Monday, January 20, 2014

Taking the Journey to the far off land of New Yorkshire (aka NYC)

The last 3 months have been a crazy ride for me, and I've been wanting to write a post to sum up what's been going on lately.

On November 5th, 2013 I got an email that would completely flip my world upside down.

Back in April I applied for a position at an apparel design company located in NYC. After months of no response I had concluded that it was another fail to add to the pile. But come November, while I was at my part-time cashier job I got the email asking to come in for an interview. As someone whose had his eye on NYC since I graduated a few years back, I immediately said yes and setup an appointment for 2 days later. 

I was terrified. 

I had no experience designing clothes, and not much experience using Illustrator (one of the main programs used at the job) and I had no apparel portfolio. I spent the day before the interview working up a tshirt portfolio from scratch, hoping that what I came up with was anything close to what they wanted to see. I already knew 2 people at the job working in other departments so I had some help figuring out what to do, but there was still a lot of guessing involved. I wrapped up the portfolio and the next day I took an early bus from Philadelphia to NYC.

The interview went pretty bad.

Everything in my "portfolio" was pretty much deemed useless, and "rushed" (rightfully so) and there was a point where I just knew in my mind that getting this job was a lost cause. I felt defeated. But luckily I had one of my postcards on me, featuring my Beastermaster paintings. The guy interviewing me pointed to it and told me how this work is the whole reason he brought me in for the interview. He said I had a really solid understanding of composition, and that was mainly what the job requires. He then showed me examples of actual shirts the company had produced and everything started to click. I now understood exactly what I needed to do because I was staring at pages of perfect examples. I threw away my doubts and asked for a second chance. Now that I knew what to do I knew I could make a much better portfolio. Would it be good enough to get me the job? I had no idea. But what I did know was that it would give a much more realistic idea of what I was able to handle. I was given the chance. He explained how the process worked and he offered to send me some resources to use in my new samples.

The bus ride back home I was dealing with a whirlwind of emotions: excitement, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, stress, hopefulness, you see where this is going. I immediately went to work on the new samples in between my work schedule. In about a week I had 3 brand new, really solid samples that I felt good about, and my connections who worked at the company were both giving me a lot of helpful feedback, though I was struggling with teaching myself how to use Illustrator and was getting very frustrated. I submitted the samples and held my breath for a few days. I got feedback asking for pretty heavy revisions on the designs, being told I wasn't required to do them but that if it were a day in the job he would ask for the changes. I was getting more anxious, but I wasn't ready to give up. I pressed on and submitted each revision and got an email thanking me for putting in the effort, and that they should be able to get back to me with their decision in a few days.

The wait was torture.

I did everything I possibly could to keep my mind off the outcome but it wasn't an easy thing to do. Then, *insert aol email chime*...I got the email and my fate was sealed...

I got the job.

And everything was great from there on right? ...if only

At the time I was living in my parents basement in Philadelphia, and now had 3 weeks to find a place to live AND move into it, AND had to finish up my final 2 weeks of work at the current job, which ate up a lot of my time AND had a major freelance project to finish up. Oh yeah, and Thanksgiving happened. I had never gone apartment hunting before, nor live in NYC before so I had a lot of stuff to figure out. I reached out to everyone I could, my network of artists, friends from school and anyone willing to lend a hand. I was completely overwhelmed and getting more and more frightened that I wouldn't be able to find a place in time with each passing day. I knew it could only be so long that the company could wait for me before I lost the job. My level of stress was only matched by the overwhelming amount of gratefulness I felt due to all of the people who were lending me a hand. People from everywhere were doing whatever they could to ask around and help me find a place and figure out how to get my stuff there, how to figure out my price range, everything. This combined with searching Craigslist ads and looking everywhere I could think, I really felt like I was doing everything I could. And it still wasn't coming together.

My time was running out and I became more and more upset at my situation and I was more emotionally exhausted than I had ever been in my life. With only days away from my start date I was losing hope. But then the heavens opened and a few more helping hands reached out and caught me. There was a moment when I knew everything would be ok, and that no matter what, I would be living in NYC on the exact day I wanted to start and everything would be figured out from there.

Since my move to the city I've had a lot of ups and downs, getting used to all the newness to everything, but I can definitely say it's all worth it. It's been a massive challenge but within the span of 2 months I was able to teach myself the basics of a new program, work up a new portfolio from scratch, visit NYC for an interview, do another handful of samples, get the job, find a place to live in NYC, pack-up my life, move-in, and start my job and it's something I'm immensely proud of. It's finally time for me to start taking care of myself and be an adult. I still have a lot of challenges to overcome, things are far from picture perfect, but they're a huge improvement.

I want to send out an immense thank you to everyone who helped me out in any amount during all of this craziness: My family, Eric Wilkerson, Marc Scheff, Danny Schwartz, Keisha Cedeno, Bernard Lee, Stephen Najarian, Randy Gallegos, and anyone else I may have missed.

A very special thank you to my girlfriend Amabel, who was one of my inside people at the company and kept me sane throughout one of the most insane stretches of my life. It's great to start this next chapter together and long distance can suck it. Thank you Ama.

To close out this post, I want to point out that before I got the email being offered the interview, I was feeling my usual crummy self about a lot of things in my life. It's easy to convince yourself things just aren't going anywhere, and nothing's happening. But if you lay out the ground work and make yourself ready for opportunity, once it appears you can be ready for it, and things can change drastically in a very short amount of time if you're willing to take a chance and take the plunge into the seemingly impossible. While working on my portfolio and my extra samples I was absolutely miserable, and all I really wanted to do was to stop working out it and get back to the usual crummy grind, thinking that it was pointless to even try, and started thinking how much it would suck to go through all of this trouble and have it all fall apart. But I worked through these thoughts and it was all worth it in the end. If you give 100% every time an opportunity presents itself, eventually one of those things is gonna come through. The day before I got the interview email I thought getting a job and moving to New York would be impossible. It's funny how many things like this seem out of our reach until we lunge at them full-force and all of a sudden it's reality.

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this and I'm excited to share new stuff soon :)