I sat in the oversized chair in the swanky meeting room of a design firm in downtown Chicago, where I had spent the last two weeks freelancing and competing for a full time spot. My hands were trembling and my stomach was tight. The girl sitting across from me at the table was the same age as me. A Boston U grad who has the same voice as a best friend I had in high school, and a similar presence to Lena Dunham. She is beautiful, smart, and an amazing designer.
We were both about to present to the executive creative director our infographics we sketched that day, for an employee campaign at a big energy company. This project would decide who would get the job.
The other girl (I’m going to call her Boston) began presenting her concept and sketch. The creative directors marveled at her concept as if she discovered a cure to human boredom. As she talked I began to fall into the old high school fear that I am never going to be good enough and began comparing myself to her in every way humanly possible. My thoughts went something like this - I lost, she won. I suck. No you are fine, I thought to myself, you are talented and you are here for a reason - sit up straight, and whatever you do, DO NOT FALL.
By this time I had run through my mind every affirmation I had ever heard, but nothing resonated. Then it was my turn to present, and I must have been white by now. I went through my presentation, or at least my mouth did, and when I was done I knew I had lost. I fell. Right after I presented the creative directors made a couple comments then went right back to marveling at Boston’s work.
After our meeting I went in the bathroom and cried. I later told the intern my story and she said she cried in the bathroom four times that week.
It was finally 5:00, and I quickly left the office. I had never wanted to leave so badly. As I walked out into the art neighborhood of Chicago, I noticed all the galleries surrounding me, and I began to think about all of the ‘falling’ each person has done within this one block alone; hell, within this one building.
But, what got these people their jobs or their gallery spots in the first place was that when every one of these people fell, they used it as a learning experience. So I thought about that for a moment. What was it that I needed to learn from my first real design firm experience that I just had.
In the creative world, and I know this may resonate with many people in many different industries, falling is the reality, and there is a large part of me that still desires the approval of others. So really - this had nothing to do with Boston, or the creative directors. It’s all me.
Learning to accept falling is my new post-graduate reality, and it will be a process. I’m coming to realize that there is so much to be gained in letting yourself fall and experiencing your defenselessness, because it allows you to find safety in your own beautiful power and begin to learn and grow. This thought put falling into a whole new perspective for me.
If art and design is going to change the world then I have absolutely no time for making enemies or quitting, especially after just one failure. There is too much work to be done, and there is far too much hell to raise and healing to do - fearlessly embracing every fall.