personal growth | designlovefest

each week on mondays we have a little “real talk” discussion in our studio. sure, it feels a little like therapy. we just put out on the table topics on our minds, struggles we are dealing with, funny or uncomfortable situations with friends or guys. then we come up with the topic for the week. today we are discussing personal growth and when we feel like that happened for us. what was a point in time you could FEEL yourself changing or growing? can you look back and remember getting over a rough period and how you did it? let’s talk about it…

TOPIC: what year do you think you experienced the most personal growth? tell us about that time.

bri: two things come to mind. career and then me as a woman. it’s funny because we were talking in the office tonight about actually being able to REMEMBER not being very good at something, and then putting in the time and learning and growing and becoming better at it. i remember one day i went to the farmer’s market and picked up all these colorful fruits and sat them on my counter at home. (i was probably 23 years old) i liked the way the fruit looked in the sunlight, and how the colors worked together with the 1920’s kitchen tiles. i remember desperately wanting to capture what i saw with my eyeballs, but feeling frustrated that i couldn’t create the kind of image that i wanted to. this is when i found out that i not only wanted to be a graphic designer but i also really cared about styling, photography and creating imagery. for the next few years i threw myself into all sorts of projects and collaborations. i was the art director for rue magazine, i had a full time retouching job, i was guest blogging for some of my now friends, i was creating websites and logos and branding packages. i was blogging and pulling daily inspiration. i also had a brief few months where my long term boyfriend and i broke up, which was when i really threw myself into work and my career. so i would say age 24-26 i experienced the most growth in that way. i was young and excited about absolutely everything. i was naive and eager and didn’t sleep! ha.

as far as personal growth, age 29, for sure. i remember 27 moved the needle quite a bit (remember THIS post?), but 29 rocked my world a little bit. i went on that 6 week europe trip and everyone joked that i was on a “bri pray love” trip. i lived alone. i learned to enjoy being single. i started seeing a therapist for my anxiety. i found a peace within myself that i hadn’t experienced before. all of a sudden i was learning the roots to my issues and moving past them instead of just dwelling on them. i still have a long road ahead of me, but things are much more clear now. everyone says your 30’s are the coolest because you finally figure out who you are. i’d have to agree that i can see glimpses of that.


joanie: i don’t really think i can trace it to one specific year but a period of time in my life. post college was a tough transition for me and i remember thinking that i didn’t really understand my own happiness. i was working a job that was fine, it paid the bills and i was in a relationship that was also fine. not one thing to point to made it particularly bad or good, but i was profoundly unhappy. it all felt like a grind and that i was going through the motions. it took some serious soul searching (and therapy) to realize that i was basically stuck in my own trap of living a cautious life. i wasn’t willing to take any risks because what if that job and that relationship was as good as it gets? what if i ended up being unemployed and lonely, wouldn’t that be worse than all of it? i was scared of wanting something and not getting it so i stuck with what i already had. but then one day it clicked – i was letting the fear of rejection control my life.

once that clicked, it literally changed my life. and it definitely isn’t all flowers and rainbows now but learning the lesson of taking risks and being okay giving into that terrifying feeling of going after something you really want, or just going after the idea of something better, even if you don’t get it, that changed my life. i think sometimes it seems uncool to really want something, because what if you don’t get it, or what if you get rejected and then everyone knows that you actually cared and you’re actually upset about it? but i realized it’s okay to GO FOR IT, and be the person who lays it all on the line and takes the risk and fails or succeeds.

part of that journey is why i ended up working here, bri and i were acquaintances but i went out on a limb and wrote her an email and told her why i wanted to work for her and what i wanted to do and how i thought i could help designlovefest. i basically pitched myself because i knew the worst thing she could say was “no” but she said, “sure, lets give it try.” and that felt good.


erika: in the past year i stopped taking on projects i didn’t feel passionate about, started working at designlovefest, and opened an online shop, which was a huge moment of growth for me. for the first time in my life i was working entirely with people that inspired me and being surrounded by that type of environment made me grow SO much. when i took the leap from only working for companies to opening my own shop i finally had a space of my own. i’d always had a hard time working for other people because i always wanted to do it better than their expectations allowed and constantly felt like reconstructing their whole system. in the past, i wasn’t working with people that inspired me and everyone was satisfied with a quick, mediocre job. it drove me crazy. when i was secretly micromanaging every project i was working on, it became pretty clear to me that i had to do something that was entirely mine. having my own space allowed me major growth personally and professionally.

between doing my own thing and working on projects i believed in, everything started clicking. i stopped feeling guilty for wanting to spend time coming up with ideas or even scrolling through , i stopped suppressing my desire to make everything more bright and colorful (i used to tone down all of my projects to be more corporate/masculine, yuck!), and i just went off my own gut and said “if i love it, i’m going for it”. by doing my own thing i was able to finally connect everything i was passionate about my whole life into something that i was creating by myself for myself. i sound like a crazy control freak, but having the opportunity to do what i love has made the biggest difference in life for me. so go for what you love, it might make all the difference in your life!


natalie: most people look at turning 30 as a monumental benchmark and i guess it is, but for me 31 really knocked me over. i left a long term relationship, moved in to my own place, quit my job, ended some toxic friendships that were just holdovers from my 20’s. it was so lonely, confusing, exciting, manic, inspiring. at a point i just felt that if it was going to be hard i might as well take it as a chance to rebuild my life more closely to the way i wanted to live it. i hit the reset button on just about everything and improved a lot of things about myself and my life. there were a number of emotional growing pains, i think my heart literally hurt at times, but looking back i realize how grateful i am for that chance to recalibrate. that time in my life has had a very lasting impact, soon after i met my husband, i turned casual friends into close friends and switched my occupation, all things that continue to make me happy now.

now, can you tell us about your time??

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Add your own

    Nikki says:

    This is so inspiring, thank you all for sharing!

    bri says:

    thanks for reading!

    i guess this is becoming one of my favorite columns on the blog!! very inspiring 🙂

    Haley says:

    This makes me feel so much better about my life! I’m 23 and going through a lot of the feelings that a lot of you guys are talking about – I’m constantly worried that I’m going down the wrong path or that if I make a decision or take a risk I will be stuck there. This gives me hope that I have the time and ability to change things as I “grow up.”

    bri says:

    girl you are gonna be just FINE, promise 🙂

    nora says:

    this is so wonderful and insightful. also, it makes me feel old. i’m turning 32 this year and feel like i’ve been living one long, challenging, happy, frustrating day since turning 30.

    mary says:

    I LOVE these real talks! I think I’m still in the transition of “personal growth” ha! What Joanie said really resonated with me! I am at a full time job, and it’s fine and I like working here. But my real passion is crafting portraits at my etsy shop in my free time aka every single free minute I have. Each year the shop grows and I really need to just take the leap and make my shop be my full time job. Thanks for the inspiration ladies! Love hearing your thoughts on these topics.

    Amanda says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m 26 in the midst of a career change and sometimes I feel like I really need to have everything figured out by now. It’s reassuring that some of the more pivotal years of my life are likely still ahead.

    Jessica says:

    I truly love this. I just wrote my own post about my growth/issues from specifically the last couple of months. I think everyone on some level identifies with Joanie. The fear of the “what ifs”. It’s why I plan on moving. You never know until you JUST DO IT and then know. And I also wholeheartedly agree with Erika. I own my own shop which I’m working on making vast improvements on and changing the business model all together. I’m a designer/art director but when it’s not freelance I’m stuck doing DC advocacy and sovereign client stuff which you can only make so exciting depending on the subject matter. The point is there are limits. I use my personal work outside of my day job work to grow more. And I’ve gotten to the point where I think I’ve learned all that I can learn at the particular place I am now. There’s a time and a place for everything. The time to start finding new places, people and opportunities should always be now!


    brittni says:

    A couple of years ago I was in a real big rut with my job, my friendships, & just my life in general. I didn’t know what I wanted. Following designlovefest was always my go to escape. It gave me ideas to occupy my mind. I actually attend one of your classes! Finally I took control & I quit my job. Moved across the country, back to Michigan to live with my parents which allowed me to freelance full time until I built up my portfolio & landed the amazing job I have today. I really love the new direction of the blog… I feel as if it has grown with me & the changes I’ve experienced over the last year. Keep up the amazing work!

    Caitlin says:

    This is so great to read! I love getting to know you ladies a little bit more very week. 🙂 I would also love a link to Erika’s shop! (if it’s online)

    Just reading the topic immediately brought to my mind my last year of college. I went into a 5 year program and during my 4th year I had the opportunity to study abroad in Rome. It was amazing, up until my final month there. I was studying abroad with all my best girlfriends from school and *something* happened (I still don’t know what-they were immature and never actually confronted me about it) that caused all my friends to slowly disown me.

    When I got back to Brooklyn after returning to the states, I moved into my first apartment and as a result, I started my final year at college completely ALONE. I lived on my own for the first time (no roommate anymore!), my boyfriend lived 3 hours away in upstate NY, my family was 8 hours away in Maryland, and all my friends at college were ignoring me because they no longer wanted to be my friend. My thesis project during my final year of school was with a partner who taught me that I am much more patient and much stronger than I thought I was. I felt everything in my life at the time was a struggle and a challenge, but I came out of it alive and better than ever (I hope!).

    It really goes to show you that (to quote Kelly Clarkson) what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I definitely feel like that time in my life put that saying to the test!

    Helen says:

    I loved this post so much! It was so great to learn about all of your different transitions. I’m definitely at a point where I’m trying to figure out what to do, and reading this was so inspiring!


    Nikki says:

    Bri – I couldn’t agree with you more. 27 was a hard year for me as I was feeling so stuck and that I was getting in my own way. Bad relationship, health, and financial habits from my early 20s no longer seemed sustainable. It wasn’t until I started seeing a therapist to work through the tendencies and reasons behind my choices that things started to change in such a positive way! I wish more people were open about their own journeys so THANK YOU.

    Katryna says:

    Thank you for sharing your stories with us! I feel like far too often we are told that the choices we make in our early 20s set the direction for the rest of our lives and that is so freaking scary! At 25 I am pleased with where I am, but know this isn’t where I want to be forever. I love that you ladies are such positive examples for us, knowing we can always make our lives exactly what we want them to.

    Brienne says:

    Bri, Brie here…
    I just turned 30. And this is the first time in my life that change feels…palpable. I can feel the internal shift, a deeper motivation to move THROUGH things that feel challenging instead of my 20-something’s tendency to avoid, distract, repeat.

    Very interesting shift.

    Amanda says:

    This hits home on so many levels. I’m currently in a transition and its hard to shake the feelings of not being good enough or things just not working out.

    I’m 26 and back in school for fashion design and i’m finally diving into all of the projects that before I would have felt too timid to try. Its really refreshing to know that it was ok that I didn’t really have it all figured out by now and that starting late is better than not starting at all.

    Emma says:

    Thank you for this. It’s nice to be reminded that others are in the same emotional boat as me. I am on the cusp of a huge transition, just waiting on a few more pieces to fall into place. At 32 I’ve been working in the design field for eight years at a job that I thought would make me happy. It doesn’t. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to change my career path. It’s a very scary move to make when you own a home and have some debts. But I now know that I can’t keep making excuses forever. My family is sick of hearing me complain and I’m sick of dreading every workday. I spent my 20s working for a good company, but all it provided was a paycheck. The remainder of my 30s will fulfill my passions, while hopefully also paying the bills.

    Lauren says:

    I love the real talk series! Is there an “about” page for design love fest staff (maybe I just can’t find it)? I’d love to be able to put a name to a face for the other women who work/write for the blog.

    Amy says:

    I leave reading posts like this – so inspiring. I notice a common theme among them all is really starting afresh or changing things so you find yourself doing what you love, what you’ve always wanted. I think we all have points in our life where we just go along with what we think is normal and accepted, but when we do that and we know it’s not 100% us and what we love we never feel fully happy or satisfied. Some may not realise that this is the issue and I think a post like this can really help people to see what it is that’s blocking their happiness.

    I think the next big step, as many of the stories pointed out, is actually then making that somewhat scary change – scary because there is no way of knowing what exactly will happen and how things will all turn out.

    But I think, even if things don’t go 100% to plan, the fact you simply took that leap will increase your happiness and satisfaction, and I think if everyone did this and was able to improve themselves in this way we’d all be living in a much more beautiful and friendly world.

    steph o says:

    I love this post! I feel like the overarching lesson here is that real change does not happen passively nor painlessly. But it is oh so worth it.

    A couple years ago, I had a near death experience that resulted in my daughter being born two months early. The amount of growth, strength, acceptance, and love that was required to endure all that was something I didn’t think I was capable of. It was a catalyst for so many things. I felt that it I was strong enough to fight for my life and my kid, I was strong enough to deal with whatever else I needed to in order to be happy. I cut the fat in my life – ditched toxic friendships, became very adept at advocating for my daughter to doctors and health insurance, prioritized my health and fitness, and worked really hard on making sure my husband and I were a team throughout the madness. Now my life is truly amazing. I have the best friends, the best kids, I can run 3 miles in 24 minutes, and my family is just so solid and happy. I can’t imagine life being any better. It was so worth the trauma and fear and hard work.

    Alice says:

    This was really inspiring to read 🙂

    Change & growth are so important. Big fan of this post and your blog, thank you! X

    Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing what most of us go through. I spent many years in school to become a psychologist, and still felt unfulfilled. I too discovered a love of styling, photography, and imagery, but didn’t have the skills to make my vision come to life, and feared I was too late to make something of it. I had a hard time trying to create a a career that felt right for me. But I learned that our path is not always straight and narrow. And it’s okay to detour, to change, and to not always know where you’re headed as long as you keep doing, learning, and growing.

    Tinneke says:

    Love this post. If you change something in your life, you create new opportunities and growth. But I also believe you have to accept the fear to fail.
    At 27 I went back to school, to do something different with my career.
    At 29 I had a new job, I bought an apartment AND I met my husband.
    At 30 I rediscovered my childhood passion (to draw) and started my website.
    I will grow whole my life, but my late twenties were a great turning point.

    Jeanine says:

    Life is so crazy! On sept 12 2001, the day after 9/11, at age 27, I moved from San francisco on my own to Seattle to Go back to school in the hopes of changing careers.. Shit that was a scary time on so many levels. Grad school was awesome, though also very challenging being so vulnerable, so much change and the rain and darkness didn’t help!. When I finished I decided to move to Scotland to see if things could work with a friend id fancied. Again it was a mix of excitement, new friends, new career, but also a challenge without my friends and fam. I’m back in the Bay Area now with my Scottish husband. So many wonderful things came out of those experiences, including admitting when you need help and going to a therapist!! 😉 Im just over 40 now, yikes! I’m ready for my next big challenge and possible career move! I’m hoping it’s not too late!

    Anonymous says:

    Joanie, I really connected with what you had to say. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    designlovefest says:

    thanks for saying so! Xx, joanie

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