computer mouse on white

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Have Confidence in Me.”

Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at?

I always knew my talents lied in the middle of the road at best. In high school I was nowhere near the most talented artist, although I tried hard. I had an art show my senior year with another girl and I’ll be honest, her shit blew mine out of the water; Like, my stuff was flopping and dying on the beach.

My mom was proud though.

Ditto in college. I was super average as an illustration major. My photography was average, my sculpture was average, and my figure drawing was average. Once I graduated with a BFA I had one job illustrating a cartoon for a magazine and I decided I hated it.

So, I went into graphic design – we’re talking T square and triangle, waxers and Bestine. I worked for Tiger Beat and Right On! magazines for over three years, and had moved up from beginner fledgling to Art Director, and I thought I was hot shit. So hot that when the magazines got sold to a firm on Madison Avenue, I didn’t take the offer to stay on as Art Director. I’d find something else.

It took me years and years to find another job in design. But I did, and I was always good. Maybe not great, but good. And in some cases good could seem great. While I may not be the best designer, I always managed to be way better than the person before me, making me appear great.

I spent over 12 years working for one newspaper – Again I started as the low man on the totem pole and worked my way up to the position Art Director. The paper looked tons better under my averagely skilled hand – plus, I was fast. Sales agents used to clamor for me to do their ads – I was in high demand. I was also reliable – working nights and weekends if need be to meet our weekly deadline. I was hot shit again.

And then they fired me.

Once again, our paper was sold and after 2 years with the new owners, they budgeted me out. They had younger designers with fresher ideas who would work for a lot less money. I collected unemployment for almost a year, and had trouble getting hired.  I thought with all my experience someone would snatch me right up, but I guess a middle aged designer with little html experience wasn’t all that hot after all.

During that year I watched my newspaper, with a sinking heart, deteriorate each week I saw it on the stands. Those young fresh designers didn’t give a hoot about my crappy little paper, and as a result it was thrown together last minute. But that was a good thing.

Turns out complaints were coming in from advertisers about the shoddy quality of the paper. I was asked to come back on a freelance basis just to design the covers and the edit. That was over a year ago, and I still do it today.

I also work close to full time for a real estate firm handling their graphic design and marketing materials – once again, while I’m not great, I’m better than the person who had the job before me – way better. My speed and ability to learn new programs quickly made me an office favorite once again. I was able to take on tasks that others no longer had time to do.

I got a raise after one year.

Last week my boss, who used to do marketing for Calvin Klein, gave me an ad to design that required a lot more design acumen than your average cut and paste. I was afraid my average design skills would shine a giant spotlight on my utter medicority. I worked hard on it, and sent her a proof with little confidence that she would like it.

The next day she came to my desk and told me how impressed she was with the designs I came up with. I’d hit it out of the park.

So, I might not be big ad agency material. I might never be good enough for Glamour or Time or Entertainment Weekly. I’ll never win any print design awards, and I certainly don’t make a lot of money…I doubt I ever will.

But I’m good at what I do. I might doubt myself at times, but in the end I get it done well.