Designer, Heal Thyself or Sometimes I’m a Dumb Ass

acrobat-girl-vintage-image-graphicsfairy007dI have a few hard and fast rules. One is never wear socks with cropped pants. Another is that when people say, “How are you?” that unless I am in need of immediate medical, fire or police assistance, the answer is always a version of, “I’m fine.” Of course there are exceptions, but 97% of the time people are asking to be polite and no one wants to get cornered talking to that person who, when they are asked how they are doing, actually tells you. I will  politely listen, but this is playing in my head the whole time (I crash into something at the end?).  I also try to remember (but usually fail) that everyone is a teacher and there are lessons everywhere.

Because of the one-woman pity party I’ve been throwing the last couple of weeks it didn’t even occur to me at the time that when one of my classmates blurted out- in great detail- how they are doing that it was a larger lesson I needed to hear.

What happened was I was sitting in class, halfway through eating my Kind Bar when, let’s call her Marie, called me over with a question about our assignment. I don’t really know Marie and have only had maybe one conversation with her the entire semester. She’s a nice woman with a smile that brightens her face and while she’s clearly been overwhelmed with this class, she’s made huge strides this semester. Anyway, I answered her question about the assignment and she said, “Hey, is that a Kind Bar?” I said it was and I eat an obscene amount of them (I buy at least 12 each week and they are usually gone by Sunday afternoon). This lead into a conversation about how she just started to workout and it’s really hard to keep going and eating right. Marie went on to tell me that it is sort of like school, she’s embarrassed and ashamed that she’s not at the same level as everyone else and it takes forever to see any sort of payoff. The struggle makes her question if any of this is worth it. Like I said, we don’t really know each other, but I guess she just needed to get it off her chest.

I said, “Believe me, I know it’s really hard, but just keep at it. Look how far you’ve come this semester. Your last project was loads better then your first one. Those babysteps add up and before you know it, you look back and can’t believe how far you’ve come. As for working out and eating right, on my first day here I was red-faced and winded after walking up the three fights in the SRC. I started working out in February 2012 and last semester I caught myself running up those same stairs. It takes time, but it gets easier and it’s worth it. I swear. Be easy on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect every single moment of your life. One screw up doesn’t equal complete failure. You can always change course, but just keep moving forward.”

Okay, everyone can see the irony in this situation. Everyone, that is, except for me. Because I’m a jerk who was a in a bad mood for 2 weeks (okay, maybe more then 2 weeks, let’s just call it “a while”) I walked back to my desk thinking, “What was that about? Who am I to give someone advice? The way I feel I should be walking around wearing a black cloak and carrying a sickle. Did I really confess that I sometimes eat 3 Kind Bars a day?”  Then I continued to be a ray of gloom for a few more days.

Fast-forward to yesterday and I am driving home from the gym (all my good ideas come in the car, this is why I am a shitty driver. That is what I tell myself, anyway). For some reason this conversation with Marie popped into my head. It finally hit me* that she is me two years ago. She’s putting so much pressure on herself that she can’t see really anything else except what she perceives as her shortcomings. Her own goalpost is so high that it feels like why bother because it’s unreachable anyway. Lately I have been putting so much pressure on myself that there is no way I could measure up to my own impossible standard. I’ve been clutching on so tightly to what I think should be that I couldn’t let anything else in. Sometimes I have these dreams where I am walking and the path becomes almost a vertical wall and the only way I can get to where I need to go is to climb straight up. It does feel that way sometimes (a lot of the time), but in the dream I always make it to the top and get to where I was going. That’s probably something I should remember, too.

The website isn’t quite up 100% yet, but if you want to, you can check out what is up at bethbrousil.com.

(*the sound effects website is going to keep me entertained for the rest of my life)

When Do You Give Up?

The Cave lyric

Two years ago, almost to the day, I lost my job and took the plunge to go back to school and change careers. As I’ve said a billion times, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. That first two weeks were fairly awful on many levels and more then once I sat crying in my car after class (I’m a crier). But I kept going back. One day it wasn’t as bad, then it was pretty good and eventually I realized that I sort of loved going. Every day was not perfect (by a long shot), but it definitely made those first few weeks of uncomfortableness worth it.

But lately I’ve been asking myself if this is the right path. How can someone not have doubts when your classmate hardly comes to class, completes half the assignments, and what they do complete they openly tell you they do it in a few minutes before class starts and then gets a full time job in your field- all while you’re busting your ass on two hours sleep to make sure your assignments are perfect all while never missing a class, trying to network and get your stuff seen? It’s even worse when you like the person and they come to class excitedly showing you what they did on their first day of their awesome new job. “No, these aren’t tears of rage! They are tears of happiness…for you! I’m not lamenting every single bad decision I’ve ever made at all!” Pile that on top of all the internship rejections e-mails (and those are the nice places that don’t keep you in limbo) and several incredibly bad class critiques (“It looks like a gravestone” and “It just needs to be different, better,” are my favorite two comments…and those were from my teachers), it’s hard not to question what the hell I’m doing.

This got me thinking, when do you admit maybe you reached too far and fell off the cliff? Is it ever okay to just stop trying? I’m on Tumblr  and every day my feed is full of inspirational quotes in hand-drawn typefaces over washed out photos saying things like, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”, “It’s never to late to be what you might have been,” and “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”  Oh and Steve Jobs quotes. The Tumblrverse freaking LOVES Steve Jobs quotes. So according to Tumblr, no, it’s never okay to quit. But Tumblr is like the internet version of the arty hipster friend who never has any money, wants to crash on your couch, eats all your food and is always begging people to fund his Kickstarter project. In other words, who can trust that freak when it comes to goals? So I went to Google. If Google were a person you know it would at least have a job, it’s own car and maybe a girlfriend, but for some reason I see Google person being a total hobag who flirts with your friends right in front of you.

Anyway, Google brought up some interesting stories of people who didn’t give up. Walt Disney was told he lacked imagination and had no good ideas, Dr. Sesus’s first book was rejected 27 times before it found a publisher, the Dyson vacuum guy tried over 5,000 prototypes before landing on the right one, Steven Spielberg was rejected three times from the USC film school, and Colonel Sanders was rejected by over 1,000 restaurants before he was successful. But I’m not them. I’m just a lady trying to land a job I don’t loathe.

Ultimately I think it comes down to what you can live with. If you can look yourself in the mirror, really know you did every single thing you possibly could, then that’s okay. Sometimes things don’t work out. But if the thought of giving up makes you sick,  you find yourself applying for internships through tears and in spite of yourself (what are you looking at me for?) because there is still that teeny bit inside you that knows you have what it takes and knows that if someone just gave you a chance that you would do every thing in your power to make them know it, too, and that knowing will absolutely not let go no matter how much doubt tries to push it off the swings, then you’re not ready to give up.

A little bit of exciting news- next week or the week after (depending on how generous our teacher is with due dates) I’ve got a brand spanking new portfolio site coming! Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere and it won’t really effect this site much. They’ll be linked together, but it will be a better way to display my design work and photography.

Till next week, enjoy the song, Sifters by Andrew Bird. It’s gorgeous and we all could use a little more gorgeous in our lives.

Hourglass Wines

hourglass_label_onlyThe last post was a little maudlin, but this one will be fun. A few weeks ago I teased a new project for a beverage label. Our teacher expanded it to pretty much anything liquid in a container, because projects included salsa and hot sauce. I wanted something fun, flirty, and appealing to both men and women. I briefly entertained the idea of putting a scalloped boarder around the label or a lace background behind it, but I couldn’t imagine a man walking into a party carrying a bottle of wine with a corset and a scalloped lacy background.  I kept it simple instead and think this works better.

I originally had a whole line of wine with names like Plush Pinot Noir and Zaftig Zinfandel but there was a bit of an incident with the wine bottles. Saturday afternoon I wanted to be lazy and didn’t want to scrub the label off of a bottle. So I just plunked the bottle in a bucket of water thinking the label would just mainly dissolve and I wouldn’t have to scrub much. After about 10 minutes, I heard what sounded like something hitting the side of the bucket. That kachunk noise was the bottle exploding! I still haven’t figured out how it happened but the inside of my bucket looked like I was cleaning up crime scene.

But wait! It gets more awkward.

Now I needed a new bottle because my label was designed for that specific one at Trader Joe’s. We hardly ever go to there because it’s not close and when we go I stock up on their butter. I don’t know what they do to their butter, but it’s the best freaking butter ever.  So, we go up to the register with 3 pounds of butter, a bottle of wine, and candy (I cannot escape that store without $20 worth of candy) and instead of making whacky conversation with us like the cashiers normally do at Trader Joe’s, ours was strangely silent. Then she just bursts out, “Three pounds of butter and a bottle of wine? What are you folks up to tonight?” Oh my God. I turned bright red and laughed so hard! My husband said, “It’s for a project.” She just said, “Uh huh…” We could practically see the thought bubble over her head saying, “Project? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” hourglass

Here’s a shot of the bottle in question with the label attached. It initially printed like ass on normal paper, but my teacher graciously let me print on a sheet of her Red River pearlescent paper. World of difference! I didn’t think I could get results like that without going to a printer. The photo hardly does it justice and I’ll probably reshoot it at some point. The other day I realized that I have just about every project I’ve ever printed at school- the book jacket, the water bottle, the coasters. It’s really satisfying to see things as they’re meant to be used. I can only imagine the feeling of seeing something you’ve designed on the shelves.

Last time I left you with a super depressing Ray LaMontagne song, so this time I’m going to leave you with awesome one with the awesome line:

Just because you knock a man down don’t mean that you got him beat.

Have a great week!

The Harder I Work The Luckier I Get or, “Congratulations. I Suck.”

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Lately I’ve been thinking about that saying, “The harder I work the luckier I get.” Trying to decide if it’s truth or a crock. I know many, many hard working people who can’t break through to a level they consider successful and others who seem to glide through life getting nothing but green lights, good parking spaces, hot partners and people waiting to throw cash at them.

I was talking with some classmates when one brought up the website of an artist he personally knew. He saw that this other artist’s career had kind of taken off in a way he didn’t realize and his words were something to the effect of, “What the….? Sonnofabitch!” Even though he respected her talents, seemed to personally like her, and was happy for her success it still made him a bit jealous and sad. Now, you have to know that my classmate is someone I, my classmates and teachers are universally jealous of his talents and who also works extremely hard. During critiques the comment he gets most is, “Wow! How did you do that?” So, it kind of caught me off guard. All I could say was that I understood. It’s that sick feeling of being happy for their success, disappointment with yourself, puzzlement, and a healthy dose of guilt for being a jealous douchebag to a friend you sincerely do want good things for. Things seem to come incredibly easy to some people.

But situations look so different from the inside. We don’t always get to see how hard someone works behind the scenes. From our point of view, it could just look like they are breezing through life collecting accolades with a four-leaf clover, rabbit’s foot, horseshoe, pot o’gold and three 7’s tattooed on their charmed butts. BUT we don’t see the hours of work they put in or the sacrifices they make so that make their successes appears effortless. We aren’t privy to the times they may have thought, “When is it my turn?” when everyone else around them seemed to have everything going their way.

I guess in the end, I have to believe that, “The harder I work the luckier I get” is truth, because, well…I just have to. It’s putting every single ounce of faith into yourself, knowing those hard days caused you to grow in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise and not stopping until you can look around and say, “See? I knew I could.”

Coming up on Friday, the thrilling conclusion to the work in progress a few weeks ago. Tantalizing teaser, it came out a billion times better then I imagined and it’s probably my most favorite thing I’ve created. Til then, enjoy this super depressing Ray LaMontagne song, Let It Be Me, that sums up those feelings when your faith seems to shake a little.