“Comparison is the thief of joy”

– Mark Twain.

A conversation I’ve recently had with my boyfriend, made me reflect a little on my life aspirations. I grew up in a family where the absence of money was always an issue, I saw how my parents really struggled to get us by and how it wore both of them down. Because of that, I was taught from early on to look at friends whose parents had more money and to understand that their families were happier than mine because of that.

And that’s what growing up entails! We all have experienced things in our childhood that put us down in some way or another and that have shaped our aspirations. Some of us want to earn a lot of money because we didn’t have any growing up, some of us want to break free and travel around the world because we’re sick of our parents telling us what to do with our lives. Some of us are put down by our skin color, through subconscious discrimination; boys by locker room conversations, girls by pictures in magazines.

So we become insecure, which leads to viewing ourselves in terms of others—their accomplishments and habits, their wealth and their happiness. We compare.

Well, let’s compare. On social media, I post about traveling to Hawaii for business or instagram a picture of a “casual Friday night team outing” where me and my colleagues just have a blast. Or that birthday party in that hip beach bar where we all look young and successful and accomplished. From the outside, it probably looks like my whole life is just one hell of an opportunity- I have my own company credit card, am traveling for business, am being forecasted a managerial position in the medium run. If others compared themselves to me based on the above, the conclusion might be that I am on a promising career path and very lucky. When I compare myself to others, I see them being happier, more fulfilled and more excited about their jobs and I get jealous.

I am starting to realize though that I can’t compare myself to others because: I’m not them. I don’t have their mind or experiences or life, so why should I care if I’m earning just as much money as them or wear the same clothes they have? Why should I envy them for being passionate about their jobs, for having projects that are a matter of heart not money, for living in the moment? The spectrum of my perception, experience and existence should begin and end with me. It shouldn’t matter what others do or what they have.

Sure, others have more advantages or opportunities than you, but that’s their life, and it doesn’t apply to yours. Sure, your life could be better, but anyone’s life could be better. And even more than that, things could be worse.

And so, instead of looking around me to make sure I’m “on track for the career” I should focus on maximizing my situation, and what I have been given in life.

Finally, on the question of the people you are jealous of—do they suffer? Are they happy? Everyone suffers. No one is perfect. Everyone loses both parents. Everyone sees something they worked towards fail. Living is going through pain. Everyone’s life is simply normal to them, and full of both happy moments and sad ones. We need to remember though that we are behind the wheel. Where we go, how fast we go and what route we take to get there doesn’t matter, as long as we go! And I’m gonna try to do just that, instead of complaining about not being where I want to be while everyone around me seems to.

 

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Teach Yourself!

This is going to be a practical post.

Can you imagine? I’m not exactly known to be the most practical person. My mom (and many of my friends) used to joke that someone with such a great academic record should really be able to remember to buy milk or call the dentist (okay, forgetting the dentist MIGHT have been on purpose). In fact, I know my mother worries sometimes that with all my head-in-the-clouds daydreaming behaviour, I will be incapable of leading a productive grown-up life.

But in fact, I have thought about some very practical matters recently. Chief among them, what does a recent graduate do with his/her life? Well, this graduate here would like to be a brand designer. She’d like to create brand identities, develop strategies, be a creative planner and an artist. Really. That type of job has that faint but irresistible smell of “this could be your passion”.

However, agencies are a bit tough to break into, and many job descriptions will describe someone who’s a bit of an all-rounder. Having worked in a small agency, I see the point of that, and considering all that brand design entails, it really does make sense for me to know my way around the Adobe software, have a decent design portfolio, know how to program a website (basic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.), handle big, intimidating copiers without causing paper jams, speak five languages fluently, be able to milk a cow in under 20 seconds, do handstands while juggling computers and decode the Facebook newsfeed algorithm on request… well you get my point. I was sort of serious up to the paper jams. Actually, up to the languages. But of course, that’s not the kind of stuff I learned in college.

So instead, I’ve been teaching myself. I called this post “school of life” but really it’s more like “school of awesome free (and not so free) online resources”. I’m studying for a certificate in Graphic Design (that’s the not so free part) but I’ve recently also found some other resources very much worth looking into, so I thought maybe I should share. Please note… this is a personal collection, I’m not being paid by any of these websites to advertise them (on a blog with 27 followers, that wouldn’t make much sense either, hehe), neither are they aware that I’m talking about them 😉

1) Duolingo.com

Learn Spanish, Italian, French, German and Portuguese online for free. Your progress is divided into sections on a “skill tree”, which you need to solve to unlock new sections. In each set of exercises, you are permitted a maximum of three mistakes (three hearts you can lose). In the end, you get points for the questions solved and the hearts you have left. It’s fun in an almost addictive way, and I’ve been using it to brush up my French recently. My boyfriend’s taking his first tentative steps to mastering my mother tongue, German, in the same program – he’s not quite as excited about it (yet, hehe), but German is also a bitch. Ariane has been using it to learn some Portuguese. You can sign up with Facebook if you’d like to connect with your friends and see their progress as well as yours (feeling competitive?). And since it’s completely free, you don’t lose anything by checking it out either 🙂

2) Skillshare.com

Yet to try this, but it looks like a really cool resource for a wide range of affordable online courses. I browsed through yesterday and I will for sure be enrolling in some of those once I finish my design fundamentals course.

3) Codecademy.com

Learn to code for free. Just started this now, it’s very hands-on and user friendly in its design and learning interface. I’m really excited to get deeper into it, and so far I didn’t have any trouble following the courses. I’ve learned some basic HTML and CSS already and now I’m just starting JavaScript. Kudos to Codecademy for keeping the courses fun…

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Those are my top 3 at the moment, but don’t forget one valuable point… work experience. Get student jobs. Really. Work with a professor. Last fall, I started what sounded like a very boring office assistant position. I took it because I needed money. I ended up learning how to create a personalized online survey and being head organizer for a three-day conference. I learned a LOT more than I had ever expected, and it was in no small part due to the fact that I just volunteered when something needed to be done. So be proactive. Take opportunities. Agree to build a WordPress site, make an online survey, organize an event, even if you’ve never done any of those things. It’s learning by doing and in the end, you’re benefitting just as much, if not more, than the professor who got around doing the wordpress site himself.

By the way, if you have any cool resources to add to the above list, please comment!

The right job for me?

So, I’ve actually been back on this beautiful campus that I just left earlier this month with a diploma in one hand and my teddybear Aristotle Panda, a goodbye present from my friends, in the other. (Okay, and a car packed to the roof… I really mean it, chock-full of stuff, I spent the car ride holding a plant on my lap and arranging my feet in between a guitar and a box that I’m pretty sure contained about 30 bottles of nailpolish.)

But never mind the tetris-like arrangement of stuff in the car… I wanted to talk about something else. I wanted to talk about coming back to help organize a conference. And by that, I pretty much mean, sending a ton of emails. Event management can be summed up in two words – “many emails”. I don’t want to offend any event managers reading our blog, so here is a disclaimer: It’s not easy. It’s not a lazy-person job. All these emails that you send – you have to make pretty darn sure you don’t delete the important ones, don’t forget to respond to the urgent ones, CC the people who will otherwise be confused and/or upset at being left out of decisions, and of course, you have to keep track of EVERYTHING.

A conference doesn’t just need people attending and people talking. It needs coffee breaks, cold drinks, accommodation, schedules, dinner catering, changed opening hours for the cafeteria, travel cost requests and reimbursements, conference fees, participation confirmations, flight bookings, emergency numbers, bedsheets, towels, soap, a welcome desk, a chair and table for said welcome desk, glasses, water, wine, beer, more coffee (this time for the organizer), and the list goes on and on and on.

Truth be told, I like most of it. I like being a head organizer. I like that this conference is something I created. I like knowing that people will have a vegetarian option at dinner because I requested it, and that they will have Internet vouchers because I thought of them in time, and that they will have a campus map with colourful dots on it that will make their lives so much easier. You know when you go to an event and you feel that you’re not being given sufficient information? Everything might be organized perfectly but you feel lost because nobody told you where to go. I like thinking that this will not happen because I created a guide to put in the welcome package which will tell people how to use the Internet vouchers and where (and when) they can get food.

So don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not fun. But despite the fact that I feel I’m doing a really good job so far, I am also pretty convinced that this is not the right job for me. I’m not planning on pursuing it, anyways, this conference is the last big task of a student job I have held since October. But you know how people tend to tell you if you’re talented in an area, that is probably the work you should pursue?

I disagree. And you know why? Because I’m good at event management, but I’m not passionate about it. And I still believe that there’s that one thing out there that will excite me for the rest of my life. That one thing that will make me want to jump out of bed at some crazy early hour because I can’t wait to go to work. I know it’s in the creative direction, and I have a suspicion that it has something to do with branding, brand identity creation, brand design – both the strategic and the graphic/creative part of that field. I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis on this subject and I will start an internship in this field soon, so we’ll see if my suspicion was right. In the meantime, dear readers, I see a lot more post-graduation-confusion coming my way, and therefore your way… it’s good to know that our stories seem to be entertaining you guys, and by the way, can we say a big THANK YOU to our now over 20 followers… we know it’s a tiny number in the blogosphere, but it is hugely exciting to us that there are twenty complete strangers who like reading our ramblings. We’re not going anywhere – stay tuned! 🙂