Creative Competition

Something you might not know about me? Well, I'm a little competitive! But not outwardly so. In fact, you might never know this about me unless you challenge me to a competition or question my capabilities.

I just read this great article by Jessica Knoll titled "I Want to Be Rich and I'm Not Sorry." One bit in particular really resonated with me:

"A dozen years later, when my first book became the best-selling debut of 2015, when my financial adviser urged me to quit my day job, when Lionsgate optioned the film rights and when I delivered a bang-up script in seven weeks, a guy friend from college believed he was complimenting me by musing, “Who would have thought Jess Knoll would have been the success story from our class?”

Who would have thought? Me. I did."


Art by Kaye Blegvad as featured in  NYT article  by Jessica Knoll.

Art by Kaye Blegvad as featured in NYT article by Jessica Knoll.

It has been a frustrating but also thrilling last year and a half for me. For so long, I felt so confused about my path. And now, I am so certain of my path but am struggling to have others see my worth. I am a very introspective person. I try to pick apart my weaknesses and my strengths and I feel that I am particularly analytical about everything I do so that I can better myself - or at least be aware of my own shortcomings and accept them. 

Ever since I joined my K-12 yearbook staff in 2007, I had this ridiculously strong fire within me. I feel it is necessary to mention that this was no ordinary yearbook. Before the beginning of each school year, we spent a few days at yearbook camp that was hosted at Long Beach State University. We stayed in dorms, we took classes on how to enhance our knowledge of the Adobe programs, and we spent tens of hours developing our theme for the year. Picking your theme was the most important part of the whole process! It would dictate what your layouts looked like, what your fonts would be, what the content would look like and how the copy would read. 

Just before the beginning of my senior year in 2008, I was selected to be the editor-in-chief. It truly was one of my proudest moments and I took on the role with an extreme level of responsibility and pride. It was my job to lead the class of 15 students 2-3 times a week and to invigorate them with the same level of passion that I had about this beautiful book. I wanted our year to be the BEST the school had ever seen. I wanted the theme to be particularly thrilling and unique. With my team of senior editors, we sat at a lunch table inside the cafeteria, trying to come up something special. At one point, we were looking at our school's crest and noticed the banner under the two lions wielding shields and swords there was a Latin phrase: Ne Obliviscaris. What does that mean? Never Forget. NEVER FORGET! Could there be a more perfect and relevant theme for a yearbook? I think not! 

In my two previous years on the yearbook team as a normal staffer in 10th and 11th grade, I so longed to be just like the seniors who could walk over to your station, lean over and quickly maneuver InDesign or Photoshop with just a quick, light tap of a dozen keys on the keyboard. They knew all of the shortcuts and how to manipulate the program in whichever way they needed. I wanted to be like that! And sure enough, when it was my time to shine as EIC, you bet I was able to do that. 

My teacher and I would spend hours after class sifting through Martha Stewart magazines and other school's yearbooks - we'd laugh about some of the ridiculous themes other schools had chosen in past years and we'd pine over the delicate, consistent, stunning qualities of Martha Living. My mom would regularly call me, angry, because I was either late for dinner or missed dinner entirely. I would often be the last car in the parking lot - after all the sports folks had left - because I was either staying late to edit spreads, plan for the next class, or muse over design with my teacher. I was the kind of enthusiastic asshole who would spot spacing errors in her shampoo bottles and bring them into class for the rest of the students to ponder and identify. Yep, that was me. 

And then I graduated from high school.

I went on to be a psychology major at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I completely neglected all signs that were pointing me to graphic design - something I innately knew I was good at. I always thought to myself that I wanted to one day design and edit the layout and spreads of the Martha Stewart Living magazine. For whatever reason, I shelved that and dismissed it as far-reaching and improbable. 

I graduated from college in 2013, moved back to LA, and stepped right into an administrative temp role at Cedars-Sinai. 9 months later, I was made permanent. 3 years later, I was promoted to a supervisory role. And yet, absolutely none of this excites me. I've been so purposeless in that way - what the heck am I doing here? I'm a creative person working in a hospital environment, where the standard PowerPoint presentation includes an array of stretched photos and typography and pixelated graphics. Don't get me wrong, I've learned so much from my incredible boss and her team of dedicated leaders. She's been beyond wonderful to me and treats me like a daughter. I am grateful for this time to have discovered even more about myself and become a polished professional.

The 3.5 years between graduation and when I began this second bit of my journey are now behind me. I am very thankful for the ability to have recognized where I needed to be and to have the resources to jump right in and start taking classes. It really isn't easy on top of a 9-5, plus 12 hours of class, plus another 5-10 hours of homework each week. But it hardly feels like any added work because I am loving every single minute of it. I am continuously surprised by what I am able to learn from each teacher and each class - I leave each class with new knowledge that drastically improves my design skills. I'm like a sponge and it's just so exciting. 

I was recently flat-out denied the chance for a 2nd interview at a company for a position that I was not only qualified for, but believe I would have truly excelled in. I poured my heart and soul into the skills test and interview and I thought there was no way I wouldn't be called back for a 2nd interview. And you know what my first thought was after my surprisingly emotional reaction to being rejected? It's their loss. That's right. They missed out on someone who has more passion and potential than any level of experience can replace. As detailed by Jessica Knoll in her essay, sometimes I I feel my zest for my own talents can be seen as cocky or overly confident. I don't believe that to be true. I'm plenty insecure in other ways. I simply know my creative worth and am incredibly hungry for someone else to see it as well. 

I started this post intending to detail my entry to the 2018 Communication Arts Competition, but I'll have to save that for another time. I'll circle back to my favorite quote from Jessica Knoll's article that I mentioned above. While I may feel a sense of defeat with every ignored job application, I know within my heart and soul when I find the right position, nothing will stop me from being my best and I won't be surprised when I get there.