The Honeymoon is Over

I haven't written about San Francisco in a while. Maybe that's because I haven't wanted to. My views of the City by the Bay, the Bay Area, and California have evolved significantly in my second year living here. Once the honeymoon period waned, I began seeing things more clearly.

My thoughts and views of this place are difficult to articulate, but many feel the same way. The general sentiment seems to be shifting from overall amazement to daily frustration. Life as most people know it is difficult here. The basic necessities are too often out–of–reach for most people.

The rental search engine HotPads recently published A Map of Displaced San Francisco Businesses along with this fact:

…according to US Census data, if the city of San Francisco continues on its current path, the population will soon be dominated by the upper five percent of all earners.

Whether it's ridiculously high rent or dealing with a mentally unstable landlord, all too often it feels as though the city, and even the state, doesn't want me here.

I think there has been a shift in the way people in San Francisco, and the Bay Area, view the city. People seem to agree that the city is changing, but not for the better. Much of the diversity of culture in the city is being forced out as the wealth, mostly from the tech industry, moves in. Many people who can't afford it are moving to Oakland or elsewhere in the Bay.

I have also noticed a shift in the way SF blogs are writing about the city. There seem to be more articles being written about how the struggles of living here are affects people's lives beyond the present. Many people move here every day for the opportunity that has largely come as a result of the tech industry, but people who have been here a while are realizing that this place is not conducive to building a life.

HotPads also recently posted Urban Renters Put Lives on Hold. The titles sums it up nicely, but the following quote from an SF renter in her mid-30s is poignant: 

Overall, the rent and housing situation makes living in San Francisco feel like a temporary home instead of a place I could settle down and make a life.

I could not agree more. I do not doubt that SF is the best place for me professionally to build my career, but there's more to life than a career. At least, I want there to be more to my life than my career. Aside from a career, I'm not sure how much else is here for me.

In many ways I moved to San Francisco to jump-start my career, but that was not the sole reason I moved here. I needed to take a leap, to get away from everything that was familiar, and to do something different. I needed adventure, opportunity, and healing, and this place definitely provided that.

Now that the healing has taken place, I am ready to move on the the next phase of my life and growth as a person. That sounds pretentious written down, but it's true and I'm not sure how else to put it.

The decision to move is still among the best things I've ever done with my life. I'm just trying to figure out my next step.

Questions are key to learning

The first time you do something requires a lot of investment. Time, sweat, tears, sacrifice. Taking that leap is so difficult and, at times, painful. This is the learning process.

I have always had a passion for learning, but I never loved school. School restricted my creativity; it tried to fit me into a box and make me conform to specific, predetermined ways of thinking. I turned to art and design because it gave me an outlet for expression that no other subject could provide. It let me creatively solve problems and answer questions with more than just a pencil and paper.

I've always asked questions, in no small part because of my dad. He asked questions that he didn't know the answers to all the time. If there was no answer, most people would just accept it and move on. Not my dad. He always asked questions as a carpenter, and the next thing I knew he was solving the problem with his own creative solution. He also wrestled with big questions about the universe and Heaven that he didn't have answers for, inciting a flame in me to ask the same.

I recall being laughed at in classrooms when I would accidentally ask an obvious question. It was embarrassing, but my desire to understand was greater than my desire to appear a fool. Eventually I learned how to ask better, smarter questions to get the results I wanted.

I was amazed in college when my peers would not ask questions. Even when everyone in the classroom was thinking the same thing, wrought with confusion, few would speak up. The indifference and cowardice bored and sometimes angered me. I would ask not for them, but for myself because I wanted and even needed to know.

Since then, I've gotten better at asking the right questions to get the answers I want. Then again, sometimes I ask too many questions, as a friend recently informed me when we were planning on meeting up. "You ask too many questions," she said, so I asked more just to annoy her.

Admittedly, questions can be annoying, but, it might be the only way to grow and learn. The process is never easy, requiring investment and hard work. The initial breakthrough demands intense focus, often resulting in stressful days and sleepless nights. When you want to give up is exactly when you have to push through. You have to learn to manage the stress, as the influx of knowledge and processing of information changes your mind.

It has been scientifically proven that learning is addictive, and I can attest to that. I love enveloping myself in learning a new technology and putting it into practice. The more I've pursued learning, the more I want to learn. There is no feeling like the sense of accomplishment you feel after you've labored relentlessly to create something brand new.

While I am curious about most things, my interest is peaked at the intersection of design and technology. That is where I do most of my learning. Being targeted in my approach helps me learn more efficiently. I know that I cannot comprehend the entire world, or even the entire worlds of design and technology, but if I can learn bit by bit, it will add up.

My own experience has taught me that learning accumulates. You may not remember specifics, but the influence of what you learned is still there. It has shaped, even in a small way, who you are and what you know. The knowledge snowballs until it is a powerful mass that can be used to build things, including snowmen.

Therein lies the value of experience; it is the accumulation of knowledge over time. It cannot be taught because it has to be earned through experience. Experience does not happen overnight, but is a process that starts with a question.

Don't be afraid to ask.

My 1st San Franniversary

Last Wednesday, April 23rd marked exactly a year ago when I came to San Francisco. Coming out here was one of the best decisions I ever made, if not the best. In some ways it was a long time coming, and in other ways it was spontaneous. Either way, it was a huge leap of faith that has paid off in innumerable ways.

Despite all of the physical changes, the biggest change for me has been the acceleration of my learning. I've learned more about people, life, cultures, technology, and design, among other things, than I can express in a blog post. Some of these things are immediately useful, while others will no doubt yield fruits in the unforeseen future.

I had no idea what I wanted out of life when I moved here. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I have a much better idea than I did before. I've realized how blessed my life in Pennsylvania was. My childhood was a rare and special thing, which I will always hold close to my heart.

One year later, I miss the "comforts" of our beautiful home that my parents worked so hard to build. I've learned just how difficult it is to find a place like where I grew up. It truly was a haven to escape from the world; it was a safe, open place, full of love and laughter, frustrations and struggles. Everyone deserves a place like that.

That might sound nostalgic, and it is to a certain extent, but I do not long for the past. Rather, I am using my past to influence the future I am building. I believe in sobriety, meaning living in an active and conscious manner to experience, understand, and embrace the highs and lows. I am not living to forget.

It was not easy to get to this point. I had to consciously fight for it, and I still do. I had people in my life fighting for me when I was fighting against them. I blamed God for my pain, even though I didn't realize it for the longest time. But, He redeems all things for good. Now I wake up with zeal every single day. I possess joy that is unspeakable, and you can too.

The Search

My search for affordable housing in one of the most expensive and desirable cities in the world rages on. I'm currently living in The Mission at a temporary sublet until the end of April. I feel like a broken record because I've been on the move since I got here nearly a year ago. However, I wasn't searching for a long–term place up until I got my full–time job a few short weeks ago.

I should mention that what I am looking for is essentially a room in a house or flat with housemates who have their own rooms, but we share a kitchen, bathroom, and other common areas. This type of living situation is ubiquitous in San Francisco. You can see why people would be highly selective when picking someone they will be sharing a house with for the foreseeable future. These people often become your friends and, in some cases, like family.

I think I've seen around five or six places over the past several weeks. The “interviews” always seem to go well, but I haven't gotten any offers for places I liked. It should also be known that I am searching for a more central location in the city, which only adds to the difficulty.

If there's one thing I learned from the job search, it's that persistence pays off. You have to be persistent not only to get what you want, but just to figure out what exactly it is you are looking for. As you understand more about what your target is, you can adjust your approach to increase your chance of success. There's a lot of strategy involved.

Many of us start out searching for something with a “shotgun–style” approach. We blindly shoot a spray of bullets, hoping some of them will hit the target, adjusting our stance as we find success. When we eventually learn how to aim, we upgrade to a rifle, which is a more precise weapon. We become more focused, accurate, and lethal in our hunt, giving us a higher rate of success.

I've come to realize just how much of life is about searching. Whether we are searching for jobs, housing, spouses, friends, or purpose, the same principles apply. It's ironic that by searching for these things, we find ourselves. It's a painstaking, yet beautiful phenomenon.

 

Project Success

I have good news; I've found a full–time  job as a Junior Graphic Designer! I am working for BAM Software in downtown San Francisco. I am grateful to finally be putting my skills to good use and earning some monies in the process. I've already been working for a few weeks now and it's been going quite well. I am definitely still acclimating to my role and understanding my duties, but that's to be expected.

My coworkers are a productive, yet fun, bunch. Many of them are newer to the city than I am, so I plan on introducing them to some of my favorite places and people. I truly appreciate that they have been welcoming and understanding as I find my way. Maybe they understand because they were in my shoes not too long ago.

Having various jobs and internships, I've learned that it takes weeks, often months, to fully adjust to a new work environment. New workflows, forms of communication, file structures, personalities, and so on are all new things to learn. If you look at it the wrong way, it can be overwhelming. I see it as a challenge that I won't conquer overnight, but over a course of time. 

I have been places where intolerance and irrational demands are the norm, but I don't thrive in that type of environment. What those attitudes create is an environment of chaos. With chaos, only the person who caused it knows what is going on. You will find people will constantly try to pull you into their sphere of chaos, but don't be fooled by this. The want control, but they don't have it. They want you to sink to their level so they can control you. Stand your ground, take a deep breath, and look past the problems they are preaching.

If all you see are our problems, that is all you will have. If all you see is work, you won't see opportunities. Retrain yourself to see the world with a divine perspective. Project Success.

Alignment

So far this new year, I have only been in San Francisco for the first two weeks of the year. That time was spent furiously working on my new portfolio site, which many of you are now seeing for the first time. Welcome!

When designing this site, my goal was to effectively communicate who I am and what I do in one concise package. My previous portfolio site failed at that; I focused on coding the site myself rather than on the work I was presenting. To avoid that mistake this time around I used SquareSpace to build my site, which I highly recommend.

After I finished redesigning my site, I left San Francisco to stay with my family in LA for a few weeks. I struggled with the decision to go; it didn't make sense for many reasons, but I’ve learned that what makes sense isn’t necessarily what you are supposed to do.

My time with my family was fun, but also productive. We discussed creative ideas, planned for the future, and laughed a lot. When I realized my resume was severely lacking, they helped me create a better one. We are uniquely united in our vision for the future and will work relentlessly to see it manifest.

From the time I arrived in LA, things began to fall in place; opportunities began to line up. There is nothing like being in the right place at the right time for the right reason in the right season.

I’ve been saying this for a while, but I will continue to speak it into existence: It’s time to begin.

A New Foundation

At the end of 2013, everything came to an end for me. My web design internship ended mid-December and I needed to find a new place to live by the end of the year. I was a bit overwhelmed for awhile, but trusted that everything would work out. The night before I went home to Pennsylvania for Christmas, I was shown a sublet that I ended up getting. Almost all the places I’ve lived at have all come up at the last minute. I’m not sure if that says more about me, or San Francisco…

I am now living in the Sunset, a generally more affordable, residential area on the West side of the city, far from downtown. It is near Golden Gate Park and is conveniently close to MUNI transportation to get downtown fast, both of which I appreciate. Even though it is literally a living room that has been partitioned off by a curtain, it still is better than the place I lived for the last six months in almost every way. I will be here for at least two months, but probably longer assuming all goes well.

Going home for Christmas was a treat, to say the least. Catching up with friends and family was just like it has always been, as if we never left. I missed my pets terribly, and spent as much time with them as I could, taking way too many pictures of our cats, as usual. My mom and I had tears walking into our home. There is still so much love in the house my father built over ten years ago. It was designed for kids to grow up in, and now my cousins are the ones filling the rooms with laughter and squabbles like my siblings and I always did. It means so much to me and my family to know that legacy is being carried on.

I didn’t have as much anticipation coming to SF as I did the first time I flew out. Although still exciting, the city is now familiar to me. It is hard to leave a place of comfort for something unknown. That’s why not many people do it. When I first came out here, I was in search of a job. Now, I am finding my entrepreneurial spirit once more. I am pursuing freelance work in the form of contract positions and recurring work with companies, rather than doing my own work for small businesses. I think this will yield better, more immediate results than job searching. Perhaps it will lead to new connections or even a full-time job.

This past year was an exciting time for me; in many ways it was a turning point. This year, I am taking everything that I learned last year and starting over, again. In 2014, I am building on the mountains that I conquered in 2013. I’m convinced that this is the beginning of something great.

LA vs. SF – Also, Turkey.

In one word, I would describe Los Angeles as “sprawling.” It is just massive. Everything is so spread out and traffic times make it seem larger. There is a feeling of aimlessness here; there isn’t much unity that I can feel. I’m not sure what LA is trying to be, and I don’t think it knows, either. In many ways, it feels like the complete opposite of San Francisco.

If I was to describe San Francisco and the Bay Area in one word, I would say it is “concentrated.” Even though the Bay Area is geographically large, it is so densely packed that nothing feels too far away and you don’t need a car to get around. The high concentration of talent in technology and other industries gives the region a strong sense of purpose. The Bay Area is home to many youthful, like-minded, innovative people, which may explain why I’ve always felt a sense of unity there.

LA demands a completely different lifestyle than SF does. In many ways, LA reminds me of most of America; you have to drive everywhere you want to go, most places to shop and eat are chains, and the weather isn’t like SF’s, which is unique to say the least. Sitting in the car while family members drive me places makes me feel like I’m going back in time.

I’ve adjusted quickly to using public transportation. Sometimes I wish I had a car, but the expense and hassle is not worth it, at least not yet. I also detest long commutes and am not a fan of driving; it just seems like a waste of time to me. My mom asked me if I ever could see myself buying a car again. I didn’t even have to think about my response. I said “Yes, in ten years when it can drive itself.”

Ironically, I do like cars. I appreciate and am inspired by the design of beautiful cars, inside and out. My family surprised me with tickets to the LA Auto Show the day I got here for Thanksgiving break. My siblings and I had fun being goofy and trying the vehicles on for size.

The beach communities of LA, where my family is currently living, are beautiful. The beach brings a sense of unity, as does volleyball. Here, going to the beach to play volleyball is as common as going outside to mow the yard in Pennsylvania. It’s a hoot.

Besides playing some beach volleyball, this Thanksgiving break has been relaxing and much-needed. I was missing my siblings and mom, so it is great to spend time with them, even though we all miss our brother and family back home. We are all trying to find our way in this new land, but we have much to be thankful for.

I think that, no matter where you grow up or how humble you are, we all take things for granted. We grow accustom to things not changing. This is especially true of the places we grow up. People who have grown up here don’t think twice about going to the beach. I never fully realized how special it is to have a large backyard like my family did. Having any yard in SF is a treat, let alone a yard the size of ours back home; it’s like a park to these people!

I think that’s why it’s important to always be faithful stewards of what we have been given, no matter how great or small. We don’t know when we will be without something, and only then will we realize how much it truly means to us. That’s why being thankful is more than just a day to eat turkey. It’s a lifestyle.

Seasons

Time has gone by so fast since my last post when I started my new internship and weekend job. There’s not much time to blog when I’m working seven days a week. Who knew?

Transitions are never easy, but they don’t have to be drudgery. Eventually we adjust to whatever it is that is changing. I feel like I have adjusted to my new workflow (lifeflow?), even though it will all be changing again.

I’ve learned to see more things in life as being temporary, subject to disruption. I’ve personally realized there are seasons in my life. They come and go in ways that are usually beyond my control. I have learned not to resist the changing seasons, but to anticipate when they will change and prepare myself to facilitate the change.

Taking the risk to come out here is probably the best thing I have ever done. It was a pivotal moment for me and many others in my life.

Now I’ve reached the point that most things here are second-nature to me. I could easily show someone all my favorite places around the city, even though I’m still discovering new ones.

I think when you grow up in a place, you tend to take it for granted, even if you don’t intend to. I sometimes wonder if I could done more in the region where I grew up. Maybe one day, but for now I am where I need to be.

Another Filtered Brain-Dump

You should know that when I set out to write a blog post, I usually don’t intend to write the mysterious, profound, philosophical things that I end up writing. I usually plan on writing about how my new jobs are going and what I’ve been doing lately, but it just comes out differently. I think it’s the artist in me attempting to create something beautiful out of what would otherwise be somewhat bland and straightforward. I guess you could call it a “filtered brain-dump” :P

New Gigs

This is my first week at my new gig as a Web Design Intern at Tightrope Interactive! Unless something comes up, I know where I’ll be for the next three months. That’s the farthest ahead I’ve been able to see since moving here, now that I think about it.

It was time for me to say goodbye to my last internship at Odysseus Arms. I learned a lot about the ad industry that I otherwise would not have known. I’m sure it will come in handy in the future. I’m grateful for the time I spent there and the friends I made. I will be keeping in touch with them.

It is a bit difficult to explain exactly what Tightrope Interactive does, but all you need to know is that I will be doing front-end web development and web design, which is moving more in the direction of what (I think) I want to do. It’s a good opportunity.

My other new gig for weekends is at The Melt, a grilled cheese restaurant chain. Last Saturday I used a Spread-O-Matic (yes, that is what it is actually called) to butter the most bread that I’ve seen in my entire life. Normally I’ll be on a food truck roaming the countryside, handing out grilled cheeses to the masses.

Working in food service is something I’ve never done before. All of this rapid change has happened in a matter of days. Fortunately, I didn’t have to move or that would have been a real kicker.

Change is hard, even when you are the one who initiates it. You don’t realize how comfortable you’ve become until you do something that stretches you. You also don’t know what you are capable of unless you go for it.

Putting everything on the line, and yet having nothing to lose. What a dangerous combination.

End-Game

Don’t feel bad for me because I haven’t found a job yet. Although it’s not easy, I relish this time. That’s right, I said relish.

Finding a job is not my ultimate goal. It is not the reason I moved, nor is it my end-game.

High school and college are, in many ways, easy because your goals are defined for you. Your future is essentially linear. There is a plan, a schedule to adhere to.

And in that, there is a certain amount of solace. But it can only take us so far. At some point we have to face the future, naked and vulnerable.

And that’s hard. Arguably harder to do without a job because jobs help give us a sense of purpose. But why should we need a job to reaffirm our self-worth?

I’m not sure, but in this time I am learning to value myself outside of what I do. That’s a skill I don’t think many people have. Maybe I should put that on my résumé…

Getting Good at Starting Over

In my last post I talked about frustrations I have had with the job search. Since then I have, in a sense, started over again.

After getting advice from many good people, I’ve come to the realization that I have been doing all of the “right” things to the best of my ability, but I can and need to do more.

One change I need to make is to simply create more. Much more. Ideas flow like water, but translating those ideas into something tangible is a much harder process.

I also need to tighten and refine my “brand.” I know that I am skilled and talented, but communicating that to someone else who doesn’t know me is something I have found to be extremely difficult.

I am learning to see things from the employer’s perspective. I need to figure out how to separate myself from the negative connotations that come with being a Millennial.

I am not a victim of circumstance.

I Make My Own Luck.

I’ve been job searching within my field for awhile now. From about mid-May to mid-June, I was searching pretty much full-time. I applied to anything and everything that interested me, even if it was slightly out of my field of expertise, but was something I wanted to do. I just needed to see what would stick. Almost nothing did.

Mid-June I got fed up with that and decided to switch things up. I’ve since narrowed my focus to internships and entry-level jobs that I am currently 100% qualified for and that I want to do. I’ve learned job titles that fit my skills include graphic designer, web designer, digital designer, or some combination of those. “Visual Designer” seems to encompass all of them, so that is what I am calling myself now.

At about the same time, I looked into picking up odd jobs through TaskRabbit and Craigslist. I probably haven’t been diligent enough in pursuing those options, but TaskRabbit has been really hit-or-miss for me. Much like my job search, it seems like a crapshoot.

Also around mid-June, I got in touch with friends of a professor of mine who run a small startup ad agency and they offered me an informal internship. It has been a positive experience; I’ve learned a lot, made some friends, had a downtown “base” to operate from, and gotten to do work I otherwise wouldn’t have done.

Since mid-June, I’ve been applying to anywhere from one to four jobs per week. Most of them I’ve heard of through saved job searches I have set up to email me every week. That might not sound like much, but when it can take an hour to apply to each with a custom cover letter and often lengthy forms, that time adds up fast.

What I’m saying is that I feel like I’ve hit a wall with my job search. I needed to have patience to “settle in” and see if I would get responses. In many ways I’m an optimistic and patient guy, but when I look at the results, it doesn’t look good. The truth is that I haven’t gotten many responses and, except for this internship, nothing has panned out yet.

My current game plan is to look more for freelancing gigs, contact staffing agencies, and directly inform recruiters what I’m looking for. If freelance work doesn’t come in fast, I’m also going to try to get a part-time job somewhere, most likely unrelated to design, but you never know. All that stuff has always been on my radar, just not at the forefront because I was hoping to have a design job by now.

I share in the frustration that many of my peers feel and that friends have voiced to me in the past. The general sentiment is that employers are more hesitant to take a chance on hiring inexperienced, recent grads than in the past. I have no doubt that if I had two years experience, I would already have a job. The thing is, I do have that experience, just not professionally. It again begs the question, “If every job requires experience, how am I supposed to get experience if no one will give me a chance?”

Job hunters nowadays have unprecedented expectations to live up to, competing in a global job market with people from around the world. The talent pool is bigger than ever before. Those who have come before us, the ones who criticize us, never had to deal with anything on this level. The feeling I get is that there aren’t many who are willing to take the time and risk to teach us “young uns.” I am adamant about finding good people who are willing to invest the time to teach me, but they are few and far between.

Maybe I am just spoiled. My father was a teacher at heart, and patient, but intense. Despite being constantly aware of his speed and efficiency, he would almost always slow down and take time to teach me something new or remind me how to do something he showed me before.

Maybe I expect too much from the older generations, from those with experience, from those who I want to learn from. All I know is that one day when I am in a position of power and influence, I will remember where I came from and take time to teach the next generation.

Maybe it’s time for me to create my own experience. Maybe it’s time to stop expecting others to rise to the occasion and recognize my potential.

Maybe it’s time to make my own luck.

Now is the Moment

Seems like I’m on a two-week blog post schedule. Could be worse.

In a previous blog, I made a lot of observations about being out here, how it is different or similar to the East Coast. I’ve realized that was kind of dumb. But, it was my perspective at the time. My perspective has just shifted and grown, so now those things seem small and inaccurate. nbd

Since my father passed away nearly two years ago, my views on life have fundamentally been altered. 2012 was without a doubt the most difficult year of my life, but it was necessary. I have been through the valley, so I am not afraid of it anymore. I have conquered the mountain, so it isn’t daunting anymore. People abandoned me; their apathy made them my enemy. Passivity is not an excuse for complacency.

None of that held me back any longer than it was supposed to. I don’t have time for mediocrity. I don’t have time to tame the snakes. I’ve tried that. The thing about snakes it that they always lie. They want to get close to you. When you are slow, they catch up to you. They smell the dust; they are attracted to it. I move too fast for them now. When I don’t leave them in darkness, in the dust behind me, I crush them beneath my heel.

Too many times we dwell in a low place. The key is to keep moving. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. When the brook dries up, when the favor has lifted, when the provision is no longer sufficient, when the status quo is holding you back, do not be afraid to get up and LEAVE that place. Complacency will make you weak and boring. Have the strength to see the prosperity that lies ahead of you and to move towards it. Fight or flight. There is a time for both. Recognize the time and do not hesitate. Hesitation is doubt. Doubt is fear. Fear holds you back.

My grandfather has a saying that goes something like “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can get done today.” Ever since moving out here, to SF, that phrase has stuck with me, but not in the context that he used it. He would use that saying as an impetus to keep working. I use it as a reminder to enjoy the place I am in right now and to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves because I may not be here tomorrow. I will never be at the exact time and place that I am right now. The moment that is happening now will never occur again. Time rolls on whether you like it or not. Tomorrow may be too late.

Visually Arrested

It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, and so much has happened in that time. Since then, I have toured design studios during SF Design Week, traveled to Reno with my family to see my brother’s club volleyball team compete at nationals, and traveled through Utah with new friends from SF.

I’ve found when a lot of things happen in a short period of time, time goes by fast, but in retrospect it feels that much longer. I’ve done so much in the last to weeks that it has felt like a month has passed. And, I have done so much since moving to SF a little over two months ago that it feels like half a year has gone by, at least.

Attending SF Design Week events was a great experience. I went to a networking event with interesting speakers; I love hearing what smart people have to say about the future of technology. The following night I went on a Design Studio crawl and got to see various types of design studios, mostly in the SOMA district, while meeting people along the way. Seeing the different working environments was tremendously helpful as I continue to try and figure out what type of place I would like to work at. There was one studio that I just knew was the type of place I wouldn’t flourish at. It is a satisfying feeling to trust your intuition, even though it often clashes with your intellect. Go with your gut!

I was actually somewhat anxious about seeing my family again. The thought of traveling with them in a small car, staying in the same hotel room, and losing my independence for several days were the culprits. But, my fears were quickly relieved as I remembered why I love them so much. We had such a fun time together as I showed them San Francisco, bickered in the car, swam in Lake Tahoe, cheered the team on in Reno, and ate taffy in bed. Saying goodbye was harder this time than the first because we weren’t as sick of each other ;)

The night my family left, some of my friends from SF picked me up to go on a road trip to Utah. I was also concerned about this trip because I hardly knew any of the details, but I knew the people who were going liked to have a good time, so I went with it. This time my fears weren’t even close to being alleviated, but it turned out to be one of the best trips I’ve ever had. I’ve found that when everything goes according to plan, life gets boring real fast. We certainly didn’t plan on having a car break down in the desert or leaving the tent poles in SF, but no one was harmed and now we have some great stories to tell.

We went from Reno to Great Basin National Park to Bryce Canyon NP through Capital Reef NP to Canyonlands NP to Arches NP to Salt Lake City to the Bonneville Salt Flats back home to SF in 5 days. It was, without a doubt, the most visually arresting few days of my life. The American West, the National Parks in Utah, the mountains and sky in Nevada, cannot adequately be described by words, nor captured in pictures. It is something you have to experience for yourself.

Untouchable

I have found that I need to trust my gut because my initial impression of something and someone has proven to be accurate time and time again. There’s a challenge with that, though. I want to keep an open mind and be friendly, but I can’t allow myself to trust someone who I know, deep down, is not trustworthy.

There are some people who are just so fake that I see right through them. They may fool some people, but not me. They put up a front by being cordial and saying all the right things, but they are just prying for information so they can keep tabs on me. They have no intention of being my friend or helping me. You see, they get close to you without being close to you. They stay objective. They don’t give you anything you can use against them. Their words are sweet, but their breath is foul. I leave those people in the dust where they belong.

Because I have been through hell, I own it. It has no power over me and, without hesitation, I recognize when the darkness tries to creep in. The enemy of your soul never walks through the door upright. He is a liar, always close to the ground, always crawling through the dust, under the rader so you won’t recognize what he is doing, always creeping and lurking in the shadows. Because he is a coward.

He hides behind a mask, I’ve seen him hide behind drugs, fear, religion, politics, you-name-it. There is always a veil, a fabricated covering that hides his true identity. When that veil comes under pressure and starts to lift, you see the ugliness that lies underneath.

When you live like I do, without a veil, with the Truth on your lips and courage in your heart, anyone you encounter who lives a lie behind closed doors is immediately threatened.  Cowardice recognizes authority. Light penetrates darkness with force, never the other way around. Darkness always moves slowly, strangling it’s subjects. That’s why I keep moving. Something that is unclean can only affect you if you let it close to you, and it only gets close to you when you let your guard down.

You see what I’m saying. You see the dilema. When you recognize something is unclean, how can you be accepting of it without letting get close? You have to be so sure of what you believe that you will not waver. You don’t condone it, nor do you judge people for it. You stay neutral. Objective. You use your enemy’s tactics against him.

You become untouchable.

Perfection

So, to reiterate, I am now interning at a small startup agency called Odysseus Arms. It is literally a “mom & pop” agency, run by a couple who started an agency in London and have a lot of experience in the industry. I have already learned quite a bit from them and look forward to seeing where this relationship takes me.

The internship is unpaid, informal, and flexible, but requires fast thinking, problem solving, and hard work. They understand that I am searching for a full-time job and need to earn some money. There is some work I will be doing for them that is paid, so that’s nice!

I have learned that being able to “rapidly prototype” is an invaluable skill to possess in the tech, advertising, design, and other industries, I’m certain. Rapid prototyping is the ability to quickly and accurately create a prototype that effectively communicates an idea. Whether it’s a startup that needs to get their product launched or an ad agency that needs to pitch ideas for campaigns to clients or a company that needs to a website redesign, being able to make good stuff fast is essential.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a perfectionist, so compromising quality isn’t exactly in my nature. (I get that from my dad.) However, I have pushed back against that tendency for many years in order to reign it in. Perfectionism is a valuable trait to have in many situations, but I have found it can hold me back for fear of making a mistake. It is an obstacle to overcome, and I am still working at it.

The truth is that the simpler, cleaner, and more organized things are, the more our mistakes and shortcomings stand out. This is true both in design and in life. Having things too messy is chaos, while having things too clean  is stifling. Again, find a balance that works for you. Perfection is relative anyways.

Good News!

Tomorrow I will be starting an informal internship of sorts at a small ad agency! I met the couple who runs it last week and they were more than willing to help me out. Very generous of them. They do good work and are real smart. I think it will be a mutually beneficial relationship that will lead to good things.

A friend and former professor of mine has been instrumental in giving me people to contact, including the people I will be interning with. I never know who I will meet, how I will meet them, and when it will happen. I do my best to create those interactions, but I enjoy the relationships that come as a surprise the most.

For example, last night I went to a talk and networking Meetup about Responsive Web Design & Ads. It could have been boring if I’d done the easy thing and kept to myself, but I didn’t do that. I wound up meeting one of the presenters, who a really talented and passionate web developer/designer. He basically said that they are always looking for good people and I should drop by the company’s offices sometime to talk and drop off my resume. How cool is that?!

And one of the brilliant things about the internet is that I can connect with him on various social networks, exchange ideas and information, and keep him informed on my whereabouts, so-to-speak. The people I meet won’t just forget about me unless I let them, or if they are disconnected jerks, in which case I wouldn’t care if they forgot about me ;)

Even with all our technology, it takes so long to properly contact someone, especially when you are trying to make a professional connection. It’s no longer good enough to send a quick email, at least not to me. Now it is accepted, expected, and pretty much required to learn everything you can about the person or business you are reaching out to, and to respond quickly. It can be a grueling process when you’ve been doing it day-in and day-out, but it is rewarding to learn about people.

I have a love/hate relationship with the internet. It’s mostly love, but I have found that there are two ways I function on the internet: I either consume content or I create content. I try to find a balance between the two, but it is so much easier to wander down a rabbit hole of knowledge, consuming copious amounts of information. Most of what I read is of value in one way or another, sometime directly benefitting me, and other times becoming a resource from which I will draw from in the future. After consuming a lot of content, I often feel like I do after a big meal, which is really full and tired. I usually end up doing the opposite of consumption and creating content to make myself feel better. Hence this blog… ?

I believe in striking up a balance between consumption and creation. It is hard to do, but I believe we are happier and healthier when we aren’t stuck at one end of the spectrum.