In October of 2011, still reeling from a recent and particularly painful break up, I decided that I needed to change the path I was on. At that time I wasn’t quite sure exactly what or how I would change in my life, beyond the obvious (e.g. meet someone new) but somehow I felt the path that I was on was unsustainable. Over the previous 10 months I had been running hot and cold on freelance design work, often severely over or underworked, but I was 26 and still experimenting with what I wanted to do in design and where. I considered going back to school, but had no idea what I’d study beyond getting another graphic design degree, which I didn’t see much point to. And finally, I had just survived a god-awful roommate experience, the type only New Yorkers in close quarters truly understand, and had moved into my own cozy (e.g. tiny) studio apartment on the UES.
While I wasn’t sure where the next few years would take me, being the to-do list obsessed, goal-setting person that I am, I decided to document my journey with a daily journal. Knowing myself and that I’m not particularly good at sticking to a daily writing regimen, I chose a QA journal that simply asked one short question a day, offering a small amount of space to give a response. With this tool, over the course of 5 years, I answered these questions, not always every day, but catching up frequently enough that I could give a small piece of insight into my mood and psyche over the course of those five years.
Here’s a few highlights:
- On October 29th of 2011 and 2012 in response to the question “What were your most recent credit card purchases?” I responded ‘tailoring for a new little black dress’ (2011) and ‘drinks!’ (2012). In 2015 it was ‘thermal underwear’. Grad school has a way of making you into a more practical person.
- On January 13th of 2013, 2014, and 2015 the places I wanted to travel to next were Costa Rica, Paris, and the Bahamas, respectively. By 2016 I had been to all of those places and listed Portugal as a potential next stop.
- On July 28th of 2012 the question was “Write a phrase to describe your year so far” and I wrote ‘work hard, spa hard’ (a statement I still stand by), however by 2016 I described my very transitional year as ‘a long, short journey to open up many new doors,’ referring to the final week of my year-long grad program.
On October 6th, 2016, I completed my last entry in my five-year journal, and by then my life had changed immeasurably in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I went from floundering in freelance work that wasn’t always challenging or motivating, to a job offer I could never have dreamed of. I went from taking the occasional Continuing Ed class and not even considering grad school as a viable option, to graduating with a Computer Science degree from the MHCI program at Carnegie Mellon. I went from feeling lonely: living by myself in a small studio on the UES and going on more first dates than I care to remember, to living in Brooklyn with my lovely boyfriend of 2½ years.
It has been a long, short journey, in the sense that five years is a long time to slowly pivot a career away from largely print and marketing design work to research driven product design work. But it’s also a short period of time: I remember vividly all the humbling experiences along the way to get me to this point. I’ve taken many risks, failed many times, and eventually had a few big wins. As this period in my life ends a new one begins, and I’m grateful to the many supporters, leaders and friends who’ve helped me along the way. Cheers to the next five years: its looking pretty bright.