There’s something going around. No, not an illness, though there is some of that too as the girls have been coughing incessantly and it doesn’t seem to be going away. I’m talking about a slight shift or maybe even the start of something bigger for people like me, of this age, in a similar situation who is feeling a desperate need to change their careers and lives. You’ve heard me express my general feelings of indifference towards graphic design which has been my “career”, but while I’ve often had passing thoughts about breaking away from client-based design work, I have never felt the pull so strong as I have in the last few months. I’m not exactly sure what flipped the switch (and that is exactly what it feels like), but I’ve been having the same conversations with other people who are experiencing something similar.
Is this what an early mid-life crises is (or am I already there? yikes!)? I don’t know, but the friends that I’ve talked with all happen to be around the same age. When you think about it, 15 years is a long time to do something that you’ve fallen out of love with (or that you never completely loved in the first place). Projects are different, clients are different, but in the end, the design process is the same. I don’t feel excitement or inspiration when I start a new project. I mostly see the stress of deadlines, creative struggles, client critiques and rejection, and general boredom. Pretty bad.
I was taken by this article which I read yesterday, about a successful graphic design firm that decided to close its doors after 20 years in the biz, not because of the downturn in the economy, but because the 2 principles had lost passion for the business and started to dread coming into work. I respect those who recognize when it’s time for a change and actually have the courage to work towards that goal. And so, my friends, in the upcoming new year, I will attempt the same. I have no idea (really, NO idea) what it is that I’m attempting to transition to (that would help, huh?), but in a way, I feel as if I have little choice if we’re talking about happiness here. The industry might be changing too. There are more and more stock design sites and templated website services popping up and it’s hard to compete with them for small business pitches (Check out Point 3 on this site). And so what is left? Agency work? But it’s also hard to compete with the many hungry and talented young designers who are willing and can work for much less than someone more experienced. Part of my desire to transition out of design work is that I don’t enjoy it anymore. It’s enough. The other part is that I want to get out before it pushes *me* out. In many industries, age matters. I think that is in part, what happened to Mark when he got laid off from his new job of 3 months way back in February last year before we started this whole adventure. His replacement was younger, unmarried, without children and Mark had to train her before he left. Whether you knew this or not, the restaurant industry is also a young industry. Mark was often one of the oldest in the kitchen and we’re not even that old so we’ve been through all this before. We made that push and now Mark is on the other side.
But you may be asking…you already have…a business? Yes, but we started W&S so that Mark could be employed while unemployed and while it is most definitely a collaboration of both our skills, Mark is the baker. That’s the product. One thing I have always talked about is expanding the brand to include products I can design. This is one possibility. I’ve been talking with a few friends about other ideas. I don’t know where that will take me, but it gets the mind working. There will be challenges, of course. I still need to work and I still need to support the family, but my mind is more at ease as we move into our 3rd year of business next April (O.M.G.). What does this all mean?? I don’t know what it means, but all I know is that I need to figure it out, even if it means a slow transition out. I can’t not work and I don’t have the luxury of time or money, but as always, I’ll document whatever happens, here. Funny how the blog started as we launched one business, maybe it will continue as we launch another. Or not. SO confusing!!
I’ll leave you with this: the trailer for Lemonade (thanks martha!), the documentary about former ad professionals who were laid off in this recession. Interesting conversations follow in the comments, but I’ve pulled one out from the filmmaker that I feel describes our situation to a tee last year:
“Those in the film who started their own business did so because starting their own business was the only option. This isn’t about silver spooned-advertising brats with nothing better to do with their money. This is about people who found the balls to pursue their dreams out of necessity.”
And this, which I feel somewhat describes me now:
“I’ve been in “the biz” for 20 years. And for the past? 19+ years, I’ve sat around with co-workers trying to figure out what else we can do. During the last big down turn, a ton of friends became teachers. I’m now (of my own accord) a freelancer but still search for life outside of adverteasing. I always said I needed to make the change by the time I turned 40…”
Work hard, people. But there is no reason why we need to be unhappy in what we do. I hear Tim Gunn in my head a lot these days. “Make it work”, “Go go go!”.