It’s been a long time since I was here typing on this blog. I almost gave it up for good. You’ll notice it’s unlinked for now. (Those of you who have found me are genius treasure hunters, and I love you to pieces!) That’s because I’m actively looking for work, and the thought of all those hiring managers looking at me blubbering away on my blog scares me. I’ve always been a really open person, and I don’t think I can change. What you see is what you get. I tell my stories openly here to friends.
I’ve had a lot of failures and hard times lately, and I worry that talking about them might keep someone from hiring me. So I’ve been hiding them. I’ve been hurting and wanting to come here to share so someone can tell me I’m not alone. I’m not a complete failure, and everyone is having hard times…But I’ve been scared. Twice shy, once burned? Something like that? I’m always shy and always burned.
A few of you on Instagram recently said you missed me. Those words are like a hug and an invitation to coffee in my favorite coffee shop. I’ve been so alone and scared, and you still care about me. It blows my mind.
I had to get off social media for a little while because I consumed it like an addict instead of a creator. It’s tricky for me. I can stick my toe in, but I can’t swim in the river of social media without getting my own voice drowned out. I want to be online to create, but then I get sucked into home-makeover videos and cute cat videos, and next thing I know, I’m crooked over like the hunchback of Notre Dame in my bed rotting, and I’ve lost hours and hours of precious time.
So here I am. I’m back. Nobody blogs anymore, nobody reads anymore… but who cares! I love creating pictures and telling stories, and this is where I do it. I do it for myself. Some day, all this will get turned off like a light switch, and that’s okay because it was here for me when I needed it. I’ve made so many amazing friends here. I’m so thankful.
Let me tell you about this past month, scratch that, make it: this past year. It’s been one of the worst years of my life. I’m calling it The Year of Rejection. But you know what? It’s also been a year of self-discovery, dear friendships deepening, new friendships forged, old friendships discarded…I’ve been tested in ways I never thought of. It’s just like everyone says: failure is a huge step backward and a colossal step forward simultaneously. I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this year. I’m old and wisened. My heart has grown three sizes.
I met up with three high school friends in the desert a few weeks ago. A friend was in from out of town, so we had a little reunion of sorts. It was so good to see them. They are all artists, and we speak the same language at top speeds. We stayed up until 2 a.m., standing around in the parking lot in the middle of the desert in the light of the big blue moon, just talking and talking and talking. Nobody was tired. No one wanted the night to end.
I almost didn’t go because I was in the depths of despair after not getting yet another job I had interviewed for. My dear friend, Tamie, talked me into going. She covered my gas, my food, and my lodging. We had a girl’s night at a hotel. It was awesome. How am I so lucky to have friends care for me when I’m so down and out? I am thankful. It was healing.
I’ve had so much rejection with work. I’ve begun to doubt myself, and it’s been hard. Freelancers are only as good as their last job, and the only way we get new jobs is by selling ourselves. Trying to sell yourself when you’re nursing the fresh wounds of rejection and low self-esteem is like going to the dentist repeatedly for ineffective root canals.
That visit to the desert was an infusion of positivity and creativity. I was reminded of who I am and what makes me happy. My friends are struggling, too. Being an artist isn’t all fat paychecks and cool disco lighting. It’s actually blood, sweat, and tears, and hardly anyone ever really “makes it.” I’ve been lucky a lot. I felt like I was with my people, and it propped me back up to go back to trying. I need these kinds of gatherings often. I need my tribe.
Bug has really been here for me in these dark times. She is growing up into an adult. Every day, I see different versions of myself in her. She is so much wiser than I was at her age. She’s working now and spends much of her paycheck supporting us. She’s working at Trader Joe’s and buys us food with her discount. It’s pretty much impossible to live on a single income where we live, and Bug is stepping up to help out. I’m proud of her. I raised a good one despite all my shortcomings.
Matt’s been down twice since I last checked in. It’s always good to see him. He takes me out to dinner and spoils me rotten, which is such a nice mini-vacation from the grind.
Lots of dinners, flowers, and farmer’s market dates. Sigh…I do love my long-distance relationship.
Bug and I have been going on more little dates together, too. Now that many of her friends and her boyfriend are also working, she’s finding she has more and more home time. That means she’s stuck with me, and I am “Muber, the mom-taxi again.” She’s forced me out a few times, and I begrudgingly went and was thankful afterward. If it weren’t for her, I’d probably stay in my apartment all day long. Rotting.
We love our local museum. It’s only a few minutes away and always great for taking photos and getting a drink. (Virgin, of course, for her!)
I also cut my own hair! I just sawed off the blonde with this razor blade thingy I bought. It’s funny because I did a blind hack job on the back, but because of the two-tone mottled tortoiseshell coloring, it doesn’t look half bad. I never wanted blonde-tipped hair, but it’s better than dull gray hair or bleached-out, stiff-straight cabbage patch doll hair. I’m calling it a win. My hair is an ever-changing art project. I never know what look I will be stuck with, and it’s never boring!
You know what I’m going to say next, I bet. Cody is my constant companion. He has been my faithful friend through many bouts of tears. He follows me around the house from room to room, never leaving my side. Sometimes, I take him with me on little adventures because I love him so much. We go to the beach, we go to the park, we go to Starbucks.
He is probably my biggest anti-depressant. He is a big hairy ball of shedding love, raining blonde hair all over my house, my clothes, and my car…His hair is as abundant as his love. He covers me with it constantly.
I don’t know what I’d do without him. We’ve had a lot of quiet moments of reflection, he and I.
Now I’m to the hard part. My big news is that I must move out of the apartment I love. I’ve officially run out of money. My savings are gone, and my royalties have dropped by three quarters. They were inflated because of the pandemic because so many schools started using my books in their curriculum. It was awesome. But I made the mistake of being optimistic and assuming they would continue on that trajectory. They obviously didn’t, and now I’m stuck living beyond my means.
I’ve fretted about this exact scenario since I moved here. I’m lucky I stayed here as long as I have. I could say I’ve failed, but I’ve also lasted longer than I thought I could. I’ve been living on hope and faith, and I can’t continue. I have to move home with my parents in the Sticks, and Bug has to go live with her dad. It’s ripping me up, but there is no other way she can finish high school in this expensive town. Nobody can live here on a single income—definitely not an aging out-of-work freelancer with fewer and fewer clients and a Trader Joe’s afterschool wage.
However, there is one more thing I will try before I ultimately give up. I’m going to open up a pop-up flower shop at my one remaining client’s place of business. He has an office on Pacific Coast Highway in San Clemente (a cute beach town) that gets plenty of foot traffic. When I’ve worked there, many people have poked their heads in the open Dutch door, asking if we had anything to sell. We didn’t. The office is the headquarters for a margarita truck catering company. In front of it is the cutest brick patio with a hose and plug-ins for electricity. It’s perfect for a little flower cart. It’s very visible and ideally situated. I don’t have any money to invest in this idea, but my client is fronting me. It’s good for him because it will bring interest to his business. It’s good for me because I’ve always wanted to have a flower shop. We’ll try one pop-up and see how it goes.
I’ll tell you more when it gets closer. Say a prayer for me!
I’ve been working so hard to make money lately that I’ve forgotten to be creative. If you know my go-to bio, it says that “being creative every day makes me happy,” so you can gather from that how I’m feeling. I’ve been slapping that phrase everywhere I have to write a bio for the last fifteen years! I know this about me!! So why am I not being creative?
I blame scrolling and Ralphs. I waste all the free time I have scrolling. Bug shared the funniest (and most accurate) meme with me the other day that had a word for it: “internest“. It’s when you’ve had too much time “peopleing” so you hide in a nest of covers in bed that completely block out the world, and then you scroll the internet. You can lose hours this way. Bug and I call TikTok the time machine. You open it up and the next thing you know you have lost two hours. It’s crazy. Want to go into the future? Open TikTok.
The last time I did something creative was for a website I designed that hasn’t been able to go live for programming reasons, and I haven’t been able to get paid for it because it’s not generating the client money yet and the client has no funds to pay me. It’s a vicious cycle. You have to spend money to make money but if you don’t have the money to pay, you hire a graphic designer who is a people pleaser (me!) who will work for you on blind faith that her amazing work will bring you money.
How did I get to this point? Well, I hate taking money before a job is complete because of that one time I worked for weeks for someone who I was terribly under-skilled to do what they wanted and needed. I knew it, they knew it so when I finally finished the challenge, they were expectedly disappointed. I couldn’t handle it. I had mistakenly thought if I really dug deep I could rise to the challenge. I didn’t. I gave them all the money back because I didn’t want to waste their money. There went all my time down the drain. So maybe I’m just too nice to be a designer? I don’t know. So many times people have been happy with my work and I’ve managed to stay afloat (with the help of my books) for seventeen years!!
How have I managed to stay afloat? Through this blog and being creative! That brings me to my opening paragraph. I haven’t been able to be creative for a few weeks now. I’m tired from working my Ralphs job, which is very physically draining. I’m barely finishing my graphic design work, and I’m internesting because I’m depressed about the website that hasn’t taken off or been paid for.
Today I have a day off from Ralphs. I have a few days off this coming week. I have to come back to being creative. This reminds me of when I worked at the coupon factory generating junk mail. It was such a boring job. But I was pretty high up on the coupon-creating design ladder, so I had a nice office and the respect of my coworkers. I’ve probably told this story before, but it’s stuck with me, so I’m going to re-tell it.
There were a bunch of boxes outside my office. We had recently moved and hired a bunch of new employees so they all had new computers (with towers and huge clunky box monitors because this was back in the dinosaur days before we had laptops) and all the boxes were piled up outside my office to be broken down. All day long those boxes called to me. Make me into a castle! Make me into a spaceship! It drove me crazy. I had coupons to type and junk mail to design I had no time for cutting up boxes and taping together spaceships and castles.
Finally, I gave into the call of the boxes and made a spaceship for my friend who had a toddler son. I wasted a whole afternoon. But you know what? I was happy! I was so happy and I was known for being happy. I was the girl who could take an ugly letter about miniblinds or deals on canned salmon and make it into something beautiful. I needed to be happy to do my job. It was my signature. After the box-craftaganza I was able to go back to focus on my boring junk mail designs with a fresh attitude.
At Ralphs I’ve been daydreaming about painting a mural on the breakroom wall. The employee breakroom at Ralphs is the most depressing space you have ever seen. It’s dirty. The paint is peeling. There’s one of those old massage chairs you see at Brookstone that doesn’t work that is sunken in the middle like someone has slept in it for thirty years. It’s so old and gross. The pleather is peeling and bits of it slough off. Employees flop into this chair exhausted and “internest” during their breaks. I can tell that someone tried to interior decorate twenty years ago. It has a Route 66 clock on the wall and some kind of traffic light decoration that I don’t understand. Motivational posters are taped up next to How to Lift Heavy Objects without Injuring Yourself posters and in between are hand-scrawled shouting messages about not forgetting to put “paid” stickers on the food you buy from the store and that all lockers will be cut open if they are left past a certain date that was three years ago. The place says: I’m underpaid and understaffed and my work-life balance solution is to not care about this place.
But then there’s me. I look at this one wall in the hallway next to the women’s restroom, which is quite big and has absolutely nothing but scrapes and paint-peeling scars on it, and think: this would be a perfect place to paint a mural. I already know what I want to paint there. I want to paint really big colorful shapes and then on top of it the words that say small at the top: “Small changes make” and then below that in really more giant letters: “A Big Difference.” Brilliant, right? Wouldn’t it cheer people up and maybe we’d all start caring more and cleaning more and then this depressing store would slowly get cleaner and happier?
I mention it to one of the checkers. She loves the idea. She mentions it to the general manager on the floor, and then my idea goes to die. It’s a no-go. Why? Because I would need to do it on the clock to be covered for insurance reasons (what if I got hurt?!!) and nobody has time to pay me to paint a mural. I’m not giving up though. I think I will illustrate my idea and take it up the ladder to corporate. Somebody will lift their head up from their phone and realize this could be a small change that makes a big difference. I could get a job painting murals in all the breakrooms like they do at Trader Joe’s who have a way easier time keeping employees because they are proud to work there. What’s my boss’s biggest problem? Finding good employees.
I think I have a case.
Why did I just spend an hour making a graphic for no reason? Because it made me happy. Guess who’s back!