The Pressure To Name It

Lately I’ve been feeling pressure to figure out exactly what I want to do. And that whatever that thing is, it be be done well and forever.

When I say it aloud, I hear how absurd it sounds, but pressures, man!

This has a little to do with getting older (never did I think I’d fall prey to the ‘woman approaching 30’ complex, but here we are), and a ton to do with where I am in my career.

A few weeks ago I wrote on the topic of figuring out the instinctive ways I do things and how to thrive (which really helped me in the interim to feel more confident in my skills and abilities) and the following food for thought is kind of a continuation on that… [if you missed that post, it’s worth reading first]

For the past decade, I’ve been working as a creative (mostly freelance) in some form or another. I’ve dipped my toe in advertising, technology, publishing, teaching and television/entertainment. I’ve designed emojis for Firefox, established the design direction for brands like RISE, and illustrated for the likes of The New York Times and IBM. I’ve landed my own show on HGTV that airs in dozens of countries, and I’ve been given opportunities to speak at conferences, universities and home shows. And through it all, I’ve kept this blog. 

As for the less bio-worthy things I’ve done over the years, here’s a shortlist:

– Half-assed the launch of an apparel company
– Branded an artist collective I changed my mind about launching 
– Designed oodles of products I’ve never shared/sold
– Written countless pages of a dozen unfinished e-books

I have enough GoDaddy receipts for domains I’ve purchased for fantasy brands I may never share to crowd a wallet. And the oldest note in my phone is a long list of words that would each make for cool company names. If I had a dollar for every company I’ve designed logos for for fun, I could pay for… Starbucks’ most expensive grande available.

Creating visuals is what I do best, followed by building on them to create a whole visual vocabulary. (I learned this about myself in college when I used my graduate thesis as as opportunity to write, design, illustrate and brand a science fiction novel.)

I love creating a visual language that grows from scribbles to logos to assets to supporting illustrations to a full-blown entity. And I’m good at it. But short of launching, branding and selling companies (anyone want in?), I’m a bit lost on what to do with my creative skills other than continue to be for-hire. I’m toying with re-focusing my work and launching a dedicated branding studio (but to keep it here, under my name and personal blog site, or as a separate studio site, or…) I even toy with getting a job again as a Creative Director for a design studio again.

And here’s the real trippy thing: While this could be where I take it, my future could also involve none of these things!

Because besides offering creative services and blogging, I have a whole other promising branch of my career in television. A career that that can easily support me year-round and is fun, but also one that’s slightly fleeting and not entirely creatively fulfilling on its own.

At times, the two streams of my career have felt so torn and separate—with one stealing all my time from doing the other, and then alternating. And yet they so clearly benefit each other.

TV has given me such a massive platform, and I’ve reached this great pinnacle millennial dream of where I’ve gained a platform and a bitchin’ megaphone. I have the opportunity to share anything I want with awesome people who’ll listen, yet here I stand, completely blanking. 

It’s not that I’ve nothing to say—I could fill a podcast or book with my thoughts and feelings—it’s that I don’t know where to start or what to start with. And then worse, I feel guilty and wasteful for still not having that something to really own and hone and share.

In the meantime, I find myself blogging. Whether I’m filming or at home waiting for illustration jobs, I truthfully love writing and sharing it with you guys. I love the process of gathering inspiration for a post; of taking photos for a post; of sharing it and then moving onto the next without looking back. 

Blogging is whatever I want it to be, whenever I want it to be. It really is the only consistent role I’ve had for years. And if I take money off the table, as my better half urges me to do, it passes the test. The only problem is I make zero dollars from it.

So here I find myself again wondering what the f*ck should I do?

Clearly I’m being slightly dramatic and considerably overthinking it, but struggle to figure out what you want to do is hard! And it’s not just hard for me. It’s hard for a lot of people I talk to about it.

Maybe I’m forcing a square peg in a round hole, and maybe you are too. Maybe no one role will mesh all of the things I love, and maybe I’m more likely to feel fulfilled if I just continue having myriad things on the go. Because picking a lane has never worked for me—I’ve quit every job that had me doing one role—, but that little voice that tells me there’s something left for me to name is still there.

So as I continue to figure it out (or not), I’m preparing for a loaded month of work. I’ll be flying to Ontario for most of April to film Home To Win and Cityline, I’ll be shooting some yoga content with Participation, speaking at the Home Show in London, and attending a handful of events and meetings.

Approaching this wall of work initially made me anxious because I thought by this time I’d know what I wanted to do with certainty. I thought that my winter of hibernating and hiking and having nothing but time on my hands would result in something more profound. Instead, it resulted in rest, quality time with my love and Piper, a stylish new place, and ten extra pounds (not as thrilled with the latter, but que sera sera).

And you know what: that’s okay! I’ve learned that not everything has to be profound or relevant or super-duper or even change in order to cultivate.

I’m now looking at April’s bustle as a welcome distraction from staring into Piper’s eyes hoping she’ll suddenly learn to speak and tell me what to do. Because while the question mark(s) I have about my future remains, I know I’ll figure it out—or rather, it’ll figure itself out and be revealed to me, likely when I’m at my busiest (isn’t that how things always go?).

Signed, yours in ‘winging it‘.

[photography by Darby Magill]