A few weeks ago I joined fellow Creative Director and boyfriend Andrew at an AIGA event featuring several prominent designers, the theme of which was “Day in the Life: SF x NY.” I haven’t been to many design events lately since I’m too tired to have any more friends, and do most of my “keeping current on the industry” research on Feedly during lunch and bathroom breaks. However this event intrigued us, as we’re always halfway wondering if we should be in California, especially as winter gets nearer.
At the event each speaker recounted a day in their life, from waking to sleep. The stories were full of helpful insights like “use an old-school alarm clock so you don’t wake up with your phone in your hand” and “swim or bike every day to disconnect from your screen and reconnect with your body.”
The speakers each had some beautiful form of expression outside their professional work; some were photographers, poets, or musicians in addition to being accomplished designers. They relished their cities, their sushi, their scotch, and their significant others. I left feeling impressed and inspired and defensive and fraudulent. While I am personally and professionally pretty successful, and believe I mostly enjoy life as much as the next person, I wondered if I wasn’t also a little unglamorous and lame.
Since the event I’ve been thinking about what I would share, were I to share a typical day in my life. I woke up this morning feeling like today would be pretty typical, so I decided to make a note of the things that happened to me during the day and see what they added up to.
I woke at 7:30 with my iPhone alarm, and immediately opened Facebook. Saw several posts with the phrase “Nasty Woman” alongside Hilary’s picture, groaned out loud and went back to sleep. At 7:50 I stumbled blearily into the bathroom, and started scrubbing off the cakey layer of makeup I’d fallen asleep with the night before. First disappointment of the day.
The orange-y smears on my makeup remover wipes kicked off the low hum of negative self talk that I would have to shush throughout the day:
“You are suffocating your pores when you fall asleep with makeup on, your skin is turning gray and you’ll never have beautiful skin like your mother because you can not take care of yourself…”
NO. STOP IT. Shush.
In case you’re wondering, I fell asleep with my makeup on because I took two Advil PM at 9:30 last night and passed out on the couch. I’ve had the flu all week, and desperately needed to sleep through the night. Moping and sniffling in bed for a fourth day in a row was not an option.
Old makeup removed, I applied a fresh coat, threw on an outfit, and ran out the door only a few minutes later than I intended to. First achievement of the day. The L was, as always, desperately crowded; by the time we got to Bedford Avenue, someone’s messenger bag was wedged comfortably in my butt, by 3rd Avenue I was pretty sure it was a permanent part of me. Somehow I still managed to beat a level of Two Dots; second achievement of the day.
While there was still a chance I’d be on time for my 9AM meeting, I realized I’d never get through it without cough drops, as an uncontrollable coughing demon possessed me just two blocks from the office. Second disappointment of the day. I Slack messaged the team to say I was going to be a few minutes late, adding, “I have to go to the pharmacy” to give the message an air of drama and tragedy.
I walked into the meeting only slightly late; from here work is a blur of highs and lows as usual — I’m moderately stressed and spend a good deal of time shushing the negative self talk and telling myself it’s all going pretty much fine, and that my team and the people who depend on us are generally pretty satisfied.
A mid-morning high point: a developer Slacks me to point out the inconsistent padding between elements on a landing page I recently designed. I hammer back:
“Man you’ve had a lot of questions about this design, I really think I could have built this myself by now!”
“If the padding is inconsistent it’s because that’s how it’s supposed to be, don’t worry about it.”
“To be honest this project is the least pressing thing on my plate right now, please take a stab at solving this yourself and if you really can’t figure it out, let me know.”
In the deep breaths I take while typing and deleting and re-typing these asshole responses, I decide to open the mockup and take a look. Turns out that making the padding more consistent takes almost no time, and improves the design. I thank the developer and send him updated specs for the landing page. Third achievement of the day.
Another high point is planning our upcoming Halloween party, which quickly turns into a conversation about the best costumes we’ve worn and the best scary movies we’ve seen and puns for spooky cocktails. I realize I really like the people I work with, and I really like this job.
With all meetings and major tasks for the day behind me, I decide to leave a little early, since I’m still barely containing the snot tsunami headed for my nose. As I’m fishing for my Metrocard in my purse I see a folded up, slightly dirty at the corners piece of paper and remember that I really, for real, actually really do have to go the courthouse this week, and I might as well do it today.
I’d received three juror questionnaires in the mail, and, as is my habit with most inconveniences, I ignored them until the situation escalated to a threatening level. The latest notice informed me that this was my final warning, and should I continue to ignore them I’d be fined and possibly arrested. As punishment for letting things get this bad, I also had to hand-deliver my paperwork to the Kings Country Supreme Court in downtown Brooklyn, as I’d lost the privilege of simply mailing it back at this late stage.
While boarding the subway a woman came close in and asked for money. I was listening to a heart-wrenching podcast about domestic abuse victims, and, removing an earbud to hear her plea, felt compelled to give. I had no change, but I’d read an article on Bustle this morning about how homeless women do not have access to feminine hygiene products. They often improvise solutions that lead to infection, so I considered offering her my tampons, but she moved on before I could act. I rode with guilt and shame until getting off at the courthouse stop. Third disappointment of the day.
Modern government buildings seem designed to make everyone anxious with their perpetually weeping and moldy concrete frames, weedy little “parks” with pigeon-poop statues, and desperate looking people milling around outside. Not to mention the armed guards, confusing hand-written instructional signs, and grim-looking “employee of the week” photos. I entered feeling paranoid and weary.
As I descended a stairway to the Jury Services Office I noticed there was a group of young men sitting on the steps, and that I’d have to squeeze around them to pass. All women know the anxiety of this moment. “I’m wearing a dress! Will they say something to me? Am I wrong to assume they will harass me? Will they just let me by?” I was not wrong, and they did not let me by.
I’ve gained 10 pounds in the last year or so, and I haven’t quite figured out how to clothe my slightly squishier body, so my strategy lately is pretty much just “cover it up and stay comfy.” Today I had on a big brown coat, a beige cardigan, a loose-fitting dress, my usual control-top black tights, and a pair of very practical sneakers. I know – we all know – it does not matter one bit how you dress or what you look like, but I couldn’t help my shock at the chorus of “damn baby you look good mama come back I just wanna touch it” as I squeezed past them with my sniffling nose and puffy eyes, drowning in a pile of practical fabric. Fourth disappointment of the day.
As I continued walking they gave some follow-up feedback, and I have to admit it delighted me.
“Shit, I don’t know about that backpack though.”
I’ve got this big, raggedy floral print backpack that I love dearly even though it’s covered in coffee stains and has faded from the multiple washes, all of which were prompted by my cat pissing on it.
Horribly the men followed me into the Jury Services office, one saying, “I’m glad you know where to go, we’re going to stay close to you.” I hitched my repellant backpack up higher as a shield and thought of all the ways I would’ve handled this in the past: flirted to placate them at 16, flipped the bird at 19, and now, staring straight ahead and pleading with an office worker to welcome me into the safety of his beige little booth. Miraculously he invited me to step forward, processed my paperwork immediately, and released me onto the street with a kind smile.
With this errand checked off and the courthouse creeps evaded, I decided I was on a roll, and would keep it going with some real homemade soup. This would encourage my fragile immune system, and represent one small win in my battle against Seamless addiction. After growing up in a small town and subsisting largely on fast food and casseroles for years, I can’t resist gourmet international food available on demand. It’s like living in Epcot. Hence the 10 pounds.
I shopped without forgetting a single ingredient. I bought an okay wine with a really pretty label and headed home, picturing the perfect domestic scene that I’d create for Andrew. Fourth achievement of the day.
Except, well, before I unloaded the groceries I just wanted to get down my thoughts for this “article.” After nudging my cat Theo off the keyboard and suffering a grumpy little bite on the knuckle, I let my words run wild. Andrew came home to me scowling at Medium, groceries scattered everywhere.
But we’re happy to see each other and we cook and share a glass of wine and talk about our small victories of the day, and sigh over the failings of ourselves and others. We do our little routine about moving away to start a landscaping business, even though our one aloe plant is limp and brown, and I know he’s too good a designer to give it up. The soup is delicious and the wine is okay, fifth achievement of the day.
Before bed we decide to watch the new Independence Day movie. Fifth and final disappointment of the day, but it’s made bearable by our mockery and laughter while the cats knead our soft bellies.
So there it is, an honest accounting of the achievements and disappointments in a day in the life of this sometimes successful, sometimes adult, woman, New Yorker, designer. Reviewing it, I’m not sure if it adds up to any inspiration or valuable takeaways, and maybe it is a little unglamorous and lame. But for the budding designers who dream of living and working in New York, this is what making it looks like from here.