Just One Week

I don’t know why it should surprise me, I send out enough resumes every day the law of averages says someone’s going to call me. Wait, what? Two people? And two interviews? And I managed to get a job out of one of them? And wait, what’s that? Somewhere in that same stretch of those two days Dylan and I made a One Year Plan that involves a year-long trip? Whaaaaat? What kind of crazy week IS this?!

But wait. Let me back up and just say this right quick:

I am an employed graphic designer. I am a graphic designer with a job. An ongoing, freelance job with potential for more hours than when originally hired.

See, this is a big deal. I have a second degree and it’s in graphic design. I’ve had it since 2008 and only one time, once, since then, was I hired under that title. Unfortunately, that title came with a pay rate of half my normal hourly charge and when the designing was done two months in, I spent the next four doing mundane office work while freezing in an unheated part of the building during a Chicago winter. It was hell, I hated it. And it is to this day, in over 22 years of working, the only job I walked off of with just an email in my wake. It left a horrible taste in my mouth and I was sure I’d made a terrible mistake by racking up student loan debt to find that out. The highlight was the design work, I relished it, even when my space heater blew a fuse and caused my computer to shut off two hours into a hand-built, intricate (unsaved) design for the company Christmas card. I should have cried as I started from scratch but I was just so happy to be a paid designer. Ultimately though, once the cards were mailed out and the new identity created, the artsy part of the job screeched to a pointed halt. My hours were cut back to one day a week. Eventually I packed my things into a box, wrote my departure email, and walked out with my head held high (and steam coming out of my ears).

Still, I exited the womb with a paintbrush in my hand and have always known that I had to do something creative with my life. So, I kept trying to find design jobs in spite of the PTSD of the first one. I applied constantly through the years. I took a few meetings but nothing ever came of them. I found ways to incorporate my skill into almost every job that followed in small ways, I did sporadic work for friends and family too but that was it. Unsatisfied, I mentioned to Dylan how much I wish I could just do design consistently and not have to feel awkward about charging a friend or relative for it (or not charge them and resent them for not offering). He told me about a few online companies that hire freelancers for various termed projects and that I should try my hand.

I signed up about a week ago and on Wednesday morning woke to a voicemail from an older man who owns a company that (long business plan short) creates the sales and specials fliers you see in grocery stores. His designer was departing and there I was. We talked for a bit, we met last night, and ten minutes ago I got off a screen share call with said departing designer who showed me the ropes. These ropes involve using a program I’ve never touched which is not only daunting, but starting tomorrow morning when I get up and start in on it, I am on my own. He’s there if I need him via text or email, but really it’s just me an a Google Drive’s worth of files. Eek. I nodded and smiled and “uh huh, yeah!” ‘ed my way through our talk but with every lightening quick shortcut and mention of Photoshop tools I’ve only ever heard of, it became clear to me just how much I don’t know about the field. No wonder I hadn’t gotten a job in all this time, surely had I, I’d have been found out PDQ. I’m confident in my design skills but I use Illustrator and I hand-build, I don’t use clipping masks and Firework to get where I go. Mom always said that things are never as bad as you think they’re going to be, so I’m going to stick with that… my first deadline is Monday afternoon.

BUT I’m taking Sunday off because we already had plans to drive up to the National Mustard Museum to – get this – judge in an international mustard competition. I know! I know! Dylan and I bonded very quickly over our love of all mustards so when they put the call out to judge them? Oh man, done. It’ll be our first trip together and even though it’s only three hours away or so, it’ll be one more in a series of firsts and a hint of more to come. I’ll resist the urge to gush but let me just tell you: good things come to those who wait and to those who don’t lose hope. On our way back to Chicago, we’re going to stop at my mom’s house so he can meet her. It’s all taking shape. Fantastic.

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