No one is self-made. Everyone benefits from the help of others, whether simply being inspired by their work or creations or getting direct assistance from them. There’s a risk to self-improvement, that we could become so focused on ourselves that we forget about improving the world for others. As I realize more and more clearly the privileges I’ve had in developing my career and life, I think about how I can give back to the people and places that have brought me to the happy space I am now. I’m not formally-trained in graphic design, aside from a few no-credit community college classes – I’m community-trained. What can I do to give back to my fellow creatives?
As a graphic designer, I owe other creatives for their inspiring work, generous free textures and stock photos and typefaces, and helpful tutorials. As a writer, I’m learning from writers who share wisdom about the craft as well as business advice.
Giving back is an active form of gratitude, a way to make my appreciation public. Staying silent about the help I’ve had shaping my skills and lifestyle devalues those contributions. It might go without saying, but don’t make it go without doing.
This fall, I took the biggest, scariest leap towards the life I want to lead.
After six and a half years, I left my first professional job and accepted a part-time position. For now, I have Fridays off, and I’ll likely also have Thursdays off midway through 2015.
A woman of many passions, I’ve always lamented my lack of time. Working full time, I made more than enough money to live on, but never had the time (or more importantly, the energy) to pursue my creative endeavors to the extent I wanted. My consulting job, structured around billable hours, stressed me to the point of insomnia and anxiety. Harried, I dropped lifestyle choices that matched my ideals in favor of creative work – I had no energy to wake up early enough to bike to work (honestly, only twenty minutes earlier), I no longer experimented with new recipes and we started eating out more frequently, I quit baking, I couldn’t be bothered to go to the bulk grocer. I felt myself drifting from the life of voluntary simplicity I want, falling into a cycle of indifference.
I may be quiet, but I have never been indifferent.
What was I doing to my health in service to a life I didn’t even want?
As Chris Guillebeau says, in order to live the life we want and avoid getting lost in daily life, “we must work on our lives the way we would work on any other project.” I didn’t want to lose sight of my vision for my ideal life. I didn’t want to run out of fucks to give.
The purpose of the Ten Essentials is to improve your chances of survival in an emergency situation. The Mountaineers’ “essential systems” list, the new incarnation of their original ten essentials, has gotten away from true survival essentials. Sun protection? Repair kits? Illumination? Nice, but not essential to my survival on a dayhike in the Pacific Northwest. As my partner, who used to be in the army, pointed out, the more gear you require people to have, the more shortcuts they’re going to take, and they might not choose the true essentials. Nobody wants to carry emergency gear that isn’t needed. I will choose my own items for comfort.
Winter is the toughest season for me. Sure, there’s snowshoeing (I don’t downhill ski anymore), but that’s only feasible on weekends since it gets dark so early. I go to work in the dark, I come home in the dark. The sky seems to always be gray. And especially right now, it’s cold, lung-searing, cheek-pinking, eye-stinging. I look outside, and I don’t want to go.
Somehow, January and February are harder for me than November and December, although in the fall the days are getting shorter and in the winter the days are getting longer. Perhaps it’s the span of time it’s seemed dark — my mind lumps together Fall and Winter as the Dark Days.
It feels fitting that we’ve picked Winter for our New Year celebration, the time of resolutions and reinvention. Winter is a time for reflection, which flows into dreams for the coming year. It’s a time for sitting in front of a fire and letting the fire pass its spark to you.
I’ve always been one for tackling problems with action, for laying plans. So what’s an artist and outsdoorswoman to do when the outdoors feels less than inviting?