2015: My Banner Year

I wasn’t planning on writing an end-of-the-year blog because, let’s be real, they’re kinda cliché and no one likes clichés. But I feel the need to record the journey that was 2015 because it’s been my butterfly-from-the-cocoon year. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, so I’ll just say that I hope that the lessons I learned and the practices that I put into place over the past 365 days can help another budding creative achieve their dreams.

Like any good cliche end-of-the-year summary, I’ll start at the very beginning. For the first few months of 2015, I was struggling to get by. I was in a failing long distance relationship and an emotionally abusive best friendship, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, and I was up to my ears in social anxiety.

I hit rock bottom in May, when the pressure to have an internship for the summer after my junior year was at an all time high. I had an interview lined up at an awesome agency (yay)–but when I arrived, my portfolio was torn apart. Metaphorically, of course. But no less humiliating. I had great pride in my work and had no idea it actually sucked. Oh, and I should mention, this interview went down five days after my grandfather passed away. No biggie.

Strength

My response to this series of events taught me something very important about myself: that I am much stronger than I ever realized. I didn’t crumble after the interview. I didn’t even cry. I used that experience to propel myself forward, which is why I label it rock bottom. There was nowhere to go but up.

So, rather than stress about my lack of an internship, I spent countless hours on self-improvement. I set a strict personal schedule in which I spent at least eight hours per day taking courses on graphic design and hand lettering, as well as improving my portfolio and listening to podcasts. Then when it came time to apply for a fall internship, I dived into my applications, refusing to allow the scar from the last interview scare me away. My hard work paid off when I landed a graphic design internship at a super fun, super dedicated agency.

Motivation and Time Management

Once school and my internship began, I continued on this track of motivation and dedication to my work. I found that following a strict schedule was extremely beneficial–but it never would have been beneficial if I hadn’t followed it. I planned out my coursework for the entire semester on a monthly basis, assigning personal due dates that were much earlier than my professors required. I also changed my sleep schedule so that I would be more productive during the day. We’re talking going to bed super early and waking up super early–like, 9:30 PM and 5:30 AM, early. Like, having time to get ahead on projects before going into the office, early.

Learning to Say “No”

A large part of my success derived from committing my time to self-improvement and to my work. The calendar was my holy book and I followed it religiously. This meant having to learn to occasionally say “no” to hanging out with friends and ignoring the omnipresent tug of FOMO. Trust me, skipping a night out at the bar is worth it when it comes to fulfilling your dreams.

Higher Self-Esteem

The combination of a better sleeping schedule, enjoyment in spending time by myself, and the awareness of improvement in my work allowed me to feel much more comfortable in my own skin. (Though extracting myself from the abusive roomie sitch didn’t hurt, either.) With this improved sense of self, I began to come out of my shell in my classes. I eventually reached a point where I had no trouble striking up a conversation or raising my hand in class. Thanks to my newfound voice, I made friends in every class and my two favorite professors became my mentors. (Really, it’s amazing what self-esteem can do for you.)

So, all of this hard work and personal growth added up in a really big way:

Internal Results

  • Least stressful semester to date (not a single all-nighter!)
  • Never missed a class due to oversleep
  • A sense of completeness and confidence
  • Satisfaction and pride in my work
  • Content rather than lonely

External Proof of Improvement

  • I received (and accepted) an offer for my dream internship: Art Director Intern at an advertising agency in Center City. I should mention that this interview was the exact opposite of the one I had in May: my interviewer was so excited about my work that she stood up and danced during the interview. Doesn’t that type of thing only happen in the movies??
  • I was hand-selected to be the Art Director for my school’s student-run ad agency.
  • I won an art direction competition and got to see my work in print around my school as a result.
  • To put the cliché cherry on top, I earned a 4.0 GPA.

If I had to wrap it up and tie it with a bow, I’d say that the gift I gave myself over the course of 2015 was a pretty little self-improvement package. And thanks to this gift, my outlook on 2016 is pretty, pretty great.

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