Today’s episode is a little different from the norm. I won’t exactly be teaching you or giving you any tips but I really just wanted to take today to share a little bit of my story.
Whenever people ask me how I got into design or why I decided to become a designer, I usually say something like, “Oh I loved my high school art class or being on the yearbook staff and so that kind of led me to being a designer.” But I realized it actually started a long time before high school because 26 years ago today, on July 4th, I was diagnosed with type I diabetes and it really rocked my family’s world.
But what does that have to do with design?
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I was only three at the time and so I had no idea what was going on. I have to imagine that I probably wasn’t too happy to be getting shots but I had no idea how it was going to impact my world. All I know is that for much of my childhood, I continued to ask, “Why me? Why did I have to be the one that was diagnosed?”
Fast forward to the third grade, we moved to a new town and I really struggled to make friends. I was the new kid in town so no one likes the new kid and I was weird. Literally I was just kind of a weird kid and still kind of am and I was different. I was different because of my diabetes. Not just because literally I was diabetic but because I got special snacks and the nurse would pull me aside and the kids would see me checking my blood sugar and getting shots and ew, gross, that’s gross, she’s gross, we don’t want to be friends with her.
Really, really made it difficult for me to make friends. When school was over, everyday I would go home and I didn’t really have friends to play with so I would get on the computer. I loved playing on the computer. No matter what I was doing. Sometimes I would play in the Paint program, back when I was on a PC or I really loved this game called, Word Munsters. It was kind of a combination of Pac-Man and grammar and spelling which shows you how much of a nerd I really was. And this is what I did after school most days and this continued for years because I wasn’t really making friends, I wasn’t connecting with others and I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere so I would just go home and be by myself.
Fast forward to high school, I’m still a little weird, still different, still don’t have that great of friends and now sports are happening. I wasn’t that great at sports. Volleyball was the only sport I played all four years. The rest of the school year after that two and a half months of volleyball was over, I continued to be on the computer as much as my family would allow me. And then my junior year of high school, I joined the yearbook staff and I finally felt like I had found my place where I belonged.
I loved taking pictures and taking those pictures and designing this layout in the yearbook and telling stories and of course all of this work was taking place on the computer. I would work ahead in other classes so that when it came time during fifth hour, to just work on your assignments, I could be like, “I finished. I’m already done. Can I go work on the yearbook?” Because that’s what brought me joy. And I remember my dad asking me, “What do you want to study in college? What do you want to do?” I said, “Well, maybe something with art because I love those art classes,” and this kind of scared my dad. Or maybe something with computers. I don’t know what with computers. I don’t want to build computers but if there’s something I can do on a computer then that would be great and if it can be artsy, even better.
My dad said, “What about graphic design?” And I had no idea what that was. I’d never heard of graphic design. To give you a little context, I grew up in a town with about 1,100 people, no stop lights and there were 22 kids in my graduating class. I lived in the boonies, as we say and we just weren’t on the up and up with things. But somehow my dad knew about graphic design and I didn’t. And I decided right there in my conversation with my dad that I was going to be a graphic designer and I never changed my mind.
It was just really cool to look back and see that this thing that brought me so much pain and heartache and has made me so different, for so long, actually brought me to my passion. If I hadn’t been so different and isolated and fallen in love with doing artsy things and being on the computer, I wouldn’t have found graphic design.
And this whole journey came full circle last year when I published a book. Two or three years ago I was at a business retreat with some of my friends and one of my friends Jody, is a book editor and she asked everyone there, “If you could write a book about anything, what would you write about?” And I said, “A book about diabetes.” And then I put that idea into action and wrote my book, designed the cover, did the layout and published it. Now almost a 1,000 families have read that book.
This book is for parents that have just had their child diagnosed with type I diabetes and it walks them through all the things that they’re going to face and honestly some of things that doctors aren’t going to tell them about. It just was a really cool experience to use my expertise both in design and living with diabetes for 26 years to create this book. It really showed me that everything in life, even the really painful parts, can have a purpose.