Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Be aware, Be absorbent, Be alive.

Today I have been distracted by all of my to-do's during these three short days in the office before my long vacation. I am feeling burdened by my work -- completing my to-do's with an uninspired and unenthusiastic mindset, mindlessly checking off tasks on my list as I complete them.

While taking a short break before hitting "the list" hard again, I was reminded of some advice I once heard: "Be an observer of the things around you. Inspiration can come in small doses from unexpected sources, so be aware, be absorbent, be alive."

When I was at Iowa State University working toward my BFA in Graphic Design, my classmates and I put in long, late hours to finish projects and papers. Many of us worked part-time jobs, putting ourselves through school, so we were booked to the max. We would be on our last leg, only one night left before the big crit, running on little or no sleep, fighting through problems with the printers, banging our fists when the famed "spinning wheel of death" appeared on our screen, even shedding a few tears when we'd drop a bunch a cash on laser prints only to find out that our crop marks were off by an 1/8 inch.

It was in those moments of futility, even despair, that the smallest things would make a difference. Someone would crank a funny song on their iTunes and we'd sing along; we'd take a quick walk to get Chinese food; we'd put all of our rejected designs and printing errors up on a wall and create a collage; we'd have a waterfight in the hallway outside the restrooms.

There were even times when the most unexpected things happened that got us through yet another crazy-late night. The most memorable for me was the time when we found an unlocked maintenance door leading to the roof of the design building. We felt somewhat rebellious climbing up the metal staircase to the top, but as we stood, overlooking Ames, IA, we felt like we had achieved, like we had conquered. Maybe it was because of our lack of sleep, or because we were almost done with another grueling semester, but I think it was because it was new. Standing on the roof, overlooking the sleeping town of Ames, IA, I remember feeling like I had gained perspective. Though I was only a small part of that town, I was conquering it. Though college at ISU was only a small part of my life, I was going to get through it -- and become better because of it. I had gotten into the design program, I was almost done with my last project of the semester, and in only one more year, I would have a BFA in graphic design.

We were on the roof for a short time that night, but those few, quiet, simple minutes would get us through the late night hours and into the morning. It only takes a few minutes, and some quiet observation, to find the inspiration you need to get you through. I look back on those minutes, and realize that I need to make time each day to absorb: to look to the little things, to be aware, be alive. [photo, top: Iowa State University College of Design interior at sunset]

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