A Loop of Fate

There’s your first real job, your first real love, and the first time you realize which matters more.

This old post recently made its way from my blog archives to front and center in my browser. Lions & Pears is the blog I kept throughout college at Parsons. Not coming from an art high school and feeling really alone while trying to chase my dreams in New York, the blog was a way for me to focus on something small so that the big-ness of everything else didn’t feel so overwhelming. It was hard to feel confident when I hadn’t had nearly as much illustration or artistic experience as my classmates in the illustration department. While some of those insecurities eventually wore off, getting closer to graduation brought a whole new wave of anxieties.

All of the illustration majors were so unique in our goals and interests. Drawing and painting was really just one small thing we had in common. New York was as perfect and ridiculous a job market to be puked up into after graduation as any. We all went in pretty different directions. Some could start a full-time freelance career right away. Some were more design and tech oriented. Some went to animation studios. Some went home, unsure. And I can’t blame them.

I secured an internship — my fourth, but the first one that would pay me. I needed the experience, and I needed to do whatever I could to make my way to a full time opportunity with a steady paycheck and health benefits. My single mom back in Philadelphia didn’t ask for much: I could stay in New York, or go wherever I needed to, and I would have her full emotional support — as long as I made every effort to be happy, healthy, and insured.

The job market for creative people was laughable: If you didn’t mind working 60 hours a week for free (in exchange for the experience, of course) then you’re hired. And inexplicably, there were actually new grads who could and did do this. But to secure a job that would provide experience and pay, then you’d also need 3 additional side gigs that paid in order to afford rent and meals. From what I understand, the current market is not all that different.

According to the old blog post I came across, my thoughts nearing graduation, as I applied for every possible position and contest and gig, were this:

That fright dulled a bit upon receiving an internship at a big publishing house, but still lingered over the next 7 months as I fell in love with the work I was doing and the people I was learning from, waiting for my boss to get the OK to hire me full time.

When she was ultimately unable to do so, my sublet was up, and I was unable to stay in NYC any longer for $11/hr without benefits. Reality gave me no other choice but to move back home to Philadelphia and continue my job search from my mom’s couch. I was 24.

Two months, a record-awful winter, and hundreds of job applications later, I was back in New York to start an entry-level creative job in advertising. It was veering slightly, but still generally related to my ideal career path.

If I’ve learned anything about chance, fate, and luck, it’s that they ebb and flow. At this company, I learned a ton: the “game” of business and how to play it, that I should be friendly to most but trust very few, and what it’s like to completely give myself to love. A few months in, ignoring the advice of literally everyone, I started dating my coworker, T. Sure, a bunch of other things happened. But most importantly, I fell in love and it put everything else into perspective. When the company’s goals changed and I was no longer doing work related to the path I wanted for myself, T encouraged me to stay creative with side projects. He kept me motivated to build freelance connections. When he got laid off, I helped him keep positive. When he landed an incredible new job that he so much deserved, I had never felt so happy for another human. We helped each other be patient. And now, after months of trudging through an uncertain, uninspiring 9–5 workday intertwined with applications and interviews and working extra freelance hours, T was the first one I told as soon as I got the call from HarperCollins last week offering me a job; a dream job. I could feel his happiness for me radiating through the phone.

I came across another old post recently in which I mused about dream jobs. Here is an excerpt:

“I have no answers. i’m just nervous about finding a job after graduation, while the only thing i really want to do is tell true stories for the rest of my life. i want to make people’s lives better and i want to afford groceries. i refuse to choose between the two. i’m nervous and excited.”

Every uncertain thing will always be a cause for both nerves and excitement. I’ve come to relish it, because the Universe always has a way of proving that it knows what it’s doing, that it cares, even.

I’m closer than I’ve ever been to telling true stories all day, to making people’s lives better, and to always being able to afford groceries. I’m a month and a half away from 26 now, and I look at the future with the scale leaning a little more towards excitement, and a little less towards nervous. I have a mountain of debt, but I also have true happiness. I’ve known death, sickness, and strife, and I’ve seen them all lifted by love, humor, and compassion. I know my weaknesses and how to turn them into strengths. I know my flaws and how they’re irrelevant. I know now that, at least for me, the joys of achievement are exponentially more exciting with someone to share in my happiness with me.

Love and life are so inexplicably intertwined, and I think it’s okay for work to be a part of that. I am happy that I get to work everyday, and that I get to love and live and smile and laugh and strive. They are all connected. Doing something I love is just as important to me as loving.

Here’s to both work and life, and to love weaving them together.

Happy first Last Day to me (and how epic that it coincides with such an amazing day in history! #LoveWins)!