While talking to my brother last night, I asked him what I should write about today. He told me to write about the biggest thing I learned in 2012. That’s a serious question—last year was big for me. I completed a thesis project, got my MFA, moved to NYC, and traveled to wonderful places with wonderful people. The answer is easy though. I learned one profound lesson: No one knows what they are doing.
I’ve always known that everyone is figuring out life as they go. Things are hard, we have very little control over our circumstances, and everything changes so quickly. The people in our lives that appear confident are often struggling, and the vulnerable ones might be struggling too. I’ve known that about life, but it is also true about our careers.
The internet allows us to project our best selves. We edit and we design ourselves to be perceived as the people we hope to be. In many ways, this is a good thing. It allows us a fresh start, mountains of support, and the ability for all of us to experiment socially. According to Instagram, none of my friends have to go to work, their relationships are perfect, their shoes are badass, and their children are angels. I’m not calling for more—dare I say it—authenticity. But I am thankful that Kern and Burn allowed me to have honest communication with so many of my design-heroes this past year. I feel lucky to have peeked behind the curtain.
For those of you not familiar, Kern and Burn is a website and book celebrating design entrepreneurs by telling their stories. Most of the 40+ interviews were with designers who took a risk, and decided that they had value to add in addition, or in replacement of their traditional jobs. We worked hard to ask questions about who they were as people, and focused very little on their work or their technique. It didn’t take long until a consistent message rose to the top. All of my design heroes, the ones whose blogs I read, whose talks I watched, and whose work I adored, in some way, admitted that they were still figuring it out. All of them.
We spoke with designers who tweet every five minutes, and designers who work in the shadows until they have something to share. We heard from designers who made us laugh, and designers who made us think deeply. Many had shared goals, but none pursued those goals in the same way. They are all just people. Passionate people, confident and vulnerable, trying to figure out what to do next.
When I began to truly believe that no one knew what they were doing, I felt freedom. So, I’ve sat on that feeling for the last few months, and now I’m going to try to make more things. Writing is a part of the making. Let me be the first to say that I have no clue what I’m doing. Here’s to looking at the unknown as a big ball of opportunity.
What’s the biggest thing you learned in 2012?