What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do (part 1)

April 2, 2008

I hope you’re in the mood for reading today! There was some genuine interest expressed when I recently wrote What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do and I was asked by many of you if I could explore this topic more here on decor8.

A huge thanks to Nathalie at Design Undercover for initiating this topic! To recap, Nathalie expressed to me that she’s in search of her calling and launched Design Undercover as a way to explore a world that she feels connected to but isn’t quite sure of what exactly she wants to focus on. Nathalie says, “I know the day I will find out I will definitely go for it.”

She then asks, “Do you have any suggestions on how to find your calling in the design world? Is there anyone out there that feels the same way? What are we supposed to do when we don’t know?”.

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do (part 1) Promise photographic print by Wren and Chickadee.

Nathalie those are loaded questions and there’s no clear answer for everyone, no secret book to reveal things, no magic pill to take, because it’s about following your gut. I’ve heard many experts out there speak of the need to get in touch with the things you did as a child, and I think this is helpful advice. My career counselor at Northeastern University strongly encouraged this as well. What were you into? What did your parents encourage you to do based on their observations? Sometimes this holds the key to finding your path in life as an adult a little quicker.

When I look back at my childhood, I spent huge amounts of time rearranging furniture and decorating our family home, playing ‘teacher’ and ‘shop owner’ in my bedroom, and creating illustrated books and writing in my journals pages at a time on a daily basis. Writing, teaching, and decorating were extremely strong talents of mine exhibited at a very early age. I would go as far as to beg my mother to take me to model homes in new developments on Saturdays just so I could tour them and look at how the rooms are arranged and so I could take all the free materials and go home and edit all the floor plans with my pencils showing how I would have designed things. Yeah, a little intense for a child. Now I work with clients designing their homes. See the connection?

Also in school, I loved art class. My teachers constantly raved over my creative eye as they called it, and my ability to do collage work but beyond school I haven’t explored art for myself, but I do love it and devote a lot of space on decor8 to it so there you see this being explored in an alternate way. Painting and collage work currently is not my passion but I may take it up as a hobby soon. I write about artists a lot though. Yes, you guessed it, another connection made.

I was a huge Science and History fan, I usually made straight A’s in these classes without trying. Math was and will always be my weak point. Today I see my love for these things displayed in again, in alternate ways because I’m a huge nature lover, enjoy taking photos outside, and enjoy period films and visiting places that are filled with history and pre-war architecture. Also in school I was always involved with the school paper somehow, at one point I was an editor with my own column. Now I freelance for the Boston Globe. Again, another connection to my past.

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do (part 1) Simple Beauty, fine art photograph by Marie Stevenson.

The reason I laid all this bare is because it’s a good thing for everyone to do at some point in their life. To think about what they were strongly passionate about as a child. Today I am a published writer, blogger, and interior design consultant. It makes sense I’d be on this path as I look back.

I plan to explore other areas in which I have a measure of talent, for instance I’ve wanted to be a shop owner since I was little and so decor8 just may become a little shop someday. I want to have cupcakes on Saturdays along with a book reading session where I read to children from a beautifully illustrated book that also teaches the importance of having strong moral values and of exploring creativity through art and design. I think moral values are slipping away from us and I’d like to do something, no matter how small, to show children that it’s also very cool to be smart, nice, and well-mannered. I have a very special shop in mind, my business plan is quite extensive! I’d love to write a book as well, but I may just start off with a newsletter as I’ve mentioned before and see what happens from there.

Make a list and see what it reveals. I think that’s a good way to get started on this journey of finding your ‘true calling’, although I don’t think everyone has only one thing in life that they are able to do well. I believe we can do many things, it just has to do more with how badly you set your heart on something and the opportunity you have to pursue it. I write this from an American perspective because here, our culture encourages us to pursue our dreams, it’s not called “The Land of Opportunity” for nothing.

Not to go all patriotic on anyone, but I only recently appreciated these words when I learned more about the work life of other cultures and the limits that are placed on those living in certain lands. Despite our nutty government right now, I am so happy I was born in this country and raised here to know no boundaries when it comes to the pursuit of happiness. For those living in a country where they may have had to train in a certain profession and strongly encouraged to stick to that for life (like my mother-in-law in Germany), I can suggest taking up a hobby that will help balance your life if you are a bit sad about your profession. Sometimes all we need is a good hobby and our day job no longer looms over us like a dark cloud.

I could write a book about all of this… But for now, I’ll close with these thoughts and open up things up for reader questions and comments.

What did you like to do as a child? Can you comment below and also tell us what you do today for a career?

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do will continue later with quotes from some great talent out there that I asked to participate in this discussion. Erin at Design for Mankind is exploring a related topic and asked me to join in along with Marisa at Creative Thursday who promises a podcast tomorrow as well. I can’t wait. More on that to follow!

(images linked above to source)


  • Reply KB April 2, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    As a child, I would fill notebook after notebook with fashion designs and beg my mom to take me to fashion shows. I always thought I would become a fashion designer until I realized I needed to draw realistic humans, which wasn’t exactly my strongest skills. :) I moved on to graphic design, but I still get hints of envy with each episode of project runway.

  • Reply Husmusen April 2, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    When I was a child I loved crafting with my mom and playing with my friends (often including LEGO). In recent years I have developed the interest for crafting to a hobby, however my LEGO kit is collecting dust in the basement. Perhaps I should try it out, again, next time I’m bored and feel clueless about what to do.

    I work as a project manager at an advertising agency.

  • Reply amy April 2, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    my mother was constantly redecorating our home, and she let my sister and i color all over the old wallpaper before she would rip it down. My grandfather worked at a paper mill, so there was never a shortage of fresh paper, which sat in a large stack in the craft closet. i spent hours and hours drawing. I still do, and when i am not drawing i am thinking about drawing or sewing or painting something.
    i am currently searching for a way to draw fulltime and design patterns for housewares. I am trained in photography and graphic design.
    I have really enjoyed this ongoing conversation in the last week or so, and it truly is giving me the push i need to make my childhood obsession become my adult reality. thank you.

  • Reply daisyjanie April 2, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    When I was young, I created coordinated stationery packs for friends that had little geometric motifs. I was also a constant, constant doodler of geometric forms. I would draw on my walls, on my pants, on my hands…and notebooks of course. Anything to get the shapes and patterns out of my head. Today, I design my own fabrics with a very geometric but flowing look about them. (Before this, I also used to paint funky designs on home accessories and in clients’ homes where the repetitive geometric designs looked like wallpaper. Very cool!)
    See here: http://daisyjanie.typepad.com/daisyjanie/2008/01/a-bright-spot.html and here: http://daisyjanie.typepad.com/daisyjanie/2008/01/math-girl.html

  • Reply Meg April 2, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    That post was incredible, and hit very close to home. I work in banking and craft at night, and can feel the need growing to be more true to myself. Terrifying and I have no idea how to go about it, but it is there.

  • Reply Morgane April 2, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    as a child, i never had a fixed idea of what i wanted to be. i have never been part of those people that are always sure they are following a specific path.
    this constant lack of strong decision making brought me to a PhD in biology and i am now a research scientist. however i have always been crafting, taking photographs, painting, building, drawing… now i can not spend a day without thinking about my future potery projects, my next photography session, what i will draw in the next page of my moleskine and how will be the next necklace i will create (in between two experiments of course)… should i have followed a different path?
    i guess nobody knows.
    but the idea of a slight switch to a more artistic job is always tickling my mind.

  • Reply Debbie Miller April 2, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    When I was a girl I loved to draw and paint,spend time outside, imaginging little worlds in the woods behind our house. and building sandcastles and collecting shells at the beach

    today I am an artist, an oil painter – often depicting scenes from the beach!

  • Reply Diana April 2, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Fantastic post! It not only made me sit back and think about how my childhood relates to my present course, but it made me realize that some of the choices I have questioned do in fact make sense!

    When I was young, one of my favorite things to do was go down to the neighborhood Frog Pond and search for tadpoles. We’d bring them home and watch them grow… I now have a degree in Environmental Science and work part-time as a Wetland Biologist.

    My favorite games were always imagination games, full of creativity and adventure. We would turn our swingset into a sailing ship, and it would inevitably crash on a deserted island. I use my creativity (and my love for nature) every day in my photography.

    A very cool exercise. I will have to explore this further!

  • Reply Melissa April 2, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Great post!! I actually did this little test a few months back. What are your passions, what do you collect, where is your knowledge, what did you do (hobbies) as a child.
    For me, it was all about animals. But I also had a very artisic Mom who was a graphic designer turned interior designer.
    When I turned 20, her and I opened a gallery for handmade artists. We closed up a few years ago to move out of state. We’ve both been missing it a great deal.
    Recently I decided to take my love for animals (dogs) and start a blog for dogs and dog lovers. Focusing on product, home decor, things for kids and it’s been a blast. Maybe someday, Mom and I will have another store. Maybe a dog boutique.

  • Reply Anonymous April 2, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Holly and friends, I loved this post! So many of us are out there on this quote journey and it’s encouraging to know we’re in great company.

    When I was little, my mom was a fulltime artisan for a local arts and craft venue. She mainly focused on doll making, quilting, and miniatures. Eventually, she focused much of her time and effort on miniatures and being the only child at home, I had to tag along to a lot of miniature trade shows and shops and meetings, etc. Despite being a boy in the often genderizing midwest, I became fascinated with the world and eventually grew a passion for arranging and designing interiors. As I began college, I fell in love with reworking vintage finds and I now do it on the side for myself and several friends. I’m a creative writing graduate student and hope to start a lifestyle blog about spaces, food, art, life, etc.

  • Reply karina April 2, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    well, you are still writing for me.
    As a child I read and read,Ill love to work in a magazine.

  • Reply denise April 2, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    I was just talking to my best friend on the phone about “what I was going to do with my life” when I came across this blog post. Look what happens when you ask for help! When I was little I would hang out in my room for hours and use macpaint (on those old cube macintosh computers) to figure out how I would rearrange my furniture. I now realize I tend to rearrange everything in my apartment when I feel anxious about something-it always calms me down (hmm seems like a connection here). I used to wake up early on Saturday mornings and watch local tv real estate shows and ask my parents if we could take a drive to those houses. I also loved digging in the yard and pretending to discover old bones and pottery. I loved drawing and water colors and putting on plays with the neighborhood kids. When I got older I studied oral history, anthropology, worked in film and theater. Now I make documentary films and teach new media technologies, but I feel something is missing. I have this deep yearning to use all these skills and work in design in some form-but not sure where, how or what that would even look like. But one thing I am sure of-you all have inspired me to find a class; start talking to more people in the design field; and not to be afraid to explore ideas and interests even if I don’t know where it will lead. Thank you all for putting this in my path.

  • Reply Lobster and swan April 2, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Hi Holly, Thanks for keeping these discussions going, the good advice and positive words are a real help!

  • Reply Lobster and swan April 2, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Clicked too soon! As a child I was craft mad and when I wasn’t creating I spent all my weekends arranging furniture and serving tea on antique plates in my wooden playhouse in my grandma’s garden.

    I was a retail manager in a decorative lighting store (with a small minded, backwards boss), but left recently to further my career elsewhere. Its just a saving exercise now until I hatch my master plan!

  • Reply Alex April 2, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Great post! Your advice is exactly what I ended up doing when I burned out on advertising in my mid-twenties!

    I realized that as a child, I had always drawn and painted, journaled, written fan club newsletters, even sewed numerous barbie doll and monchichi outfits. That realization prompted me to go back to school and get my degree in graphic design.

    After learning some invaluable skills at several agencies and design studios, I launched my own studio five years ago and haven’t looked back! Being on my own allowed me to launch a second business just last year: a greeting card company that lets me be even more creative. I’m now juggling both businesses and loving it (although I do miss having weekends off!)

  • Reply nina April 2, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    As a child, I loved coloring,drawing,fashion,painting and rearranging furniture :-).

    Today, I work part-time as an engineer, while also feeding my creativity as a jewelry designer…my ultimate goal being to be financially sustained through my artistic endeavors :-).

  • Reply simply seleta April 2, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Being an only child for the first six years of my life, I enjoyed doing anything artistic and using my imagination. I recently found some poetry I wrote as a child. I also remember drawing and wanting to surround myself with beautiful things such as flowers and lovely clothes. Unfortunately I grew up in a small town in Mississippi and had little to no outlets or learning opportunities of the Arts until I later made it to Atlanta.

    As an adult I fell into an on-air TV career and then settled into a residential designer role while raising my four children. Still raising them. I feel an itch to grow and learn more, so this article was very intriguing. I really enjoyed reading the other stories of women searching for their perfect artistic expression as well.

    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply mariss April 2, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Holly, you are such a great writer and so inspriring! You should open that store and have cupcakes each Saturday!

    As a child, I loved to paint, draw, illustrate my stories and read. Like you, I would rearrange my bedroom all by myself. My mom would be scared I’d get a hernia from moving those things around. I also made homemade cards for every single person’s birthday and holidays.

    Now I have a degree in interior design and still create illustrations and stationary ;)

  • Reply Nathalie April 2, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Hi Holly !

    i am so grateful for this post and thank you so much for sharing your story with us and taking time to explore this subject. I actually
    never thought before of what i used to like when i was a child… so I am taking a moment to think.. i remember i used to like various things : writing was one of them, poems and essays , i remember liking it until my secondary school teacher told me my style wasn’t good and giving up on it. I loved reading my mum’s interior design magazine, i would cut images that i liked and made scrap books (I see the connection here ) .I kept a daily diary too for 5 years, they were a mix of personal stories and scrap books. I liked the ” teacher ” game too, pretending my room was full of children who i would teach to. I liked to bake and cook which is something that i still enjoy. I can’t remember anymore right now but i will defenetly take some time and reflect over it longer, as it is really important… again I want to say thanks to everyone who has shared their stories. I have actually printed this post and the last one and all the comments and i have created a booklet that i can read anytime and anywhere, it really helps me a lot in my search :) when i do find my calling, you will be the first to know :)
    I am determined to find a job that i will call my passion :)

  • Reply Stephanie Ryan April 2, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    When I was a kid I loved to draw, paint and make things. After high school I got a job working for a doll company, Little Souls, Inc. I loved working there because I was able to play with fabrics, buttons and flowers. That is where I got my love for product design. There was a fire that destroyed the building we were in and the company suffered greatly. I then decided to go to college. I picked graphic design as my major because I knew it was safe. There are plenty of GD jobs out there. But I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me. Those fabrics were calling me back. So, I took textile design classes as well as some illustration classes and it all came together after that. I am now a tabletop designer and I just started my own stationery company.I have to say that there is still a calling within me, there is something else I should be doing. So, I started a blog, which I love! I think it is a never ending evolution to find our purpose. Remember that the journey not the destination is what makes life worth living.

    Hope this wasn’t too long, and hope you don’t mind me posting my blog.

    Good luck, follow your intuition.

  • Reply Shanti @ Antishay April 2, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    As a child, I loved art! And I loved the computer and writing and languages. I spent most of my time playing “boss” (CEO) and spent more time sketching out my dream house than I did playing with Barbie. And I journaled avidly – I have dozens of journals now and I’m only 22!

    Today, I have 5 businesses from home, all very small “side” businesses, and I make a lot of money from all the different things combined. I do graphic design and web design, and manage a large business on the side. I do editing and run communication for a small non-profit. I also do freelance web design and writing, and I have a blog that brings in money and allows me a writing outlet. And I teach Italian and French and tutor in English and Math. All in all, I am an incredibly diverse person, but I’ve embraced that and do a little bit of everything now to fulfill me.

    {details on what I do and why/how: http://www.antishay.com/?p=106}

    Perhaps you want to share this with your readers next time:
    One suggestion I read a while back about how to find your passion said something like this:

    For one week, carry a little notepad with you everywhere you go. When you see something that makes you happy, or see something that brings you overwhelming joy, or something that you can’t stop thinking about – write it down on a designated page for GOOD.

    When you see something that makes you sad, or makes your blood boil, or makes you frustrated about it all day – write it down on a designated page for BAD.

    At the end of the week, you’ll have a list of your passions. The list will show you where you feel most strongly – positively or negatively. Things you feel positive about will bring you joy if you incorporate them into your career – but the things you feel negatively about may bring you even more joy. If you get incredibly upset over child hunger or the war, going into work at a non-profit or similar that helps that cause cease to exist could bring you equal amounts of joy, because you’re making the change you want so badly to see in the world :)

    Hope that helps!

  • Reply design for mankind. April 2, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Great post, dear Holly— can’t wait to link to this when I write the second Roadmaps installment tonight! :)

  • Reply tatwans April 3, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Great Post. Growing up I used to make clothes for my friends, dolls and dogs, basically anyone who would let me. Trying to be “practical,” I ended up at college for Biology (the #2 thing I was good at.) One year in, I knew that field wasn’t for me, and I finally gave in to my intstincts and went to school for graphic design. Upon graduating Sept 11th happened, graphic jobs were hard to come by. Thank goodness because I landed a job in home fashions. From there I became obsessed with the textile aspect of the job. 7 Years later I’m in Sydney Australia as a Weave Designer for their largest home fashions company designing Jacquards and prints for their beautiful bedding. Follow your GUT!

  • Reply mizu designs April 3, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Beautifully written Holly! Thanks for being so honest. I think it’s often really scary for us to honestly look at this topic because it throws so many things up for questioning. But how freeing! As I child I drew a lot and put all my time into art. At high school art was all I cared about. I’m now a printmaker and illustrator and building up my work in this area. I think it takes a lot of courage to take the risk and follow our instincts instead of listening to what our culture, or family or others in our life tell us we ‘should’ be doing.

  • Reply cindy k April 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    i’ve done some reading on this approach and it really helped me find what i naturally liked to do before the grown-ups got involved. a few things i liked to do as a child were to make things (creative) and play supermarket/bank (business). i also loved to play and listen to music.

    somehow i wound up working in professional services, but after reading a book that included an exercise to remember what you did as a child, i started my own handcrafted stationery company.

    since working solo was too solitary for me, i also work in marketing for small businesses. marketing provides a creative outlet that is connected to business goals. i suppose i like the combination of creative + business.

    i haven’t worked in music, yet, but it is a really important feature in my environment.

    thanks for sharing your story; it’s very inspiring.

  • Reply dailydesignspot April 3, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I love reading everyones story! I grew up in a all female home.. a lego maniac.. painting with my nan.. antique and thrift hunting with my mum.. and music with my gramps. When i got a little older (14 or so) i took up sports and ended up playing a couple on a international level.. which sort of took over my creative pursuits.. then when it came time for university i was caught between design, dr., or playing tennis… i choose to go into science becuase it was a more ‘solid’ profession.. i got my masters in occupational therapy and throughout that time spent more time at the art school (nova scotia college of art and design) that i did at my own. I love my job as an OT and the opportunity to fuse the health professions and the design world (which people at savannah college of art and design.. where we now live) are very interested in.. so we will see what happens but for now i stay deeply connected with this world through sites like this and the many other wonderful ones out there.. so… thank you! my day is not complete without my regular rounds on the blog circuit.. i will never stop dreaming and i know one day my hard work will pay off (i hope!!)
    that was a long one.. but it felt good to get it out there…

  • Reply ohpickles April 3, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Really thinking a lot about this lately, as an unemployed late-20s person trying to figure it all out (again). I think it’s interesting that our land of opportunity can almost become overwhelming. The possibilities are nearly endless, and we can choose to pursue almost anything we want and “go for it” – sometimes I find that it becomes paralyzing!

    I’ve also been thinking a lot about Nathalie’s original post, which resonated with me because, although there are handful of incredibly special women who do seem to be able to “do it all,” sometimes it’s worth trying to find a focus. But focusing is the biggest challenge to me!

    I also find it tough to “choose” because I’m interested in knowing about everything that’s out there because it’s so fantastic (take letterpress printing, for example) but I also want to do it, too. When faced with the landscape of all that beautiful work currently being done, I have a hard time figuring out how I could fit in and what I could bring to the table – so I almost need to shut one side off in order to do the other.

    Does anyone else run into that, particularly since there are so many women who both DO creative stuff, but also live in this blogosphere, where we’re inundated with so many other fab ideas? How do you figure out where you can fill a niche or do something that’s not being done?

  • Reply Stephanie Ryan April 4, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Hi ohpickles,
    I think it is really important to not get overwhelmed with what is out there. That is what held me back for way too long. Pick something you love and give it a try, if that doesn’t resonate try something else. At least you will be doing something. Tell that voice in your head to be quiet. You can do it! We all can.

  • Reply nina April 4, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Holly, I really really love this post and appreciate it that you pay attention to this subject. Many of the creative people I know are very gifted in many creative areas, and that makes it hard to choose a direction. Especially when you’ve always heard (as a child) that you should find a ‘proper’ job. In our family, we had one ‘creative’, my uncle, who is a painter. He always served as some sort of bad example because he makes very little money. My father always said: ‘don’t become an artist, because you can’t make a proper living like that.’ Stuff like that certainly influences you. I know people who went to art school, without hesitations, just because they liked art and design and wanted to do something with it. My sister and I always had these fantasies about going to art school, but it just never seemed to be a serious option that could be considered. We just had to go to university (in the Netherlands, you can’t study art at a university level). Now that I’m a little older, I’m starting to think ‘why can’t it be an option?’, but that took me a lot of time, and I guess I’m still sort of scared of it. I always feel this huge admiration for people who just follow their gut feeling and make their living in a creative way.

    By the way, I think that as a child I was a lot like you, Holly! I was always designing and rearranging my room, drawing fashion and writing stories. I also played ‘real estate agent’ with monopoly houses and streets. I wrote complete descriptions of the houses and neighbourhoods… And I read all the real estate magazines, to see the different houses and their interiors… (I still like to do that, by the way!)

    Thanks for writing this inspiring article!

  • Reply Cherryskin April 4, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I loved sticking stickers and stamping stamps, and now I’m a pharmacist…heh heh.
    I also loved drawing/art, reading, rearranging my room (like you), and designing/making houses for my toys out of anything and everything. So I am a frustrated pharmacist.
    I do get satisfaction from solving problems and helping people in my job, and I find the science fascinating, but I feel such a strong and relentless pull towards design. Thanks for this discussion, and thanks for your beautiful blog.

  • Reply cindy k April 4, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Hi ohpickles,

    Yes, sometimes too many choices can be overwhelming and the Internet really has opened so many doors. It’s wonderful though that people can create a supportive community like this one to help guide each other.

    Stephanie is right, find the thing that you love to do and you will do it with passion. Once you get started you may find it leads to other things, but try not to spread yourself too thin. You can enjoy many things, but it doesn’t mean you’ll make a living from all of them.

    The exercise in this post is a good start – what did you like to do when you were a kid, not that far back for you as you’re so young and just getting started.

    You’ll get there.

    Best … Cindy

  • Reply cecima April 4, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    hi everyone, hye holly, u wrote an interesting article ever. This is what i’ve been thinking all this while..finding our true calling.. Your article makes me realize that those days when I was a kid, I always spend my free time,cutting the newspapers/mags and making collage, swap the collage books with my friend . Each year when we started the school days, I was the one who handle how the sitting layout for the class. Yeah, every year, that was my job. huhu.. in secondary school I was one of the editor in school magazine and I handled classes board design. Plus, I am also the decorater for my family house.same like you holly! wow, ur article really opened my eyes about my own ability! thanks holly!!

    currently I am studying as a visual communication student majoring in advertising..:-)

  • Reply librelife April 4, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Wow, I needed this. I think, think, think about this topic daily yet can never make decisions or take action.

    As a kid, starting around 3rd grade, I would sketch my own fashion line. I called it Sanee Estine, a made up word that I thought sounded French and thereby chic. I loved going to the craft store to buy colored pencils to sketch my “designs”. I then branched out into planning gardens on graph paper and writing stories. I had a doll house that I loved to decorate and buy furniture for. All of my life, my friends and loved ones make comments that it is strange I do what I do b/c it is never what they would have thought I would end up doing.

    Somehow when I went to college, I majored in biology. I wnated to ne a doctor. I loved the classes but detested the labs. Now I work in research (never made it to med school) and constantly think about changing careers. I have zero design background or education, except for the lame interior design class in high school and my general zeal for it. I have a big hang up about having a career that helps others. I feel passionate about design of all types but feel like I would not be doing anything to give back or help society.

    Ah, I have played this indecision game for quite a while now and it is driving me (and my husband) bonkers.

    Anyway thanks for the great topic to light a fire underneath me.

  • Reply Amy April 5, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    This makes me think way back, and recently the Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish speech in 2005 at Stanford University by Steve Jobs is repeating itself in my mind.

    He said that we can only connect the dots by looking backwards, and that the course of our journeys are paths that we must traverse, because they would somehow be related to our chosen future.

    When I was young, I always had a pencil in my hand. I drew girls and patterns, and tried to perfect my technique; drawing endlessly during classes and anytime I could find — much to the chagrin of my teachers.

    I loved reading, and flipping through design magazines, particularly those that revolve around fabrics and papers.

    I went to university and took up a diploma in forestry, which then turned to landscape architecture, only because I was determined not to step foot in labs or endure hours of boring lectures, and that was the only course that didn’t have either. I loved the drafting tables, and I chose to hand draw all my designs and plans, although 99% of my uni mates were going digital. They thought I was mad for illustrating and writing (by hand!) 40 of my A1-sized presentation boards.

    Six months after my internship in a landscape consultancy firm, I decided I didn’t want to continue being a landscape architect (although I graduated among the top of my class). I went straight to work in magazines instead, working up from an editorial assistant to being an editor, and along the way, worked in a PR firm and did sales for advertising.

    I discovered that I love copy writing because I’m allowed to brainstorm a lot of ideas that is brewing in my head, and I loved marketing because it allowed me to be a strategist — building a brand for small companies is my strength.

    I opened a small online shop selling fabrics a year ago (because I loved fabrics a lot).

    And now, four years after I graduated, I’m leaving my post as an editor for a regional architecture and design magazine, and will be venturing into freelance illustration and copywriting. I’m also spending a lot of time organising and thinking of projects for my illustration blog, and how I can bring together the art/illustration community, of which I am so blessed to find.

    It’s funny how everything turned out — I would have never rediscovered illustration if I had not opened up my online fabric shop. Somehow if I didn’t, the nagging thought that I should have tried my hand in opening one would have killed off any passion I would have for illustrations.

    So, looking back, the paths weren’t that clear to me. But through a lot of experimentations and some faith, I’d like to think I’m on my way to living the life I hope to lead.

    Holly, thank you for the inspiring read.

  • Reply franchesca April 7, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Woww!This post is very dear to my heart because after finishing my degree in Biology I decided to go back to school for interior design. The journey has and still is tough!I could write my entire story here but it would take up too much space…but the post is really uplifting! Thanks!

  • Reply Sand April 9, 2008 at 3:07 am

    I work in the fashion industry in Melbourne, Australia doing what Americans call ‘surface’ design: textiles for clothing and bedding, t-shirt prints and appliques, even the occasional extra cool project, e.g. designs for a set of babushkas which were handpainted by ladies in Russia. I came to this industry in a round-about way, which suggests that the childhood theory is correct. Although I loved art, craft and fashion as a kid, I was encouraged to follow an academic path by my family and studied art history at university. When I finished, I was encouraged to continue with a PhD scholarship. Instead, I horrified my supervisor by enrolling in a pre-college-style art course (TAFE), majoring in illustration and ceramics. When I got a job in the fashion industry drawing licensed cartoon characters, I never looked back. I learned everything I could and eventually I found my niche in ‘high-end’ children’s wear.
    The story doesn’t end here though. A few years ago I took a brilliant art course which is aimed at adults who ‘gave up’ on making art when the practicalities of life got in the way (sound familiar?). A year later I had my first solo exhibition, in a cool artist-run space in the inner city. I now have a studio space too, but I still work at the design job four days a week.
    But my feet are itchy and I am now looking for my next challenge. Maybe I need to delve even more deeply into my memory of my childhood passions to find out what that is?

  • Reply this chicken April 11, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Wow, what a post! It has bought so many memories to the surface. I have spent the best part of my lunch hour reading it over and all the fascinating comments. There is such inspiration here.

    I think most of my childhood passions have been covered by everyone else – drawing maps and cut-throughs of boats and spaceships, keeping diaries, writing stories, telling stories, digging in the garden and making tree houses, playing with Lego, reading lots, rescuing bugs from the paddling pool (and setting up a little hospital whilst they all recovered!), collecting practically anything, constructing stuff from cardboard boxes, creating illustrated story books, puzzle books and magazines, making clothes for my teddies, climbing trees, I have even kept a ‘holiday journal’ for every single holiday I have been on (something I still do now).

    I’m a technical illustrator by day and an illustrator/artist by night. (I still do a lot of the things I have mentioned above too, but sssh!)

    Shanti’s comment above has really got me thinking too, so much infact that I’m going to put the ‘carry a notepad with me for a week’ idea into practice. Starting tomorrow.

    Thank you so much for this post and to everyone who has commented above and inspired me ;)

  • Reply Lisa November 25, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed reading the above posts. I actually have followed my dream, I’m a painter pretty much full time (www.lisahebden.com) and though it has its many wonderful, fulfilling moments, it can also be challenging in ways I never thought about in school. With too much creative time, my schedule seems to collapse into what I call “jellyfish”–
    no structure. There’s often scary time when I’m standing in front of a blank canvas with no idea what I’m going to do next, or how I’m going to pay my mortgage (!). I’ve found that by getting a part time job, I’ve had to fight for my creative time more, and it’s been very beneficial. I’m not whining, I’m just presenting another side to the coin. Also, there’s no such thing as time off. “Studio Tyranny” haunts me pretty much all the time: the feeling that I should be in my studio rather than doing what I’m doing — like reading and enjoying decor8, and subesequently rearranging my living room!

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