Playing a Long Game


2018 Review: Misplaced Priorities and Getting Them Straight

We’re playing a long game - a series of mini games that build up a bigger picture. I got lost in the grand scheme of things that other important things in my life were suffering for it. A big loss for me was work. I was clearly not making enough to sustain myself despite still living with my family. I had started dipping into my savings just to pay my monthly bills. When you are starting to spend more than you make, you know you are starting to head down a very rocky path.

Another problem was that I was spending my money very badly. Taking classes for recreational purposes and even planning more business investments and trips in the new year. I was really blindsided to what I was thinking and doing. I am sure I am not the only one who lost sight of their priorities or have had to change their priorities. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but like any medicine, it is needed in order to get us into better shape.

As a creative, I am sure many of us feel this way. Our skills and talents may not be valued the way we see it. Clients pay for expertise, not passion. I was being stubborn and also prideful being choosy with work. I struggled with my experiences of being mistreated in relationships and work engagements that I decided that I will never let myself be treated that way again. It is a great position, and I do not advocate that we allow ourselves to be abused, yet, life is not always what we picture. If it were, everyone would be jumping into the creative field. But in any career, we will have to struggle and start from the bottom.

It will take adjusting to, I am sure. Even thinking about it now, I cannot believe I was so blind. I knew that it would take a lot of work. But was I really willing to do what it takes? That is what it means to be a hustler and persevering in our dreams. I was focusing on making a brand and business without really knowing my industry and craft. I know I have skills and abilities, but I also know that there is still room for improvement. There are no shortcuts. I still do want to have a business on my own someday, but I have to do it the right way. There are many things that I do not know and need to become an expert in before I can feel confident enough to charge the value I am creating for my clients.

There is nothing wrong with admitting this. At least I hope not. Success is for those who do not give up. But also for those who are honest. You cannot really plan for success if you do not know where you are. I have come to realize that I am at rock bottom, at a crossroads, and many things need to change.

Clients pay for expertise, not passion.
— Chris Kneeland

Firstly, I know where I am going. So there is a lot to be grateful in that. I know that my dream is to be a successful solopreneur, branding and graphic designer. I know that I want to help others and their businesses look great and stay relevant. Yet, I now know in order to be that person, I have to become that person. Like I said there are a lot of things that I can and need to improve on, which comes to my second point: I need to get skilled and become an expert in my craft.

There are many ways to do this: I can go back to school, intern, find a job related to production and graphic design, or take online courses. My best bet is to try them all. And in the meantime, I need to work. A job that is related to my field would be great, but any job will do because there is always something that one can get out of work. Of course there is the money, which is important.

But there are other skills that one can develop with any job: listening, speaking, selling, problem solving, networking, and more. I think it is easy for us to forget that. Any job experience is still experience. We may see ourselves too highly for jobs like that or think it is irrelevant to our careers, but they have their uses in life, especially as stepping stones. We have to remember, that in times like these, where we find ourselves in difficult situations, that there is still hope. Storms or changes in our lives are passing phases and seasons. We have to keep faith that the sacrifices that we make now will pay off in the end. If not in monetary compensation, then maybe in life skills or personal development.

Adjusting to the Situation

I am still adjusting with the idea of refocusing my priorities for this year. As I mentioned, I was planning trips and business investments with money that I did not have. I guess there was a notion in my mind that I was still doing alright. But the work I did get was not sustainable. My network, clients and experience is not there yet. And that is okay. If you are in the same boat, it is alright.

I was blaming myself for failing to get consistent work. I was putting up a facade that I was doing alright. But I was sinking deeper and deeper and it was not until I spoke to my family that I got the cold hard truth. I am a sensitive and emotional person. But I am also a strong person, too. Stronger than I, and I think my family and friends, give me credit for. It would be a lie to say that I am not disappointed, but I know that my family is coming from a place of love and respect.

After every season comes a new one.

It may not feel like it now, but there will come a time when these crossroads will be necessary, even vital points in our careers and lives. In life, u-turns are allowed. So taking a step back and re-evaluating the situation is not a bad thing. If anything, these realistic perspectives will help us make better decisions. Do not let go of your dreams. Even if you are not actively, 100% working on them day in and day out, do not count out any effort and time given to them. In time, you will see the impact.

This is another lesson that I have learned in 2018 is: patience. Any great venture will take time. If you lack the funds, then sacrifice to make the money. If you lack experience, find ways to learn through a job, volunteering or interning. If you lack confidence, build up the skills that make you more comfortable in the required skills for your field. Whatever it is, take time growing and know that your time will come.

After every season comes a new one. Your struggles this year were not the same as last year, and will not be the same in the next. Everyone struggles, you are not the only one. So how we deal with these hardships individually will decide whether we succeed or fail. Failure is not a bad thing. On the surface, it may be. Failure is an indicator that we have done something wrong or are doing something wrong. But failure can be the factor that pushes us to change, and hopefully change for the better.

Stay Hopeful & Positive

All hope is not lost when you need a change. It is scary, no doubt about it. But, if anything, change might just be what you need for more hope. Change is like a rebirth, a new life, a fresh start. It will be a hard at first, like every first experience: learning to ride a bike, your first job, your driving test, or your first pitch to a client. But with every victory, there is new hope. Why? Because you gained the experience and confidence to overcome something hard. And with that confidence you are ready to face something even greater.

We may feel very weak, anxious and uncertain when we are at a low. Suddenly, we doubt ourselves or even loath and bully ourselves with our failures. That is not going to help you or anyone. And that is important to note: for the people who care about you, do not put yourself or keep yourself down. As you are hurting, other will hurt, too. Misery loves company. But loved ones do not want you to stay down. They know you can get back up and succeed. So let them support you, let them help you whenever they offer to.

So when criticism, or truth bombs come your way, especially from family and friends, know they are coming from places of concern, care and love. They may not know everything that you are going through, or fully understand your situation. You may think, like I often do, that they do not see the whole picture because designing and freelancing is a foreign concept to them. But your parents, family and friends that are older than you know about life. And life can be harsh and cruel for anyone, at any time, and any situation. So give them an ear to hear their perspective. Their wisdom is your advantage.

As we let go of the limitations and pressures we put on ourselves, the more we allow ourselves to breath and be present.

A bigger lesson at the foot of this crossroad is that it isn’t over. Sure, the road that we have travelled to to this point is at an end, but life goes on and we have a choice. As we come to shed away old habits and instill new resolutions, taking a new road may just be what we need - whether we like it or not, whether we think we are ready or prepared enough or not.

To be honest, like others I am sure, we all may have a timeline in our minds about our futures. I always thought that I would be at a certain place in my career and life at this time. It definitely is not. Maybe because of the choices I have made or other factors. But, I have learned, that the point is not to get there as fast as we can. I am starting to see that maybe the point is to simply live and fully experience the journey: to stay motivated, to keep growing and adjusting as the seasons change.

As we let go of the limitations and pressures we put on ourselves, the more we allow ourselves to breath and be present. No one has all the answers and there is no magic formula. Shortcuts will get you limited results and there is no shame in making mistakes. All we can do is our best. If your best takes you two years to get to where you want to go, then good. If my best takes me five years to where I want to go, then so be it. Comparison is a thief to joy. We will all blossom at our time.

Success is not a right. It is a result - of perseverance and hard work. And those who sacrifice, put in the effort and make the time, no matter the situation, will get there eventually. I learned from my Dad that he had set up multiple businesses in his life only to see them fail. One after another, he realized there was always something missing: experience, knowledge, funds or something rather. Even though he has a regular 9 to 5 job now, it does not stop him from dreaming of starting a business.

In his current job now, he is still developing his skills, despite being a professional for decades. But there is humility in learning from others and taking your time to grow. He told me, if he had the chance, he would feel more confident starting a business now with his skills than before because of the experience and knowledge he gained through the years.

Road to Success

I do not know what is up ahead. I have some goals to aim for including: acquiring a job in my field, gaining experience, honing my craft and building up my portfolio. It is not a bad plan, if I do say so myself. Moreover, it is a realistic plan. And if things do not work out, there are other options, there is always hope - if we choose to see solutions rather than obstacles. I may be working an entry-level job for a bit. I may be interning without pay. But I know that these prejudices will be different, because my mindset and priorities are different. And I am confident they will be for the better.

The road to success is tough. I am lucky to be coming from a great place with family, friends and the experiences and skills I have gained so far. We just need to keep moving forward. There is no need to be sad or disappointed. There is something greater up ahead. Feel it, know it, pray for it, trust in it and you will be there soon enough. As this year comes to an end, I just want to say thank you for reading this blog. It may have been a tough year for you for different reasons, but know that there is still hope.

We are playing a long game. There will be wins and losses. All we can do is play the best we can and win as much as we can. But do not be afraid to lose. Do not be afraid to change. Keep trying to win. Keep winning. Those who play the games will always have a chance - a chance for redemption, winning and growing. We all have a chance to win. And with that we should already be grateful.

There is no need to be sad or disappointed. There is something greater up ahead.

I am wishing you all a great New Year’s Eve and all the very best in 2019! Let’s make it the best year that we can. More caring, loving, hopeful, trusting, persevering and kind. I hope we can all grow from and overcome any challenges we are facing now and have the grace and patience to endure difficult seasons to come. We are strong, we are capable, we are called for something greater. So let’s step up our game and be the best versions of ourselves! Happy New Year to us! ■

Patricia Atienza