It’s that time of year. When leaves change, the air shifts to cooler temperatures, and the sunlight begins to fade earlier in the day. It’s a favorite time for many, and I’m included. It’s when we begin to spend more time at home, cozy and warm, away from the cooler temperatures. We cook soups and stews, dust off our boots, and throw on some sweaters.
For me, the start of fall invites me to get out into the mountains and enjoy the views of the changing aspens and all their brilliant gold glory. Last weekend we roused ourselves out of bed to get a nice short fall hike in at Kenosha Pass. About an hour outside of Denver, we are so lucky to be able to enjoy the beauty of nature and the open forest so close to home.
Walking through the changing trees I was enchanted by the beautiful golden aspen leaves. Fall has always been my favorite, not only does Colorado has gorgeous weather and painterly scenery, it’s just a naturally more reflective time in our lives. For me this time has always invoked thoughts of perseverance and patience.
The forests are beginning to shed their leaves, nuts, and foliage so that they can persevere through the winter months and bloom all over again come spring. Around this time tiny acorns fall from their branches. They must patiently wait 8 months to begin their long and slow lives as great oak trees. From small beginnings come great things, right? Mother nature knows what patience and perseverance truly is.
Perseverance has never been something I’ve lacked. Actually, I consider myself more in the stubborn territory. If I’ve have a goal in front of me, it’s pretty much impossible to stop me from seeing it through. So when I’m walking through the changing forests I have a great sense of respect and affinity for this time of year. These trees have great perseverance and prepare themselves to make it through the coldest winters.
But it’s always been patience that I’ve never had a ton of. One of my earliest memories was when my father made me and my brother spell ‘P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E’ before we could have the cookies we so desperately wanted. I’m pretty sure it was the first large word I learned how to spell, and probably the most ironic thing about my life.
So many other people in my life have great patience. Maybe I subconsciously surround myself with these people in some attempt that it will wear off on me too? It’s a virtue that I’ve tried so hard to master and struggle with daily. I think for me it comes with great expectation. I see the potential in everyone and usually focus on their best attributes, so when they can’t always live up to that I get impatient. I also do it to myself about 100x more. I am usually very hard on myself and when I can’t learn or succeed at something at a reasonable pace, it drives me nuts. Which in all honesty isn’t really fair, to anyone including myself.
So as I meditate on the brightly spotted yellow leaves of these aspen trees I must consider patience. Patience for what will come, having faith in what must come, and patience in myself and others. I’m going to take this long breath before winter to focus on the same patience that these aspen have. Finding the areas of my life in this moment that require waiting, and others that simply need reassurance that time will come and shift when it is ready. Patience that if I persevere, I too will find my own Spring in whatever ails me. I hope you find some comfort in their patience too.
“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” – Robert H. Schuller
After my declaration of taking a break from freelance, it wasn’t long before I immediately began thinking about what my next ‘big thing’ was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a bit crazy to get the itch right away to start making something so soon. But as a creative person, I’ve realized I’m not happy unless I’m creating. The problem before was just why I was creating.
I had spent the last 3+ years creating for everyone but myself. Pouring myself into design that not only satisfied me (which is hard enough as an artist) as well as trying to please anywhere from 1-12 other people was difficult to put it mildly. It had been ages since I actually created anything that was just for me.
So when I found out about Becky Simpsons‘s 100 day project I was hooked.
The 100 day project isn’t necessarily a new idea. It’s something I read about last year when the Great Discontent brought attention to the concept. If you’re not familiar I suggest you check it out. But when Becky started documenting her experiences with the project it reminded me of what I loved so much about the idea to begin with.
I was enamored with the purity and simplicity behind it. There were no clients, little pressure, and not a ton of expectations. It was all about just ‘getting started’, experimenting, playing, and discovering things you loved and maybe had forgotten.
As I delved deeper into the project I found so many wonderful ideas and was inspired by each person’s take on it. So I rounded up some of my favorites to maybe inspire you to think about what you could do with 100 days.
I’ve always loved Becky’s illustration style. I even bought one of her awesome charts for my home. Here are a few of the pieces she created for her project that I really liked. Especially that ‘YES’ work. BTW she’s as awesome in person as you think she would be. Can’t wait to see her again this year at Designer Vaca.
When I started chatting with my guy about possibly taking on a 100 day project of my own, he threw out the idea “why don’t you draw on match books?” Ha! Well turns out the brilliant illustrator, Enrique Barrios already did this. What’s really cool about this project is that he ties a story of the person with each image. I love the raw authentic feel to his work.
I love me some good infographics, and Sally Chan’s quick but quirky charts make me smile every time. She observes some really interesting intersections and paths that we all experience out in the world. Some of my favorite charts of hers are usually ones involving shopping (like self-checkout isles).
Katrina’s project really appeals to my inner nerd who loved natural science tv shows and books growing up. I was enchanted by the diagrams, charts, and graphic styles of these now ancient learning formats. Obviously so was Katrina. Her project breaks down famous songs into scientific figures – pretty ingenious and cool. Besides who doesn’t love a sly Prince reference?
Jennifer E. Snyder
The last project I found that peaked my interest was the simple idea of starting a dialogue. Jennifer simply asked a thoughtful question each day on her Instagram account, and people responded within the comment section. I love reading some of the answers and seeing different people’s perspectives. I thought it was pretty neat that her project was more community based than others.
Now that you’ve seen a few projects that really inspired me, you can understand why I would want to begin a 100 day project of my own. I’ve already started spit-balling ideas of what my subject would be. It has to be something I’m already interested in learning about, as well as something that I realistically can find time to do each day.
I spend all day at a computer screen designing, so I think something off-screen feels right. I keep leaning towards naturally made elements coming together into objects; like jewelry, artwork, home goods, decor, or other items with more practical uses. But I also struggle with trying to choose only one of these areas to explore. Defining too many limits to the project seems to be counterintuitive to what I want to accomplish with it. I want to leave room for exploration and discovering new passions and forms that I like to work with.
So I still have some figuring out to do, but if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!
Almost a year ago I made a pretty clear declaration of where I saw my future leading. When I read back through that post, it reminds me so vividly of how I felt and what I was going through. At the time I had absolute clarity on what I wanted, and it set me on a path that I have been dedicated to for the longest time.
I started saving money, planning dates, strategizing, and telling all my closest friends and family my intentions. After that moment, as the year dragged on, I built up more and more of a client base. Working long into the nights and weekends to make work that I could be proud of. It was all moving into place and things were going well. That is until the end of spring.
At the time, I was nearing the end of major projects at my 9-5. The kind of projects that always seemed to suck out all my energy and make me a pretty terrible person to be around. I’d come home every night absolutely exhausted and then force myself to work late into the night on freelance clients, dangling the proverbial carrot in front of myself; “It’s all worth it, because all of this is only temporary. One day it will give and I’ll start the next chapter on my journey.”
Well fast forward about 8 months later, and nothing had really changed. I was in full-blown burn-out mode. I had just almost spent the last whole year working my fingers to the bone to achieve the goal I had set out to accomplish. I kept telling myself that at the end of those projects, I would be done.
Well as always, life throws curve-balls your way.
At the same time that these projects started wrapping up, I was told that an opportunity on another team had opened up, and they wanted to offer it to me. The position would allow me to move beyond my digital expertise and into a larger responsibility for a notable national client.
Appealing opportunities like tv spots, print ads, photoshoots, national campaigns and more, were suddenly on the table. Honestly, I was a little surprised at first! They wanted me? The team was well known within the agency for all the amazing work they were doing. So my first feelings were of a little bit of shock.
“Are you sure they want me?”
“Yes, its already been put into motion.”
It was about the worst time and the best time, for an offer like this to come my way.
After the shock wore off, I started to feel lighter, happier, inspired. I realized I was really excited! This team had a lot more opportunities for the kinds of creative executions that I just wasn’t getting on my old team. So while I was super sad to move on from my tight-knit team, I was equally optimistic and excited to throw myself into a new learning experience.
Once the transition begun, I knew that while this would expose me to new creative experiences, it also meant a lot more hours at the agency. So for about a month or so (the month I was ghosting out over here) I was attempting to balance wrapping up my old projects and starting new ones. Plus trying to finish up some freelance projects, it was getting a little crazy! I was feeling a lot of my energy shifting.
Now that I’m full time on the new team, a lot of it feels, well… new! I’m learning all about different processes, personalities, clients, and the expectations of the team and the work. It’s been such a 180° from my last position’s responsibilities, and I’ve more than welcomed it. But with this change an interesting side affect has started to reveal itself.
I’ve found it more difficult to nurture and invest in my freelance business. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few clients right now and love working with them! It’s still exciting to start a new project and get to know my client’s businesses so well. But with the more demanding hours of my new position and the energy I need to invest there, it’s been more than hard to balance both worlds. Sometimes something’s gotta give.
So after a lot of reflection, discussion, and considering my intentions for the future, I’ve decided to take a break from freelance design work.
Now it doesn’t mean that I will take a break forever. It just means for now. To be totally honest, I am kind of terrified (ok a lot) telling you this. It feels so scary to be this transparent, but I really want to be authentic to who I am, where I’m going, and why. This has been one of the hardest personal decisions I’ve made, especially when I’ve been spending so much energy towards a goal where my freelance business was so integral.
But I realized that I had to be true to myself, and freelance just wasn’t what feels right for me in this moment. I think after going so hard for so long, I just need some time to reset. To take a pause and really see what I can absorb from this new experience, and at the same time give myself some permission to create for just the sake of creating again.
After some reflection, I’ve decided to really take advantage of not working in my downtime to refocus on my original intentions from the start of this year… exploration. I want to use this time to experiment with new passions, interests, and curiosities.
I’m thinking of this as a time to broaden the horizons of my own creative fulfillment.
What does that mean exactly? It means testing out new photography styles, concepting photoshoots, exploring other areas of my life that I’m interested in. Like home goods, wellness, cooking, style, and art. I want to spend more time creating with my hands, instead of a computer. That will all still express itself here, on Observant Nomad.
I want to grow with you, and share what I learn. I want to experiment with new ways of creating content and creative evolve. It’s so freeing to open your limitations beyond your usual mediums, and I’ve already come up with all kinds of content I want to start exploring. In the end I just want to tell you that I hope you’re as excited as I am to share this new direction with me, and see what I can create.
When my good friend Rachel invited me to join her on a special weekend getaway with fellow foodies, local entrepreneurs, and creative types, I only had one answer. A resounding yes. I had no clue what we would be doing, where we would be going, or even what the whole thing was about. I just knew I had to say yes to any new adventures that came my way.
All we did know was that we had to pack a small overnight bag and dress for some potential light hiking and hanging around the campfire. It was such a wonderful experience to show up to a pre-planned trip where I didn’t have to worry about any of the logistics or hosting. And once we arrived at the meeting spot we were welcomed with hot cups of fragrant coffee from Novo Coffee and plenty of tasty breakfast treats. We mingled and chatted with some acquaintances and friends who were all in the unknown right along with us.
After a few hours of riding deep into the far east of Colorado, we finally landed in Pawnee National Grasslands. The magical sight of towering canvas tents greeted us in the distance. We were at the Makery Experience.
Once we unloaded and settled in, the spectacular detail of the scene before us was finally clear. Imposing white stone buttes rose in the near distance, soft blue-green sage and tall wheat stalks swayed all around us, with cacti appearing here and there among them. Twinkling patio lights lined the walkways and encompassed the teepee poles. A huge fire pit was smoking ready to roast the delicious food being prepared by Western Daughters.
It was overwhelmingly beautiful.
I’ve using Pinterest a lot more than usual lately. Maybe there’s an influx of amazing inspiring images, colors, patterns lately. Either way, I’ve been going ga-ga over a lot of my pins and finding inspiration in the themes that seem to appear there. So I gathered my favorites for today to feel a little refreshed and inspired.
Besides a similar color palette, I think a lot of these images have an imperfectly perfect feeling to them. The ocean waves smoothly washing over the grainy sand. The torn edges of a collaged photograph. And the imperfect repetition of the hands in a pattern. Sometimes the most beautiful art is the one executed freely.