Why I’ll probably never stop being a designer

Design is a way of life for me. Ever since I was little, I‘ve wanted to be an artist. The passion for it came naturally. Once I learned how to draw, I could lose myself in a flow state and spend hours creating, iterating, and recreating works of art. I loved it all — typography, painting, and drawing, and anything and everything in between.

My passion for art started to really take center stage in elementary school. In third grade, I was tasked with creating a clay sun in my art class. Even though I was pretty young at the time, I took it very seriously. I spent hours shaping, styling, painting, and glazing my sun to perfection.

Days after the project was completed, my teacher announced that some of the clay suns we made would be shown at the local Borders (a now-defunct bookstore). It took a second to let it fully sink in, but she announced that she chose mine to be among the ones that would be on display.

When the day of the show arrived, my mom packed up my brothers and me to venture out to see my art on display. When we finally found it, I felt this mixture of pure joy and vulnerability. It was exhilarating and the best feeling I had experience up until that point.

We started walking around the store, and someone came up to us, overhearing that I had made the clay sun and offered to buy it from me. I couldn’t believe it. “Someone wanted to buy my art?!” It never crossed my mind that I could make money creating things. He must have offered $20 or something, but I was only about eight years old so it felt like a fortune. I thought the feeling I had before about seeing my work on display was the best feeling I had ever experienced, but quickly it became clear that this one was even better. I bashfully declined his offer to buy it, but the thought that someone else wanted to give me money for it made my clay sun my most prized possession. It was now priceless to me.

From that point forward, every facet of my life had some form of designing or creating, even if it wasn’t my primary focus.

When I reached my senior year of college, I became pretty listless, though. I spent three years majoring in political science and pushing my creativity to the side. I was convinced that there wasn’t a future in art for me, and I wanted to be practical.

Whatever that meant.

I was planning to be a lawyer or a college professor. I spent so much time dedicated to my studies, but I was torn between the path I committed to and the one that I wanted deep down in my gut. I changed my course slightly and added a certificate on top of my degree in media and communications. When I finally started to take graphic design classes and commit to my art again, I realized this was the path I needed to take.

I ended up doing a mixture of graphic design, event planning, and administrative assistant work at my first job out of college. It wasn’t enough. I wanted to design full-time. So after a couple of years, I quit my job and did a boot camp in UX Design and transitioned fully into the tech industry shortly after that.

UX Design ended up being the perfect career for me. It was a mixture of problem-solving, research, and, best of all, designing.

My life as a designer hasn’t always been easy. I’ve been overwhelmed by feedback, overly critical of myself, felt like being in tech as a woman was a raw deal, dealt with difficult managers, and overlooked for promotions. I have plenty of reasons to be cynical.

Despite everything, though, I cannot stop designing. I cannot stop myself from creating. It’s a compulsion. To me, it’s like breathing.

designer with too many thoughts