How I Became an Interior Designer: Part 3

>> Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Losing momentum here, y'all. When did blogging become so hard? But I am back, because I think this next little bit may be the most helpful piece for anyone who is doing any sort of career soul searching. It's a wordy post, so bear with me.

photo by:

Picking up where I left off, I spent the next four years in college studying interior design (in the space photographed above). The interior design program at UT is under the architectural college and I think most people might be surprised to learn how absolutely grueling (glorious at times) but really, really emotionally, physically, and mentally taxing design school was for most of us. I was once accused of being prejudice against handicap people during a review. I cried. I once had a professor ask me if an ant had walked in ink and then crawled all over my boards. I cried. And then best, the dean of the school taught a lecture where she occasionally made us turn in sketches. At the top of my paper she once wrote "you cannot draw!"...I cried. I cried, we all cried. We stayed up until two am, sometimes all night, all the time. Showers were not a priority. We were gross, sleep deprived, but in the strangest way, having the time of our lives because we all had each other. Those mean old professors knew what they were doing. They were preparing us for the real world. And the real world was about to be really rough for me.

So I graduated and despite all the criticism, which I think lightened up as the years went on, I somehow made it out of college thinking I was the bomb. The market was tough but I got a job with one of the larger firms in Nashville in their corporate interiors department. I think it took me approximately 36 hours in the real world to realize, NOPE I was not the bomb, and approximately zero people thought I was the bomb. I was slow at CAD, I was not well versed in deciphering building codes, and the worst part, assigned to work full time with a designer who I did not meet during my interview and to put it mildly, was not a good fit for.

The first year out of college, similar to the first year in design school, was so rough. I cried. all. the. time. The book The Devil Wears Prada had just come out and it was like therapy to me. I was not alone. I remember sitting at my desk at 6 o'clock one evening, most everyone had already left for the day. I had been given a set of red lines (marked up drawings that needed to be corrected in the computer) by a more senior designer, right after lunch that day. She said "I need these finished, stamped, and on my desk by 5". I was already scared of this lady and knew the task was nearly impossible (at least for me) but I wasn't asked, I was told. So I sat for the next four hours, no restroom breaks, no water breaks, head down...clicking...clicking...clicking.  4:30, I'm finished. I plot the drawing. Get it stamped. Get it signed.

I think I got the sheet on her desk by 5:10. She snatched it, huffed a dismissal, and I sheepishly walked back to my desk guessed it...criiiied. There was only one guy still in the open office area where I resided at this point and he came over with a beer in hand (where did this beer come from? I have no idea) but he sat it on my desk and very plainly said "don't cry. she sucks" and I laughed, through my tears (which I agree with Dolly Parton, is the best emotion) My boss, the head of our department, called me into his office 10 minutes later after getting the full run down from my personal Anna Wintour of just how terrible I was. He began the conversation with "don't worry, we're not going to fire you".

I remember my head spinning, thinking, "FIRE ME! why are we even discussing firing me!? I come early, I work late. Yes, there has been a huge learning curve for me from school to real world, but fire me!? I'm 22 years old and I'm really, really trying here."

And that's where I'll stop today. I promise the next chapter takes a nice turn for the positive. BUT I have always wanted to share that little sad time in my career (it went on like that for a straight year) on my blog because I think it's easy to look at projects on Instagram or designer's portfolios and think that it's always been just one big escalator moving up. Not the case for me at all. If IG were around in 2004 mine would have been a nice rotation of this...
and this...
And ain't nobody want to follow that. But to all you talented, under-valued, poorly managed new graduates out there thinking of jumping ship and taking the LSAT, hang in there. It's going to get better.

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