loved the work I was doing, but it was hard for me to make ends meet, financially. All that escapism from previous years had me in a lot of debt, and I was also really damaged from a five year romantic relationship gone bad. (Like, really bad)
Even though I loved my work, I desperately wanted to go outdoors during the day, and would take short walks during lunch break just to get some sunlight. The stress of working in the design field is high. It seemed fun and totally doable at first. However, day after day, year after year, it really took it's toll on me. I started to rely on caffeine to get me through the day. I was rarely exercising. I mean, who even has time?! Working every day while trying to heal from an abusive relationship meant I started having horrible panic attacks at work (which involved dissociation, and sometimes even hallucination), and I got stomach ulcers a few times because of my stress and diet. I realized I had to leave the company, so I did.
I left for another job opportunity, at an advertising agency that had... windows! So many of them. I was so stoked about the sunshine I'd get in a large open office. And the work seemed REALLY easy. Coming from a small team of designers (4-8 at any given time), I had no knowledge of what kind of office politics the advertising world had to offer. Part of me wants to elaborate, but the other part thinks you may already know. Let's just say, I lasted for about 6 months until I came to this realization: I'd rather be dirt poor then work at this place for one more day. I had a Google Hangouts meeting with an HR employee I never actually met, put in my two week's notice, and was free to face my fear of financial ruin and social incompetency. But obviously, it all turned out okay.
Dynamite Starfish is not my full-time gig. I still have to do design work to pay the bills, but I do it as an independent contractor. I also make paintings, prints and sculptures as a personal creativity outlet, which occasionally generates a tiny bit of income. Sometimes I stay up all night and get depressed and cry (last week is a most recent example). but I see it as a good exercise in prioritization. When I get that overloaded, I'm forced to think about what work is truly important to me, and what I might need to release control of let someone else work on. All I wanted to do last week was eat cake, drink wine, and cry, but I managed to avoid at least two of those things. I got through it and made what I thought was enough currency (this includes emotional/spiritual currency, too) for the jobs I did. I stayed healthy, treated myself to a massage, and onward we go.
It still feels weird to talk about myself so much, but again, I hope this was helpful to some of you! Next time, I'll tell you more about finding a voice in the art world, and why I believe that if you have a creative dream, your creativity cannot be ignored or held back for long.
Thanks again for reading, and for sticking with me. I love you.
A list of every job I've had before Dynamite Starfish:
Swimming instructor for toddlers
Mall kiosk employee selling heat-proof CD cases
Boba shop employee
Korean restaurant cashier/server
A different, higher end boba/tea shop employee in another town
Claim Jumper hostess
Japanese sword wrapping and blade manufacturing
Freelance design work as a design student (I wasn't that good at it back then)
Claim Jumper, again, in a different town (Hey, I really needed money)
Office manager and Sales at a dental laboratory
Handing out flyers for a fast casual chicken restaurant in Hollywood
Interior construction work
Opened and branded a motorcycle-themed coffee shop
Studio graphic designer
Social media content designer
Founder/CEO/artist/t-shirt printer/sole employee at Dynamite Starfish