My Design Story - Fake it till you make it
Like most that enter into college, I had big aspirations. I was going to make something of myself and I was going to help the world on my way to success. But what I was going to do or how I was going to achieve that success was undecided. All through school I liked math and art. I was decent at both and since “artists don’t make any money” I picked the math route and entered into a business degree at Oklahoma Christian University.
I started dreaming of being an accountant, but after a few accounting classes and a macroeconomics class I started to see that the dream I had in my head didn’t really live up to reality. I thought that I could be an accountant who….maybe could travel to cool destinations and help large companies….and who maybe could meet a lot of interesting people…….and who maybe could make their own schedule and work when they wanted…..and didn’t have to do much heavy math….And my list of maybes kept growing further and further from reality. I started questioning myself, and telling myself, “Yes, you were good at math in high school and enjoyed doing it, but do you really want to do this your WHOLE LIFE? Do you really even LIKE math or just the idea of it? Are you really going to say that you understand excel? Let’s be honest, you just like making pretty charts and changing the fonts and colors.”
So by the summer after my sophomore year I was confused and anxious and envious of all the kids who looked like they had their lives put together. Because everyone knows that if you don’t have your life figured out by sophomore year of college, you’re a failure.
The summer after sophomore year, I went on the European Study Abroad trip through Oklahoma Christian, which was hands down one of the best experiences of my college career. It was amazing. I learned so much about other cultures, about history, about independence, and about myself. I had been battling the tiny artist inside for awhile, pushing it aside as “just a hobby”, but this trip really unleashed her from all the excuses I had put on her. I was in Vienna, one of the centers of architecture and art. We went to museum after museum and gawked at the pieces that we had only known from history books. We saw the Mona Lisa, the Birth of Venus, the Kiss, all in person. Coming back from this trip, I had more clarity and confidence than I had in my first two years of college. I was going to take a risk and ignore all of the expectations I had put on myself. So on the first day of Junior year, I walked into the registrar’s office and changed my major from Business to Graphic Design.
If you haven’t seen the Ted Talk “Your body language shapes who you are” by Amy Cuddy, you should probably watch it right now. It is inspiring. She tells a personal story about how she faked it until she became it, and this resonated so much with me.
Entering my first art class of my new major, I felt completely out of place.
Here I was, a junior in a freshman level class, and hadn’t had an art class since I could remember. I did not belong. The kids in the class had be practicing and honing in on their skills since they were small and blew me out of the water with their pieces. I had the hardest time changing mindsets from concrete and factual, to abstract and creative. I had to learn all of the programs for the first time, while most of my classmates had already been working in the programs for years. All in all, I felt like an imposter. I felt like any day, one of my teachers would pull me into the hall and tell me that I had been caught and that I didn’t belong.
I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder than I did those last few years in college trying to catch up and get on the same level with some of my classmates. I researched artists to find inspiration. I redid the same projects over and over because I thought I could do better. I stayed in to work on assignments rather than going out with friends. I pulled my first all-nighters of college finishing projects. I devoted myself to becoming what I thought that I could be – a real life graphic designer. With the help of supportive classmates and some very challenging teachers, I grew in my skills, in my knowledge, in my confidence, and at times in my ability to persuade and defend. I felt less like an imposter and more like someone who had a purpose. I finally felt like I was where I needed to be.
By my senior year, I felt confident in my work and why I was there. I had already completed several graphic design internships and started a job as an internal graphic designer at a paint company and worked through my senior and super-senior years of school. I had a passion for what I was doing, and had also found a way that I could help others. I had completely forgotten all of the feelings I felt those first few days of art class. I had faked ’til I became it.
I ended up with enough hours to graduate with a Graphic Design degree and a minor in Business, and I am so grateful to have the business experience that I did. It has helped in everyday life, and even at work. I format a mean excel document and even surprise coworkers with my knowledge of excel functions. I am so happy that I took the risk and ignored my own expectations I had placed on myself. I’m so happy that I challenged myself and instead of choosing to do something that looked the best on paper, I chose to do something that I would find joy in year after year.