Sunday was Mother’s Day, and this year it was a weird one. Not only had it snowed the day before, but social distancing measures mean I’ve been keeping in touch with my mom, Camille, mostly through phone calls and texts, which is how I wished her a happy Mother’s Day.
The pandemic has made me reflect on many things, and I spent some time this weekend thinking about the lessons, both big and small, that my mother taught me over the years. One that really sticks out to me occurred when I was debating going back to school for interior design. I had started taking classes but could only manage one per semester while I was employed full time. Then I got the news that I would be getting laid off from my job.
The most sensible option was to immediately look for something new, but that might mean giving up the coursework that I was passionate about. A second, crazier option was to take time off from work and go back to school full time. I was motivated to pursue design as a career, but I was in my mid-30s and all my years of work experience were in a completely unrelated field.
Was it worth tossing aside the career path I had built to enroll as a full-time student alongside kids half my age and live on a shoestring budget? What if I put in the work and sacrifice and then couldn’t make it in a new field? My mom, who has always been a voice of reason during difficult times, said this to me:
“Regardless of what happens afterwards, won’t you be grateful for the experience? Won’t you be proud of yourself for trying?”
With her guidance I decided to go for it, and it was absolutely the right thing for me. After a very anxious and uncertain start having to learn new technology and do terrifying things like draw by hand for the first time since childhood, I embraced being a student again and started to excel in my classes. I spent long nights in the studio working on projects. I took weird classes on bookmaking and collage and learned how to build furniture with power tools. All of it was new and scary but my mom was right, I could not have been more grateful for the experience. And when I finished that degree I was really proud of myself for taking the chance. Whether I got a job in the field or not was secondary.
Amazingly, I did get a job. I worked for a furniture store after graduation and, after a few years, decided to start my own business. That was almost six years ago, and I’m still pinching myself because I get to do work that I am passionate about every day.
What we are currently going through is exceedingly difficult, and for many people simply surviving is the primary task. But if you are lucky enough to have some extra time and energy to devote to something new, go for it. Try that new hobby or start a podcast or whatever passion project you’ve been putting off, even if it seems silly or you think you’re too old. Take my mom’s advice and do it just for the experience. In the end, regardless of the outcome, you’ll be glad you did.
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