Remember that scene in Bridesmaids when Kristen Wiig's character, Annie, moves home? I remember this scene clearly. Her beat up car clinking up the driveway, every corner stuffed with all her belongings after being kicked out of her apartment. Annie's mom greets her on the driveway with a sweet smile and then Annie says she's hit rock bottom. And her mom stretches out her arms and says something like, "We're gonna have fun." I cried during that scene because it was all too real.
Three years ago, I was Annie. And thankfully, my mom was just as if not more, bright and sunny, welcoming and excited to have me back at home.
Let's back up a bit. It's 2009 and I had just graduated from grad school in the worst economy since The Depression (my luck, because I also graduated from undergrad after 9/11, after which the economy took a major hit as well). But I had a plan. I would work the hell out of my freelancing gigs and blog, all while looking for teaching positions. I worked my tail off! Blog sponsorship was doing extremely well. Freelancing was also great. I had just finished a job with Free People and several projects with WGSN, so everything was good.
The available teaching jobs, not so good. There were so few faculty positions being posted, so my grad school friends and I were all applying for the same jobs and none of us were even getting calls. Our design education career path was looking very gray and bleak.
Now it's 2010, I'm still doing ok, but finances are slowly dwindling and the recession is digging it's paws a little deeper into everyone's pocketbooks. Freelance slows and it's summer, when most universities have already filled any teaching positions. It's starting to look like I was going to have to move back home.
In one last attempt to stay in Philly, I take on an in-house freelance gig that nearly suffocated me. I hated it. The environment was extremely toxic, and it wasn't just me being a sourpuss, my colleagues confirmed my feelings because they complained about how horrible this place was during lunch everyday. Crying on my way home from that job was a daily ritual. During that time I couldn't help but think, "did I really just spend two years in grad school to end up in a job like this?" So I quit, called my landlord to give my 30 days notice and made my way back to Maryland. This was a very difficult decision.
Why was this so hard for me? First, I hadn't lived at home in Bowie, a suburb of D.C., for 13 years — since I left for college. Being able to take care of myself as an adult was something I had always been very proud of. Second, growing up I had always felt that I was a city girl at heart. Therefore, the idea of moving back to Bowie had not been an option. Being immersed in suburban culture once again haunted me. Going to the mall, having to drive a half hour to get anywhere, and living in a community with no creative venue or people in sight scared me. In Philly I had a community of artsy friends, lived in a walkable neighborhood, and frequently connected to like-minded folk. There was none of that in Bowie, Maryland.
So the move was hard, both figuratively and literally. Almost everything that could go wrong (except a broken down U-Haul truck — thank God) went wrong to only add to my already heavy heart.
After all my things were miraculously stuffed into my mother's home, I settled in and gave myself a week to mope. A week wasn't enough. It took much longer for me to feel just ok about the move. Although, I was feeling better after that first month there were still occasions where I felt miserable, especially when jobs weren't coming through.
Soon enough things were changing. As they always do. I forced myself to go out, even if it meant driving a half hour to D.C. to get a taste of the urban life I missed. I went to pop-up shops, gallery openings, museums, and lectures. I met really amazing people and built a creative community of friends I absolutely love. I had lots fun: I dated (which I didn't do much of in Philly), met the president (**scream**), had a party at Anthropologie, taught some brilliant students at American University, and made new connections for awesome freelance opportunities.
I also took advantage of the quiet suburban life. It was really nice to go places and find parking. I went to the library a lot, and spent time walking in the park with a girlfriend who lived close by. Bowie is close to Annapolis which has a tiny quaint harbor. I would go and sit sometimes to just think.
I won't romanticize, though. It wasn't easy. There was a lot of confusion and frustration for me. And sadly, some people faded from my life during that very difficult time when I needed them most. In the end, though, without the pressures of mounting bills, it was a good time for me to reflect, rejuvenate and figure out what I was going to do. My mom and I were already super close, but this brought us even closer. I also learned that the suburbs aren't that bad, and that I can't neglect the fact that it's a big part of who I am.
So why am I sharing all of this all now? Well, in August, when I attended the Weapons of Mass Creation festival in Cleveland there was an amazing talk that was given by Jen Adrion and Omar Noory who run These Are Things. With their successes they also shared their hardships and challenges as young designers and new brand. The authenticity in their story blew us all away and let to a standing ovation. The presentation was by far the best talk I had ever seen. Their story reminded me how it important it is for the creative community to talk about struggles because people should know that ish aint' easy sometimes. What we do takes a lot of hard work and many sacrifices. I get a lot of emails from young designers-to-be asking about career paths thinking it's all about an easy 1+1=2 and it's rarely ever that way. Life comes with so many forks in the road, questions, and demands that sometimes it takes some mistakes, heavy lifting, and fumbling through the dark to figure it all out.
I thought I'd share my experience because it relates to Jen and Omar's story (which you'll see), to say that all of this is part of a process, and that difficulties are temporary.
Everything I have achieved has come with roadblocks and hurdles. Everything. Moving back home was very difficult but necessary to prepare me for the next chapter of my life that is now blooming in Baltimore. I accept the challenges and rewards as they come, knowing that every bad makes us appreciate the good while adding a little more flavor to one's life story.
When I moved home I learned that my story wasn't very unique. Do you have a moving back home story?