Farewell 2016! It Was Rough But Thanks Anyway

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! We definitely did. And now I’m reflecting on the year and looking forward to starting a new one. It was a rough year, but I’m grateful for the struggle.

MJ’s last internship ended just before Thanksgiving. It provided opportunities for growth in a lot of areas. In my opinion, the biggest accomplishment was getting her driving consistently to and from work. But the job gave her a more regimented schedule and clearly defined tasks and deliverables. And with minor exceptions, she delivered beautifully. On a few occasions, she had to demonstrate humility and give the the client what they asked for even when she disagreed. She learned that it was important to give the client what they want and then to go above and beyond to give them a better solution. This is a very important skill for a designer to learn and one that comes with experience.

She decided that even if they were willing to offer a more permanent position, she wasn’t interested. As I suspected would be the case, she realized that in order for her to be happy with a job, she needs to believe in the overall mission of the company. And in this case, she didn’t feel that what she did there made a difference for anyone. And as the presidential election unfolded, it became clear that she wanted to be involved in some sort of activism, whether that comes in the way of employment or not.

Now that the internship is over, she is able to dedicate more time to the freelance graphic design opportunity that was also brought to us by way of the Pathways team. The firm providing the projects does a lot of work for associations, so I think there will be some degree of activism involved. And she is learning a lot more about time management, communication, and workflow. She’s also gaining more experience in a larger variety of types of design projects. Lessons in developing as a designer often come from the struggle it takes to deliver a successful project, one that meets the needs of the client and impacts the bottom line or motivates the intended audience to action.

One of my relatives included the following in a Thanksgiving greeting to our family.

Thanksgiving offers a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves that it is the struggle that makes life worth living. Comfort and complacency lead to apathy, and a life of apathy is scarcely better than no life at all. If we let it, Thanksgiving reminds us to be grateful not just for the success, but even for the struggle.
Especially for the struggle.
– from a post by Rabbi Yonason Goldson

A lot of what I’m grateful for are things where good came out of bad; where blessings followed storms. And aren’t we all more appreciative of things we have where the threat of them disappearing exists? Over the course of the year it also became apparent to me that sharing my struggles with others, has also made my life richer.

It hasn’t escaped me how blessed I have been to so far not been met with any hatred or discrimination on behalf of MJ. But of course we haven’t been outed yet very publicly, so I’m sure that will come at some point. The perception that the country is becoming less safe, less open, inclusive, and diverse is a scary reality for many of us.

The LGBTQ and the design communities are among those most concerned with what the Trump presidency might mean for them. But there is an upside in this struggle too. In an article from Fast Company, Ije Nwokorie said this, “”Just like in art and other forms of creativity, design often thrives when it has something to oppose, to fight for or against,” he says. “Benign, unchallenging environments can also be kryptonite for the creative process. So if there’s a silver lining in Trump’s election and Brexit, it’s this. At least in some degree, the design community is interpreting these events as an attack on what we stand for. I can already feel an awakening after the initial shock in the U.S. and the U.K. to double down on our efforts to create things for the many, not the few.”

MJ has already created posters that urge people to stand up for their rights, and to fight back against discrimination. I was proud of her for channeling her anxiety about the election into her art. You can see what she’s done here in a Facebook page she created.

So, yeah it was a tough year but I’m thankful for the struggles. I pray that MJ will come to understand struggle the same way. And I pray that 2017 will be a better year than it looks like it could be.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:28

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him”
– James 1:2-4,12

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