sarahgrand

MY PICKS!! (New Interior Design Obsession)

I moved to the city this past weekend! I’ve lived on my own before, but all the other times, I was either too young or the living situation was too temporary for me to really care much about how the place looked. Now that I’m older and could stay at my new apartment for a few years, I put some thought into the design. Today I’m going to share some photos of my new bedroom and some of my other interior design picks. I CAN NOT WAIT until I get to decorate a whole house…my place is going to be so cool and funky!

So here’s my new room:



One of my favorite parts of my new room is the sky bedding. I got it from Urban Outfitters. I also considered the poppy bedding and forrest bedding shown below (also from UO). I sort of want to buy the poppy and forrest bedding and save them for my future home, but that seems really extra of me, so I’ll restrain myself!



Another favorite part of my new room is the funky colorful carpet! I got it from Soho Artists and Fleas. The seller had a bunch of other carpets, but the only other one I really loved was the one in the second image below. These carpets are as vibrant and neon as they look. Like the other beddings, I’m sort of tempted to get the second carpet for my future home, but again, that would be really extra of me!


In terms of wall art, I have a poster I made myself (above my desk) and also the “Pretty Much Everything” Draplin poster in multi-color, shown below. I actually think I like the orange one even more (I’ve been on a serious orange kick lately…) but it’s out of stock right now. The multi one goes better with my room anyways!


Here’s another Draplin poster I really like. I’m not going to get this for my room, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

I do, however, think I’m going to get this Father John Misty “Fear Fun” poster for my room when it comes back in stock (I emailed Sub Pop Records and they said they’re bringing this poster back, which is surprising considering this album came out 5 years ago…but good news for me!). The artist behind this album art is Dima Drjuchin. I love it!

I’m trying to keep my new room minimal and clean, so once I get the Father John Misty poster, I think I’ll be set. But in my future home, I want a whole wall COVERED in posters and art. Below are some pieces I really like. Some are album covers, some are magazine covers, and some are paintings, but what they all have in common is I LOVE THEM (and think they could work as wall art even though they’re not necessarily “meant” for that). The first image is a Deerhunter album cover. I don’t like the skull in the eye, but I do love the color (again, orange kick), and the overall vibe. I think it would look awesome next to the blue Hideki Inaba piece below it! (Please note: I probably could never afford a lot of these pieces, but a girl can dream).


More pieces I like…first is by Takashi Murakami. Second and third are magazine covers by Studio Feixen. Fourth is a magazine cover by Jessica Svendsen. Fifth is a magazine cover by Hideki Inaba. Last image in this set is a painting by Ralph Humphrey.






I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I’ve been super into inkblots lately. The first image below is actually from a psychology site, but I would literally have something like this on my wall. The images below that seem like they must have been inspired by inkblot tests (from the symmetry and stuff). The second piece is from Urban Outfitters. The third and fourth images are of pieces from Bethenny Frankel’s apartment (I first saw them in Real Housewives lol). They’re her daughter’s artwork “elevated” by artist Paul Morris.




I also think having some gradient art would be cool too. Not these things below, but something inspired by them.


Oh love these of course too! These are from the camouflage series by Andy Warhol.


In terms of furniture–I usually just like really simple, plain furniture, but these funky pieces from ABC Carpet are really cool. I especially like the green one. They come in all different sizes and shapes but they’re super expensive unfortunately!


I hate clutter and I’m not a big fan of unnecessary accessories, but these gummy bear lights are pretty cool not gonna lie…

So that’s all for now! I’m always looking for new unique finds so I’ll add more picks as I find them!

2-Month Update on Personal Goals (Cause I Don’t Know What Else to Write About)

I want to write on here more frequently, and I have some free time today, but I don’t know what to write about! So I’m just going to do a 2-month update on the personal goals I posted on here on 3/31/17. I actually have made a pretty decent amount of progress on these for only being 1/6 through the year (if I do say so myself)! I’ll go through these one by one…

1.Finish designing NYC poster – This is DONE!!! 

2. Submit NYC poster to contest – Also Done! (Currently waiting to hear back…) 

3. Fabricate NYC poster – Almost Done! I have sent the posters to a fabricator and I am going to receive my first samples this Tuesday. Once I nail down the paper type and approve the coloring, I’m going to place my bulk order. So excited! (Little side note: The poster I’m selling is the same concept as the poster I submitted to the contest, but a different size/layout. I’ll have everything on my design website in the next few weeks.)

4. Sell NYC poster – I am well on my way to selling my posters! Once I get the bulk order in the mail, I can technically start selling them. But I want to put a lot of thought into my marketing strategy before I go ahead and do that. One of my flaws is that I get so passionate about my creative projects that I lose sight of the big picture, and for this reason, most of my work goes totally unnoticed. I want to be more “business” about my creative hobbies moving forward, and I’m taking my first stab at this with my NYC poster. At this point, my plan is to rent a space in Union Square to sell them on weekends, and open an Etsy shop to sell them online. I want to sit down with some people who actually know what they’re talking about to develop a more strategic plan in the coming weeks as well. 

5. Design and look into fabricating Fruits! notebooks – As I mentioned above, I want to be more “business” about my creative hobbies moving forward. The NYC poster is my first attempt at actually making profit from my designs. If that is successful, then I’ll try creating and selling other products, like notebooks, bedding, wallpaper, etc. My first attempt at creating other products will be my Fruits! notebooks, based on these cards below. I haven’t made any progress on this yet. 

6. Make a band poster – Since I finally finished my NYC poster, I can start working on my band posters! I am making two band posters. I already know what bands I’m making them for, and what I want them to look like. Now I just need to execute. These are going to be really cool, so I might look into fabricating and selling these as well. 

7. Re-design and clean up my design website!! – Almost done!! I should be done re-designing my design website tomorrow night. That’s the hard part. Then I just need to clean up a bunch of the old posts, and add some new work. There’s a bunch of random stuff on there, and I want to make the website more focused and legit. 

8. Move to NYC (I’m commuting to work from NJ now) – MOVING TO MY NEW APARTMENT ON JULY 1st!!! SO EXCITED TO LIVE IN MANHATTAN AGAIN! 

9. Go on a New Mexico roadtrip! – IT’S OFFICIAL! Going to New Mexico this October (with my partner in crime/future roommate).  We’re going to do a road trip around the state. We haven’t planned much yet, but we’re visiting the week of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, so we’re definitely seeing that, and we’re DEFINITELY going to Pie Town. Also, I heard Santa Fe is a must-see and has a cool music scene, so that too. 

10. Start planning my trip to Thailand – I have not made any progress on this, but one of my friends is living in Thailand until around December 2018/January 2019, and I need to go out there and visit her at some point. Right now, I’m thinking next spring or summer would be best, but I need to see what is going on with work and stuff like that before I plan anything. I feel like so much has changed in the last few months alone, so who even knows what my life will be like in a year from now? Can’t plan too far ahead. 

11. GROW LONG HAIR – Thank god I have finally nailed down a hair care routine that works for me. My hair is healthier and fuller than ever and it is actually medium length (not short!) right now. If I keep this up, it should be LONG by next year. 

So that’s all the updates! I’d say I’m making pretty good progress for being only 2 months in! Hopefully my next blog post is more interesting than this…cause this one was more for myself. Let me know if you have any ideas on topics to write about!

My Current Understanding of the Difference Between Art & Design

Wow, haven’t posted on the blog in a while! It’s been a very busy couple of months. I’ve been going out quite often on the weekends, and a few weeks back, I went on vacation to California with my sister. Regrettably, my side projects have kind of taken the back-burner during this time, which is why I wanted nothing more this Memorial Day Weekend than to completely isolate myself and simply work on stuff. (I have to say, this weekend has been really blissful so far—good music + Adobe Illustrator + alone time = HEAVEN).

One of the projects I am currently working on (and actually just finished minus some color and formatting edits?!!!) is my New York City poster. You can see a sneak preview of it in the image below. There are 3 different versions of the poster in that image (I would go into more detail, but I’m waiting to do a “big reveal” in a future post).

Anyways…while completely immersed in this project a few hours ago, it dawned on me that I think I finally understand the difference between art and design.

When I first became interested in graphic projects (like this NYC poster) a few years back, I would hear people talking about art vs. design, and I would read about the topic in articles and books, but I never truly got it. To me, art and design were basically the same thing, and you could use the words interchangeably (…and to be honest, I thought people that contemplated the difference had too much time on their hands, and were just being pretentious creatives).

But now, years later, I THINK I FINALLY GET IT. And here I am, writing a blog post on it.

So, I’m definitely NOT the authority on this stuff, but this is my current take…

To me, art is all about freedom. It’s a form of personal expression. It doesn’t necessarily have to have a purpose, or please anyone, or do anything, and it’s ENTIRELY your own.

When I first became interested in graphics a few years back, I had an overwhelming flood of visual ideas, but no real purpose to turn them into reality. I’d make a bunch of random crap and post it on my website, usually calling it stationery, and always considering it “graphic design.” But now, I realize that most of the things I made in my early days weren’t design at all. I may have been using the tools of a graphic designer, but I was actually making art. Nothing I made had purpose or direction; everything I made was just some visual idea in my head that I struggled to find an excuse to turn into reality. One could make artwork using AutoCAD, but that doesn’t make him a drafter.

{Some examples of my earlier work}

Design, on the other hand, always has purpose. And while I’m sure many find freedom within design, there are a number of constraints.

As an example, let’s say Kellogg’s develops a new brand of cereal and needs to come up with a box for it. Well, there’s a lot riding on this box. Kellogg’s has put a lot of money into creating and testing this new product, and it’s important they make a return on their investment. Studies show that the look of the box can have a crucial impact on sales. The box must therefore be designed. An artist can’t just come rolling in and make whatever they want. No—the creativity must be directed. There are specific goals, budgets, deadlines, target audiences, research, and most annoyingly, a hierarchy of people who have to approve it.

In art, no one has to give you approval. You are your own client, and have complete freedom. To me, this is the biggest difference between art and design, and looking back, subliminally, the reason I did not go into design as a career. The most successful designers can reach the point where their style is sought out, and they do have a great deal of freedom, and client work can surely present challenges that are freeing and force creativity in a new way, but I don’t know…it wasn’t for me. I’d rather pursue whatever pops into my head on the side, without the pressure of pleasing other people (for now at least). But props to the people who are up for this challenge.

So, if there’s such a distinction between art and design, why do some people (like myself a few years ago) get so confused?

I personally found that two things contributed to my confusion. One—I briefly mentioned earlier—involves the overlap of tools used by designers and artists. Had I been using a literal paintbrush rather than one on Adobe Illustrator in my early days, would I have been so confused?

The second involves the frequent morphing of art into design, and vice versa. A purely artistic idea can be turned into design, and the result can be very successful. I believe there are many examples of this all around us on a daily basis.

As a personal example, for a while now, I’ve have a strong desire to make something inspired by Rorschach tests, and recently a design opportunity came up where I can apply this idea. The design will have purpose—it will be directed—but I’m using an idea that once was purely visual. I believe the opposite scenario often happens as well. Design can turn into art— something made with purpose, like an advertisement, can be so visually appealing you’ll want to hang it on your wall as artwork. Does this make sense or am I rambling?

{Early progress on my Rorschach inspired project}

In any case, right now, I feel like I’m more of an artist than a designer. But I am HOPING that I can one day have my own brand of products, and if that day ever comes, I will probably be more of a designer than an artist. Or ideally, somewhere right in the middle. I think that’s the sweet spot for me.

THANKS!! I HOPE SOMEONE READ THIS/ENJOYED THIS. MORE BLOG POSTS COMING SOON.

Personal Goals for the Next Year

By 3/31/18…

  1. Finish designing NYC poster
  2. Submit NYC poster to contest
  3. Fabricate NYC poster
  4. Sell NYC poster
  5. Design and look into fabricating Fruits! notebooks
  6. Make a band poster
  7. Re-design and clean up my design website!!
  8. Move to NYC (I’m commuting to work from NJ now)
  9. Go on a New Mexico roadtrip!
  10. Start planning my trip to Thailand
  11. GROW LONG HAIR

WILL FOLLOW UP NEXT YEAR.

FAVORITE ALBUMS (as of March 2017)

A couple weeks ago, I was out with a friend, and we somehow got on the subject of music. He asked me what my “top albums” were, and in that moment, I basically FORGOT LITERALLY EVERYTHING I KNEW and couldn’t even come up with anything! 

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve given this question some legitimate thought, so that next time I’m asked, I’ll ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT TO SAY (and it will be accurate). So, here it goes… in no particular order, here are MY FAVORITE ALBUMS AS OF MARCH 2017:

1. We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic — Foxygen

This album is gold. Currently OBSESSED. I first discovered Foxygen on Spotify — my friend suggested I listen to this song called “Lady, You Shot Me” by Har Mar Superstar (also good), and after checking that out, I clicked on Har Mar’s Related Artists. Foxygen was wayyyyy at the bottom of the Related Artists list, but the name intrigued me so much that I actually clicked on it (kudos on the band name I guess?). The first Foxygen song I listened to was “Shuggie.” INSTANTLY HOOKED. I think I had it on repeat at work for like 3 days straight. Once I got over that obsession, I checked out the rest of the album, AND MY LOVE ONLY GREW! My favorite songs are probably “No Destruction,” “Oh No,” and “San Francisco.” Can’t say I’m a big fan of Foxygen’s latest album Hang (it’s a bit too theatrical for me), but I saw them perform the whole thing live last Friday, and I definitely have more of an appreciation for it now. I’ll give it another listen and maybe it will grow on me! 

2. I Love You, Honeybear — Father John Misty

My friend Lauren suggested this album to me. Obsessed. LITERALLY OBSESSED. I think I could listen to “Chateau Lobby #4” on repeat for the rest of my life and be kind of ok with it. Now, I have to admit, for some reason, I pretty much despise the song “True Affection.” But that’s ok, because everything else on this album is sooooooo freaking good! I actually saw Father John Misty this past October at the New Yorker Festival. It wasn’t a concert—it was a “talk” with him—but he did end up singing “Holy Shit” at the end. His voice was so angelic and true to the album that it was honestly chilling. YOU COULD BASICALLY FEEL THE CHILLS REVERBERATING THROUGHOUT THE AUDIENCE. I would love to see him again live, but I think tickets to his show in Brooklyn this Spring are $80? We’ll see. On another note, I wonder if FJM would make fun of my overzealous use of the word “literally” on this blog (and in conversation)…oh well, I USE IT FOR EMPHASIS.

3. Melody’s Echo Chamber — Melody’s Echo Chamber

This album is PERFECTION, and I think it’s so underrated! I feel like everyone always freaks out over Tame Impala, but to me, THIS IS BETTER THAN ANY TAME IMPALA ALBUM EVER (…even though I do really like Currents). (For reference, in case you don’t know the connection, this album was produced by Kevin Parker). Ok, so, favorite song from this album is “I Follow You,” but a close second is “Mount Hopeless.” I love every single part of every single song on this album, and I’m excited for Melody’s next album, which is coming out next week!

4. Oracular Spectacular — MGMT

Gonna throw it back to junior year of high school and include Oracular Spectacular on here. This album is not only so good, but it’s also so nostalgic. I don’t know what it is about “Time to Pretend” but it honestly MAKES ME SAD because it’s so damn nostalgic! I used to think the whole Oracular Spectacular/nostalgia thing was just me, but I’m starting to realize that this album DOES THAT TO BASICALLY EVERYONE. EVEN MGMT THEMSELVES. In this one MGMT interview I watched, Andrew and Ben said “Time to Pretend” makes them sad too (so it’s basically totally a thing). Favorite songs from this album are “Time to Pretend” (obvi), “The Youth,” “Weekend Wars,” and “The Handshake.” Also, this isn’t included on the list, but honorable mention to Congratulations. I know some people who weren’t crazy about it, but I actually really like that album too, especially the song “Siberian Breaks.”

5. Miracle Mile — STRFKR

STRFKR is probably my favorite band. I like pretty much everything by them, but I’m going to go ahead and choose Miracle Mile for this list, cause it’s currently my favorite of the favorites. I love STRFKR not only because of their music, but also because the guys in the band seem so DOWN TO EARTH and chill and friendly. Like, just watch this interview and TRY NOT TO FALL IN LOVE. Ok??

6. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix — Phoenix

Ok, so I’m not super obsessed with this right now, but I went through a hardcore Phoenix phase a couple years ago. It was honestly pretty hardcore. I think I listened to this album on loop for like 3 months straight. Of all the wonderful albums on this list, I think this one takes the cake for being the most CLEAN AND EFFICIENT. Every song on this album just flows together, and it all just MAKES PERFECT SENSE. Another reason I love this album is because it’s really inspiring for my graphic design work, since the songs feel really colorful and punchy (which is pretty much exactly my aesthetic). This isn’t mentioned on the list, but honorable mention to Phoenix’s latest album Bankrupt! (and basically everything else by them). I’m hoping to get tickets to their Philadelphia show for this June! This will be Phoenix’s first time touring in the US since 2014! I’ve been waiting years for this!

7/8. Vampire Weekend & Contra – Vampire Weekend

I knew I needed to include something by Vampire Weekend on this list, but I couldn’t choose between Vampire Weekend and Contra, so I’m going to include both (I also love their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City, but I guess not as much as these two?). Ok, so you know how I said Oracular Spectacular makes me nostalgic? Well, both of these albums make me really nostalgic too, but in a really specific way. They almost make me nostalgic for something I DIDN’T EVEN EXPERIENCE….does that make sense?? All the references to Massachusetts, and campuses, and the fact that they all met at Columbia, and their preppy image, make me nostalgic for that time I went to college on a big campus (which literally never happened). DOES ANYONE ELSE FEEL THIS WAY?? On another note, I’m really looking forward to new stuff by Vampire Weekend, but I’m also a little worried I’ll be let down, since Rostam left the band. Apparently, he’s still contributing though, so maybe it won’t be too different.

So, there are my current favorite albums! There are so many individual songs that I love that are not included on these albums, so maybe I’ll do a separate post on my favorite songs one day. I love discovering new music, so let me know if you have any suggestions! 

In Love…SHOULD YOU FOLLOW YOUR BRAIN OR YOUR HEART?

I’m almost 25 years old, and I’m starting to get to that “special age” where people (extended family members, older coworkers, random people at the dental office, etc.) are asking me if I have a boyfriend.

When I tell them that I don’t, they oftentimes share words of reassurance with me, and offer to set me up with someone such as their “nice nephew with a full time job.” Now, I get that these people are just trying to be nice and help, but whenever something like this happens to me, it honestly really freaking bothers me. Because it feels like these people are pitying me, and acting as if the only reason I don’t have a boyfriend is because no man on the planet likes me. PUHLEASE, if I wanted a boyfriend like your nice nephew, I could probably have one.

I say this with total confidence because I know of a few extremely nice, intelligent, caring guys that have recently expressed genuine interest in me. My brain tells me that these guys are complete catches, and I should probably go out with one of them before someone else snatches them up. But I just can’t bring myself to do it, because my brain and my heart never seem to be on the same page.

As you can see in the diagram I made below (I have a life I swear…), my brain tells me that I should go for a nice, hard-working, successful guy with similar core values. My heart, on the other hand, tells me I should basically go out with a rock star. Unfortunately, Dave Grohl appears to be the only man in the universe in the intersecting part of the Venn Diagram, and he’s ridiculously famous, married, and has three children (no biggie).

It seems my brain and heart have been on different pages my entire life. Like most young girls, I always seemed to have a thing for the “bad boys” at school. But now, unlike most girls my age, I haven’t seemed to fully outgrow it, and at almost 25, I’m not sure if I ever truly will. I want someone that satisfies both my heart and my brain, but right now, looking at all the people I’m meeting, it feels like I have to choose one or the other.

The question is: do I follow my brain, and try to date someone nice, and see if I surprise myself? Maybe it won’t feel like settling after all? Or do I follow my heart, in the hopes that my own Dave Grohl exists somewhere in the world, waiting for me? PLEASE ADVISE. (ALSO, IF YOU KNOW WHERE I CAN FIND PPL IN THE INTERSECTING PART OF THE DIAGRAM, PLEASE ADVISE ON THAT TOO. KTHXBYE.)

The Fun I Never Had in College

I have always been, and always will be, a “good girl.” But as my friend Bryan likes to say, I can easily be pushed over the edge to my more “wild side” by the right person…

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I’ve never really been the type to have a big group (or shall we say “squad”) of friends, but growing up, I pretty much always had one really close best friend at any given moment. 

“Best friend” means different things to different people. To some, a best friend is someone you can always rely on, someone you can tell all your problems to, someone who is always there. While I of course look for these things in any friendship, my best friendships haven’t necessarily been characterized by qualities like loyalty or dedication, but rather, by laughter. What has separated my best friends from simply my friends in the past has been how weird, silly, and hysterical we get together. 

In early high school, my best friend and I were so wild together that we actually got fired from our jobs as camp counselors (yes, I know this is probably shocking to most people…I was indeed fired from a job at one point in my life…but the camp let me work in the arts & crafts department instead…so it basically totally worked in my favor). In late high school, a different best friend and I were so weird together that we would write creepy love notes to this one totally random guy from my high school, and leave them at his house. We’d also do drive-bys past the house on a regular basis. What makes this whole situation even weirder is that neither of us even liked the guy. We were just having absolute, pure fun—the kind that results in uncontrollable laughter. We were so bizarre together that someone even kind of wrote a song about it. 

When I first got accepted to Cooper Union, I expected to meet a new best friend, or, if I was lucky, maybe even several of them, who I could take over the city with. I imagined getting dolled up (basically my favorite activity) and hitting up the town together, flirting with boys from ALL three schools (art, architecture, and engineering), and, of course, studying/freaking out to the point of fun delirium when it came to exam time. I thought my life would become some sort of mashup between The Big Bang Theory and Sex and the City.  

But, then, it never really happened. 

I didn’t make a best friend in college. In fact, I didn’t really make close friends in general. To be fair, there were a couple core guys I studied with, and a couple guys I dated, and those experiences were fun in their own ways. But during those four years, I didn’t meet a single girl I connected with in the same way I had with some of my middle school and high school friends. And without that close girlfriend/partner-in-crime/wing-woman figure, I didn’t take advantage of the city, or get into the shenanigans I thought I would, during college.

Oddly enough, my lack of a best friend (and the associated shenanigans) didn’t really bother me while I was actually in it. While I was in college, I was so caught up with schoolwork, studying, and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, that I didn’t even really notice the…idk…HUGE discrepancy between my expectations and the reality of the experience. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized, “Shit. I just finished college, and that was it?!

I started to feel like I had this four-year window of opportunity to have fun and get a bunch of stuff out of my system, and suddenly it was over, and I hadn’t even cracked open the window. I felt like I had lost my chance, and could only make up for it by either doing something extreme, like moving to a new city (I can’t be the only person who’s ever thought that moving to London would solve ALL my problems), or doing something extremely free-spirited, like hostel-hopping in some other part of the world for an extended period of time. I figured I didn’t even have much time to do these sorts of “make-up” things either, before I would seem like a tragic cougar suffering from Peter Pan syndrome. Plus I didn’t even know if I had the guts to.

I talked to my parents about some of my frustrations, and they helped bring me back down to earth. They made me realize that maybe I was being too idealistic and romantic about college, and youth in general, and that while my college experience wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t terrible either (plus it was free). I came to terms with that, and moved on.

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About a year ago, I began looking for a new job. I was working at a big construction company at the time, as a civil cost estimator, and for reasons I can discuss in another post, it wasn’t for me. Towards the end of my college experience, I became very interested in design, technology, and entrepreneurship, and those interests kept growing in the years that followed, so I decided to look for jobs at startups.

Though I had pretty much come to terms with my college years, while applying to startups, I did have an inkling of hope that I could work somewhere fun, or at the very least, somewhere where I could meet new friends.

Last June, I started a new job at a startup called Market Realist. There are so many things I could say about the switch professionally. To keep things simple, I’ll just say this: career-wise, this switch was one of the best decisions of my life. And socially…well, I might not have had much luck in college, but here, I hit the jackpot!

After years of getting used to life without a super close best friend, I met one! At this job! And finally, at 24 years old, I’m having all the fun that I never had in college with a crazy-ass wing-woman who is up for LITERALLY anything (literally), and basically my separated-at-birth twin. I honestly feel like I’ve had enough laughs and fun in the last 9 months to make up for the last 6 years (see a small sampling of photos below), and I didn’t have to move away, or go back to school, or do anything extreme. 

During the last 9 months, I’ve realized that there actually isn’t a “window of opportunity” to have fun in life, like I once thought there was. Life can always be fun—I think you just have to surround yourself with the right people (see this post for help on that), and stay open to changing things up and trying new experiences. Even if you’re older than me, or married, or settled down, I think it’s totally possible to make small changes to do this, and it’s never “too late” (so don’t feel bad if it didn’t happen in college or wherever). This is especially easy if you live in or around New York City, where there’s live music, free museum tickets, trivia challenges, professional panel discussions (that make you feel like a corporate debutant…) and a bunch of other cool stuff LITERALLY every night. 

Last month, our startup’s developers visited from Argentina (basically a bunch of dudes), and while they were in town, we went out every night with them. One night, we sang karaoke until 3 am, and were all back in the office by 9 the next morning. I worked every day that week (and was busy AF if I remember correctly), but after it was all over, I felt oddly refreshed, like I had just returned from a vacation. But I hadn’t taken any days off, left Manhattan, or even spent much money. New York City, the city that kind of let me down in college, looks totally different to me now. Thank god I never ended up in London! 

 

I’m Not Creepy, I Just Have a Really Good Memory

I’m going to give you a totally hypothetical situation here:

Let’s say you’re watching the television show “Entourage.”

You think to yourself, “Wow, Adrian Grenier is really attractive.” You’re curious, so you look him up on Wikipedia. You find out that he was born in New Mexico, is 8% Native American, and his dad’s last name is Dunbar, among other things.

MTIwNjA4NjM0MjI2NDQzNzg4{Adrian Grenier – very attractive and 8% Native American FYI} 

Months pass, and then one day, this actor somehow comes up in conversation. Because it’s relevant, you find yourself spewing out the Wikipedia information, freakishy almost word for word from the original article. Suddenly, you feel creepy. You feel like you need to defend yourself for knowing all these oddly specific facts about a total stranger off the top of your head. “That’s funny, I just happened to look him up on Wikipedia a day ago or something,” you say, for damage control purposes.

I’ve found myself in situations like this wayyy too many times. But I’m not creepy, I just have a really good memory! And on top of having a really good memory, I’m highly detail oriented and observant.

In addition to remembering a ton of random facts (usually personal facts about people I don’t even really know tbh), I see really specific things that most people wouldn’t. If I’m talking to a person and they have three gray hairs, a mole on their neck, and their fly is open, I’ll notice, and I’ll remember. It’s not that I’m looking at people’s crotches or faces or hair trying to find these things (believe me, I’m not). It’s not that I’m a judgmental person who tries to “size people up” while speaking with them. It’s not even like I say anything when I see these things. I simply just can’t help but notice!

If you’re anything like me, and have an ultra observant eye combined with a really good memory, and feel self-conscious about your “creepiness” at times—don’t fret. I have listed some tips here for people like us:

  1. Own It: If you’ve already spewed out information that could be deemed “creepy,” there’s no turning back. You’ve said the info. At this point, you’re just going to have to own it. You shouldn’t really feel the need to defend yourself, but if you do, just simply state your sources. Knowing detailed information actually won’t make you seem that creepy. Getting overly defensive and lying about your sources will.
  1. Take Pride: I feel like being detailed oriented sometimes gets a bad rap. But it’s actually a totally AWESOME skill to have. I love detailed oriented people. Working with them is a pleasure. The next time you remember, notice, or blurt out a really specific detail about a person or thing, instead of feeling like a weirdo, give yourself some props for knowing this random little nugget of information (that would probably fly past most peoples’ heads).
  1. Understand that the word “creepy” is wildly overused in this day and age: The word “creepy” is so overused today that it has basically lost all of its meaning (at least to me). Knowing the names and faces of a random facebook friend’s family members actually isn’t that creepy. People post and share stuff on platforms like facebook so that other people (aka YOU) will see it. Knowing that my dad’s name is Elliot and my younger brother used to live on an air mattress in my apartment isn’t creepy. Being a total stranger to me and reading this blog right now isn’t creepy. Doing a midnight drive-by past your crush’s house totally alone with a pair of binoculars IS creepy. Ok, people?!

Hope you enjoyed this one! Not sure what my next post will be…you’ll just have to wait and see!

Why I’ve Kind of Been Neglecting the Blog Lately

Hello everyone! So, I have a bunch of ideas for things to write about for the blog, but I haven’t posted in a few weeks. I usually think the excuse “I don’t have enough time” is BS, but this time, it’s really true! I just haven’t had enough time to write lately. But I plan on blogging more regularly again in a few weeks.

I had a lot of life changes in the last month. I left my first job out of college to do a complete industry change–I went from working in cost estimating at a huge construction company to working in advertising at a finance startup. I can explain a bit about why I did the industry change in a future post. I also moved out of my apartment in Queens last month and now am commuting to Manhattan from New Jersey. So far, everything is really good and I love my new job and living at home again! But, between the new job and the commuting, I have A LOT less free time on my hands! And, during the little free time that I have had in the last few weeks, I’ve been working on this logo project. Guys, designing logos is WAY HARDER THAN IT LOOKS!

Today, I plan on finishing up that logo, and I’ll hopefully get it posted up on the design website this weekend. After that, I have a whole list of other design projects to get to, which will probably take precedence over the blog. In any case, once everything is totally settled and get into the right groove, I should be posting on here more regularly. Let me know if you have any ideas for things to write about, or any advice questions that I can address on here. Thanks!

Movie Soundtracks & Scores I Like

One of my favorite sources of new music is FILM! Today I will be sharing some of my favorite movie soundtracks and scores. I’ve only included my top favorites here, but of course there are tons of other soundtracks, scores, and individual songs from movies that I really love. Maybe I’ll include them in a future post. I’m always on the lookout for new music, so let me know your favorites too and I’ll check them out!

  1. Pride & Prejudice: This soundtrack was composed by Dario Marianelli and performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the English Chamber Orchestra. It’s soooo good! Definitely reminds me of the English countryside. I was actually listening to this soundtrack while taking a walk in the park today and it was very picturesque.

  1. Amélie Soundtrack: Most songs from this soundtrack were composed by Yann Tiersen. I think this might be my all-time favorite movie soundtrack. Every song is amazing!! Check it out!

  1. Midnight in Paris Soundtrack: This soundtrack features various artists. I believe it was curated by Woody Allen, who wrote and directed the film, but I’m not 100% sure. I love this song which opens the movie:

  1. Up & Ratatouille Film Scores: Both of these film scores were composed by Michael Giacchino. What I love most about Pixar movies is how much emotion they evoke without dialogue. I think the music plays a big part in this. This one scene GETS ME EVERY TIME and the song goes perfectly with everything in it:

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack: This soundtrack was composed by Vince Guaraldi for the TV special. Even though it’s Christmas music, I enjoy listening to it all year round. My dad thinks many of these songs were inspired by Brazilian jazz. After listening more, I see what he means!

  1. Clueless Soundtrack: I love this movie, and the soundtrack is pretty awesome too! It features various artists and definitely gives off 90s vibes.

  1. Juno Soundtrack: Of course I like the Juno soundtrack! This soundtrack also features various artists. I just watched this movie two days ago for the first time since I saw it in theaters in 2007 and I forgot how good the soundtrack is.

  1. The Lizzie McGuire Movie Soundtrack: The Lizzie McGuire Movie never gets old! I’ve seen it way too many times and never get sick of it. I really like the soundtrack too. Again, various artists.

  1. The OC Mix 1/Mix 2: The OC was a TV show, not a movie, so maybe it shouldn’t be on this list. But I listen to the OC Mixes way too often to not give them a shoutout. You’ll definitely get California vibes from listening to them!

  1. 500 Days of Summer Soundtrack: I love this soundtrack featuring various artists! Every time I listen to “Us” by Regina Spektor, I immediately think of the opening scene of this movie. Wait, now I want to watch this movie right now haha.

Hope you enjoyed this! PLEASE LET ME KNOW ANY OTHER GOOD SOUNDTRACKS…I LOVE DISCOVERING NEW MUSIC!!! Thanks!

Why I Can’t Be a “Foodie”

Nothing against foodies, but I just don’t really get the whole phenomenon. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person under the age of 30 that feels this way. I will list some of the reasons why I can’t be a foodie below, and if anyone relates…let me know! We can go to a diner together one day and order burgers and fries or something.

Reasons Why I Can’t Be a Foodie

  1. I Eat Way Too Much Food to Be a Foodie

Foodies are first and foremost concerned with the quality of the food they are eating, not the quantity. For me, the priorities are basically reversed. No matter how delicious something is, if the quantity needed to sustain my ravenous appetite is not there, it’s not doing it for me. #QUANTITYOVERQUALITY

  1. I’m Not Calm Enough About Food to Be a Foodie

Did you ever notice that foodies are generally really calm about food? Like they eat their food really slowly and politely to savor it? Me? For some reason, I’m a literal barbarian when it comes to food. Especially if I’m really hungry –then I definitely lose some of my human qualities and stuff gets weird. This probably isn’t a good thing, but I’m just keeping it real on this blog. I’m definitely not calm enough about food to be a foodie.

  1. I’m Too Cheap About Food to Be a Foodie

Maybe it’s because my mom cooked for my family every night as a kid, but going out to eat, or even getting takeout, seems like a bit of a “treat” to me—not something you do every day. I could probably afford to spend a little more money on food than I do, but I’m just not comfortable with it. Regardless of cost, it’s ingrained in my head that having someone else prepare food for me is kind of a luxury. Foodies seem to have no problem with going to restaurants or buying prepared food multiple times a week though. Quality food is very important to them, so they don’t mind making it a budgetary priority.

  1. I Honestly Don’t Mind Eating Questionable Food

I’m actually pretty picky about the types of food that I like. I don’t eat too much weird stuff. Chicken, pork, or beef? I’m cool with it. Whale? Alligator? DOG? I’m sorry, but I can’t. When it comes to stuff that I actually like though, pretty much anything goes. I’m not a snob about it. For example, I like pizza. Whether you give me a $1 frozen Celeste personal pie, a slice that’s been sitting behind the glass wall of a Ray’s Pizza for 12 hours, or some delicacy prepared by a master chef from Italy, honestly…it’s all cool with me. I mean, like anyone else, I have my preferences, but when it comes to stuff that I like, as long as it’s relatively edible, I’m in.

maxresdefault{Celeste Pizza…I’m down}

  1. I Don’t Have a Yelp Account

I feel like it takes a certain kind of personality to pretend you work for the NY Times Food & Wine section and write critical yelp reviews, and that’s just not me. So that’s another major reason why I can’t be a foodie.

Damage Control:

I wasn’t trying to judge foodies here, I was just trying to explain why I can’t be a foodie. There’s nothing wrong with foodies. If anything, they’re probably one evolutionary level ahead of barbarians like me. But in all seriousness, non-foodies like myself are not less intelligent or less sophisticated than their counterparts. They just have a different relationship with food.

How to Naturally Meet New Friends and Significant Others

In my last post, I claim that you can ALWAYS make new friends. But making new friends isn’t as easy as it sounds. The same goes for meeting new significant others. I definitely do not know all the answers here, but I’ll give some advice on how to go about doing these things from my own personal experiences.

This may sound cliché, but I really believe it’s true:

To naturally meet new friends and/or significant others, simply start doing things that make you happy.

51RDpXB6hSL._SY300_

I’m going to explain three ways you can meet new people you like by doing things that make you happy:

  1. You can meet people directly from doing things that make you happy

This one is pretty simple. Let’s say you really love…soccer! But you don’t play anymore because you don’t have the time, or you don’t have friends that are up for playing with you.

Well, first of all, 99.9% of the time, the excuse “you don’t have the time” is utter bullshit. You probably do have the time, and you’re just not making the time. If you’re reading this right now, then you DEFINITELY have the time, because not only are you spending precious minutes of your day on sarahgrand.wordpress.com, you probably accessed this blog through facebook, which you were probably wasting time on before clicking the link to this post. So that takes care of that. You have the time issue settled.

Now let’s say you don’t have any friends that are into soccer enough to actually want to play with you. If that’s the case, then I suggest you spend, I don’t know, THIRTY MINUTES one day looking up soccer leagues in your area. Unless you live in the rural regions of Siberia or something, I’m pretty sure you can find one within reasonable distance of your work or home. Ta da! You join a league, you’re doing something you love, that’s healthy for your body, WITH other people, who have at least one similar interest, who could potentially become friends or significant others, or introduce you to friends or significant others, and so on and so forth.

Maybe this hypothetical situation seems a little too perfect for you. I get it. It’s not like every time you try something new, all this great stuff is going to happen. But you have more of a chance of something good happening in your life if you try new things than if you stay inside your hermit cave of an apartment and mope around. What’s the worst that could happen? You get in a little better shape?

Maybe this situation seems like a really great idea to you, but you’re just way too shy and/or socially awkward to join a new group or activity alone. This is basically me. When I want to go to an event or join a new group thing, I usually try to coerce a friend to accompany me to act as an awkwardness buffer. Sometimes this works, sometimes this doesn’t. It didn’t work when I joined the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) almost a year ago. I couldn’t convince any of my friends to join with me because none of my friends are into graphic design (understandable). I somehow still built up the courage to join the society on my own though.

I go to AIGA events alone pretty frequently. Even though most of them are panel discussions where you can basically slip in without anyone seeing you, I still get nervous sometimes to show up solo. But it’s getting better. Generally the more times you do something, the more conditioned you get.

I’ve been kind of able to overcome the hurdle, but for some people, going to events alone is just not an option. It’s too anxiety-inducing. If you’re one of these people, that’s totally fine and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. While I think it’s good to get out of your comfort zone (see “The Benefits of Being Single”), the whole point of this post is to encourage you to do things that make you happy. If joining a group activity or going to an event alone (even in an area that you love) is going to make you so anxious and nervous that you won’t be able to act like a normal human being at said group activity/event and won’t be happy there, then maybe it’s not the best idea for you. See method #2 as an alternative.

  1. You can meet people indirectly from doing things that make you happy

When you ask people for advice on how to meet new friends or significant others, they usually suggest doing things like those I mentioned in method #1: join a club or an activity, go to events or just out more in general, use a dating app or meetup.com, etc. While these are probably the most direct ways to meet new people, as I mentioned earlier, they’re not for everyone, especially really shy people. And that’s fine! I personally kind of fall into this group. Right now, I’m decently comfortable with going to AIGA events alone, but I don’t know if I’m at solo “meetup.com” level yet. That’s pretty intense.

Even if I was less awk, it just turns out that most of the stuff that makes me really happy is kind of isolating—like writing or design. I’m not really into group sports or stuff like that. And I have no real desire to join any meetup groups. Whether you’re really shy or your passions are on the more isolating side, or both, understand that it’s possible to meet people indirectly from doing things that make you happy, even if the things that make you happy aren’t necessarily interactive.

Let me explain by using this blog as an example.

I started writing on this blog again because I got some positive feedback on this inspirational “Anyone Can Cook” post on my design website. Getting that feedback made me realize that it actually makes me really happy to share my thoughts, give advice, and help people through my writing. So I started to write again.

Writing makes me happy, but it’s generally a totally solo activity. Starting this blog again, I had no expectations to meet anyone new or gain new friendships from it. The thought didn’t even cross my mind. But since making my first new post less than a week ago, four people (that I’m not even that close to) have privately messaged me to tell me they really like what I have to say! And those reach-outs lead to short chats. And two of those short chats lead to plans to catch up in person.

I’m not necessarily going to become BFFs with any of the people that messaged me—I might not even ever speak to some of them again. But this example just goes to show you that sometimes, when you do stuff that makes you happy precisely because it makes you happy, and have no ulterior motives, other stuff gets accomplished in the process. I hope that makes sense. Basically, things have a funny way of working themselves out when you start following your heart more. So go ahead and do it already!

Having no ulterior motives is something I want to briefly discuss before I move onto method #3. If you join a hiking group just because you want to meet a burly mountain man or lumbersexual, you probably won’t. I mean you might, but I suspect the chances are pretty slim. I don’t know the psychological reasoning behind this, and frankly I’m a bit curious about it, but that’s just the way it seems to go (at least for me). If you join a hiking group because you legitimately like hiking and would consistently show up to the group even if there were no prospects of meeting anyone new there, then I think you have a better shot of meeting new people you like there. So make sure you’re doing things that actually make you happy, and not things that make your imaginary dream man or woman or friends happy.

Finally, there is one last way that doing things that make you happy can help you meet people you like.

  1. You can attract new friends and/or significant others with your happiness (which you have because you’re doing things that make you happy) 

When I was going through my rut junior year of college (which you can read a bit more about here), I started doing more creative things. And that’s when things started falling into place.

It wasn’t even that I just started meeting new people that I liked. Weird stuff started happening. Stars were aligning. I got a new internship, I lost some weight, I started looking better, gaining more confidence, and trying new things. I think all this good stuff started happening simply because I became a happier person overall, by finally making my creative hobbies a priority in my life. Before that, I had just drowned myself in engineering schoolwork, neglected my other passions, and basically decided I was just going to be miserable for the rest of my life.

Happy people are attractive. If you’re smiling and in a good mood, you literally give off a special energy that other people want to be around. I know this is true from my personal experience. Once I started doing things that made me happy, I suddenly felt like guys were actually interested in me (wait WHAT?), and that’s also when I started making new friends. Aside from having a glow and attracting people to you, being happy also gives you a more open mind. You’ll become more open to befriending people or dating people that you might have turned down in a more negative state.

TL;DR

Start doing things that make you happy. Stuff will start working out. You’ll start meeting new friends and significant others, among other good things.

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!!

How to Deal with Shitty Friends

I’m almost 24 years old, and for the first time probably since like 1st grade, I actually genuinely like all of my friends. For real. I’m so happy! This might sound a little sad to you at first. But think about it– do you like all of your friends?

o-martin-starr-freaks-and-geeks-facebookjpg-44fd47_1280w{My favorite television friendship – Freaks and Geeks}

For one reason or another, we often find ourselves in friendships with people we don’t actually really like that much. You may be doubting your friendship with a single person, or your entire social circle (cue major life crisis). To keep things simple, let’s say there’s just one friend in your life that’s a bit questionable at the moment. You may have:

  • Liked this person when you first met them, but they’ve changed
  • Never liked this person, but they somehow became involved in your social group, and you’re now forced to hang out with them
  • Have always felt a bit questionable about this person, but went along with the friendship because you don’t have many other options. This person may not be perfect, but at least they’re someone to hang out with

Whatever your pathway to this situation is, life’s too short to get upset or frustrated over shitty friends. I’ve listed some tips for dealing with these people below:

  1. Just accept the fact that a lot of people are totally oblivious to their own rudeness. If I’m late to something, leave someone hanging, flake on plans, don’t hold up on a promise, or just do something plain weird and uncalled for, I feel bad. I explain myself. I apologize. I try not to do it again. Sad to say, but this sort of self-awareness of inconsiderate behavior is actually pretty hard to find in other people. I’m convinced that some humans are missing a “caring sensor” in their brain or something. Pointing out rude behavior to people missing the sensor really won’t make any difference because their brain literally does not understand or register that it is rude. That being said, just because a person is totally oblivious to their own rudeness doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, or even a bad friend. Friends don’t have to be perfect. As I’ll explain later, you can have different friends for different things. As long as a friend isn’t causing you excessive amounts of negative energy or rage, I think it’s okay to accept some dubious behavior. If you’re not willing to accept anything other than perfection, you might end up alone in a basement building peanut butter castles one day, because most people (besides you and your immediate family) are honestly a little bit weird.
  2. Assess the positivity to negativity ratio: I came up with the phrase “assess the positivity to negativity ratio” off the top of my head just now, and I’m honestly kind of digging it. Maybe I’ll write a self-help book called that one day. Anyways, as I mentioned in my last point, as long as a friend isn’t causing you excessive amounts of negative energy or rage, I think it’s okay and normal to accept some questionable behavior. But what if a friend does start causing excessive amounts of negative energy or rage in your life? At that point, it might be best to assess the positivity to negativity ratio. Think about the positive things this person brings to your life – fun, companionship, wingwoman-ship, etc. Then, think about the negative things – frustration, gossip, hurt feelings, etc. If the negative things outweigh the positive things (i.e. the positivity to negativity ratio is off), it might be time for a friendship breakup. I discuss three methods of friendship breakup below:
    1. The Selective Friendship Breakup: As I mentioned earlier, you can have different friends for different things. A friend might be really fun at the bar or in groups, but totally rage-inducing one-on-one. In the Selective Friendship Breakup, you don’t cut this person out of your life, but rather, vow to only spend time with them in the situations where you have positive experiences with them. Note: this only works if you actually keep the vow.
    2. The Gradual Friendship Breakup: In the Gradual Friendship Breakup, you do cut this person out of your life, but slowly and non-obviously. I recommend this method for long-distance friendships or intermittent-friendships (where you can basically pretend distance, work, or other external factors caused the breakup even though you’re actually orchestrating it). I’ve found that the Gradual Friendship Breakup doesn’t really work if you’re bound to run into the person you’re trying to escape from pretty frequently. No matter how much progress you make, every time you run into the person you’re trying to escape, you’re at great risk for going back to square one. The whole effort can easily become cyclic.
    3. The Cold Turkey Friendship Breakup: In the Cold Turkey Friendship Breakup, you literally just cut the questionable person out of your life. Some people (for example, my brother) do not agree with this method. Call me horrible, but I actually kind of like this one. It gets the job done, and that’s not exactly guaranteed with the other two. Plus it’s efficient. If you’re already frustrated with a person, you might not have the patience to successfully carry out the Selective or Gradual plans.
  3.  Understand that you can ALWAYS make new friends: Breaking up with friends is hard, sometimes even harder than breaking up with a significant other! But people change, outgrow each other, and sometimes weren’t even meant to be close in the first place. So, friendship breakups are a natural part of life, and oftentimes necessary for our health and happiness. If you sense it’s time to break up with a friend, or your entire social circle, but you’re scared to disrupt the comfort and familiarity of your current situation and make the move, remember this: You can ALWAYS make new friends. When one door closes, another one opens. I wouldn’t have gotten close to the good friends I have now if I had old shitty friends to fall back on all the time. I’m going to give my advice for naturally meeting new friends and significant others in my next post, and this might help if you’re scared to make the move.
  4. If it’s meant to be, it will be: Friendship breakups aren’t necessarily permanent, even if you use the Cold Turkey method. If you’re truly meant to be friends with a person, you’ll reconnect after a breakup. Sometimes all you need to repair a friendship is some time apart. If it’s meant to be, it will be.

Stay tuned for my next post: “How to Naturally Meet New Friends and Significant Others.”

 

I Don’t Believe in Guilty Pleasures

fdoyb3l

Like Dave Grohl, I don’t believe in guilty pleasures.

You ever hear someone say something like “Pop music is my guilty pleasure,” or “Reality TV is my guilty pleasure”?

I don’t understand what there is to be guilty about.

If my brain enjoys listening to a certain song, then I like it. Doesn’t matter if it’s mainstream or disposable. I won’t be ashamed to admit I dig it.

If I find a television show entertaining, then I like it. I’m very open about the fact that I keep Real Housewives running constantly on the TV in my apartment.

If someone is going to judge your intelligence based on what sort of entertainment you like, what sort of hobbies you take up, or really anything else you enjoy, then they’re probably insecure themselves. “Guilty pleasures” are BS– I removed that term from my vocabulary years ago, and you should too!

I Miss the Old HoNY

Is it just me, or is Humans of New York getting kind of annoying?

I used to love Humans of New York. I was even ON Humans of New York once, and the photographer (Brandon Stanton) was extremely nice. I actually ran into him over a year after he took my photo, and he even remembered my name and our conversation. Clearly, he’s a standup guy. And I give him serious kudos for having the bravery to start this whole thing. My article today is NOT a personal attack on Brandon or his character. Rather, it’s a critique of the blog and a discussion of its evolution.

484756_421513211256118_1892070522_n{That time I was on HoNY – February 2013}

According to the About Section on the HoNY website, Humans of New York began as a photography project with the goal to “photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants.” And that’s just what it was in the beginning—a catalogue of New Yorkers. It seemed like anyone in the city had a chance of being featured. I mean, I did have to coerce Brandon into taking my photo when I first ran into him (I’ll discuss this in a future post), but nevertheless I made it onto the site in early 2013. I may not be the most interesting person in the world, but I am a New Yorker, and probably pretty relatable to a lot of other New Yorkers out there.

If I ran into Brandon today, instead of three-and-a-half years ago, I’m not sure I’d be able to convince him to feature me. These days, it seems like HoNY has an agenda. It’s no longer just a catalogue. Every photo and associated “story” seems like it’s trying to make a statement. When I first ran into Brandon, totally caught off guard and on my way to school, I had no statement ready. What came out of my mouth was probably nonsense, but at least it wasn’t scripted.

I understand that to stay afloat, businesses need to evolve. I understand that, had HoNY stayed the same and not crossed over to the story realm, it might have dissolved. I understand that HoNY has raised tons of money for charities and good causes and spread a lot of awareness on important issues. I think these are all great things. But, is it so bad to say that I miss the old HoNY? I miss the catalogue. I miss the short snippets. I miss not feeling guilty or pressured to help all the time.

These feelings aren’t exclusive to HoNY. In general, I miss entertainment for entertainment’s sake. I feel like almost everything these days has some sort of message attached. And, in the rare case that something doesn’t have a direct message attached, my god, it’s overanalyzed to the point that there becomes one. It’s exhausting.

As a result of the current climate of social justice, I feel like everyone is in some sort of competition to show how accepting they are, how righteous they are, and how progressive they are. Obviously I think it’s good to be accepting, righteous, and progressive. But I can’t help but wonder how genuine certain sentiments are. For example, many top HoNY comments seemed contrived and “holier than thou” to me. I don’t buy it. Maybe I’m a downer or a teensny bit evil inside. But I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

Let me know your thoughts. I’ve been itching to have this conversation about HoNY for a while now. Stayed tuned or follow my blog for tomorrow’s article, “I’m Not Creepy, I Just Have a Really Good Memory.”

{Final note: I doubt this will ever reach Brandon, but in the rare event that it does, I want to apologize. I have had haters in my day, and they suck. But I’m not hating, just reflecting on the current climate of social justice, and some of the phoniness I feel is associated with it. I am truly grateful that you let me chew your ear off for a half hour and eventually gave in to my persistence and took my photo. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. -Sarah}

The Benefits of Being Single

Of course, I would like to have a boyfriend; like most human beings, I like being in a relationship. But yesterday, while putting new ink in my printer, it dawned on me that there are some benefits to being single.

gvvdvzq{Solid chunk of ink…pretty cool, right?}

If you know anything about me, you know that I love my printer. It’s not just a regular printer—it’s a very nice laser color printer that I use to make my printed design work (sarahgrand.com #shamelessplug). I first got my printer in September 2014, when I was still in a relationship with my now ex-boyfriend. Luckily for me, the printer arrived in the mail the very same day he happened to be visiting from Boston. It was a Friday, and that night, instead of going out and doing something more exciting, we stayed in to set up the printer.

I was super adamant about getting the printer set up that Friday because I knew we’d be going out on Saturday and Sunday, and it had to be up and running before he left, because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it myself.

Let me repeat that: I didn’t think I’d be able to do it myself.

We’re talking about a PRINTER here. I have an engineering degree. Granted, my printer may be a bit larger and more complex that your average at-home unit, but seriously, it’s a printer. Not only are printers generally pretty intuitive to set up, they come with something called a manual (not to mention all of the online forums and tutorials available for this particular model).

I had a boyfriend pretty much all throughout college, and before that, I lived at home with my parents. In high school, whenever some sort of new or unpleasant task came up, I had my mom or dad on call to handle it:

  • Bug in the room – Call Dad
  • Car/Miscellaneous Tech Issues – Call Dad
  • Emotional Support/Venting – Call Mom
  • Money Stuff (like setting up a debit card or credit card) – Call Mom

You get the idea.

In college, whoever I was dating sort of took on this role. It wasn’t that I bossed these guys around; it was more that it just seemed natural to me to get help in areas that weren’t exactly my forte, you know? And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s normal to want help or moral support, especially when dealing with tasks you’re not totally comfortable or familiar with.

What I think was wrong about this situation was that I thought I couldn’t do certain things alone that, realistically, weren’t even that challenging (like setting up a printer).

It wasn’t until I became single and moved away from home that I realized I can pretty much do anything on my own, without help from anyone. It wasn’t until I became single and moved away from home that I realized, “I’ve got this.”

During the past year and a half of single-dom in Queens, I’ve:

  • Put new ink in my printer
  • Gone to the mechanic multiple times on my own and sorted out car issues
  • Driven on 4+ hour long car rides to Boston and the Adirondacks (and parallel parked)
  • Set up new furniture in the apartment
  • Planned multiple weekend trips
  • Stayed at a hostel by myself (and made friends with strangers in the common room)
  • Gone to MULTIPLE design events alone, designed a bunch of stuff with no help and no feedback, and got a new website up and running
  • Gone to sleep countless nights without recounting the details of my day to someone

…and a bunch of other stuff.

I understand that, alone, none of these things are anything to be exceptionally proud of. I get that something like parallel parking isn’t a big deal to most people – especially to city natives. But altogether, they show me I’m self-sufficient now, and that’s something I am proud of. I never felt this way when I had someone by my side, always there to help or, if nothing else, to offer moral support. I feel more confident now – more willing to take on challenges – at work, in my hobbies, and in my personal life. I don’t think I would have felt this way, at least not so soon, had I stayed in a relationship.

Quickly, some other benefits of being single include:

  • Getting to do whatever you want during your free time
  • Being able to get dolled up and flirt with a bunch of guys for fun (without feeling guilty you’re doing some really mild form of cheating)
  • Feeling like there’s so much of the unknown ahead of you. I have no idea who I’ll end up with, what they’ll be like, and how they’ll change my life. It’s pretty cool to know that’s all ahead of me, yet to be discovered.

So, if you’re single like me, realize all of the positive things about your situation, and how much you’re growing!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s article, which will be called “I Don’t Believe in Guilty Pleasures.” Thanks!

Your Kind of Smart

I have been an overachiever all my life. One of my earliest memories is of my pre-school teacher holding up a drawing I made of a Christmas tree for the whole class to see. “Everyone, try to make a tree like Sarah’s” she said, as I looked down and smiled. I continued to get similar praises during my elementary and middle school years.

Up until high school, I actually really liked being an overachiever. Kids have this sort of naïve confidence about themselves. If I worked hard on something, I was excited to show it off. If I scored well at school, I felt proud and smart. I was never ashamed or embarrassed of my work ethic and genuine enthusiasm for projects.

All of this changed on an unsuspecting fall day during my sophomore year of high school. I was walking around the track during gym period, when suddenly, a peer of mine ran up to tell me that class rankings were just announced, and I was tied with a few people for number one. Boy, she didn’t look too thrilled. I remember it like it was yesterday. I would soon learn that a lot of other people weren’t too thrilled, either.

1526505_10151919787298977_260859689_n{Me in 2008, aged 16}

Before I move on, let me back up a bit here. Yes, I overachieved at school, and probably cared way more than the average teenager about projects, grades, studying, and the like. But it was never like I had an agenda. I wasn’t trying to get to the top of my class, or even accepted into a dream college. And even if I was, so what? I was just doing my thing, and working hard and trying my best are part of my nature. I don’t half-ass anything, even stuff I’m not passionate about or particularly interested in. That’s just the way I am.

Being that I didn’t even know rankings were a thing at the time, the news that I was tied for number one came as much a surprise to me as it did to everyone else. Up until this point, I had been able to mind my own business at school, but suddenly, I was thrown into the spotlight. And for the first time ever, I had haters.

Haters are a funny thing. Sometimes you don’t have to do anything remotely mean or wrong to get them. My haters thought I didn’t deserve to be number one because there were “naturally smarter” people in my year, and they made that crystal clear to me for the remainder of my high school experience.

To be fair, as mean as these bullies were, they had some valid points. There were a few of those “laid-back genius” types in my grade (you know…those kids who don’t even have to crack open a book or take down notes to ace physics exams), and god knows I’m not one of them. I am able to excel at almost everything I do, but sometimes I have to work at it. So, if school rankings are supposed to be some sort of measure of “natural intellect,” then yes, maybe there should have been a few people ahead of me. Though I consider myself a sharp girl, I’m not a genius, and I’ve never claimed to be one; what bothered me about this whole situation was not that I thought I deserved to be number one. It was how black and white my bullies made the notion of “smartness” out to be.

To them, a person was either “naturally smart” or a “hard worker,” and there was no in-between. Naturally smart people didn’t need to study or do homework to succeed, and they scoffed at grades and the “limiting school system.” Hard workers, on the other hand, were sheep guised as intelligent individuals, totally incapable of doing anything beyond their structured duties. They lacked substance and passion.

Though I think this “reasoning” is absolute bogus now, as a teenager, I really let it affect me. I started believing that just because I worked hard and put effort into my schooling, I was unintelligent. I began to attribute all of my achievements to external factors, rather than my own personal abilities. I began hiding my enthusiasm for school projects, downplaying how much I studied, and pressuring myself to not take notes in class, even when I really wanted to. These behaviors might seem silly to some, and I even cringe looking back at some of my more pathetic moments, but I know I wasn’t the only one feeling this way and doing these things.

I remember observing people during class, peering around the room to see if other people were taking notes before they’d put their pen down to paper. I remember listening to countless exaggerations of how little people studied for exams, the SAT, or AP tests. I felt like everyone was in some sort of competition to see who cared the least about school, while simultaneously caring a lot about school? Weird times. And though I saw all this going on around me, I felt like no one was willing to have an honest conversation about it. Perhaps my high school was the only hell hole where this culture existed, but I doubt it.

It took quite a bit of time, but I eventually stopped feeling unintelligent and worthless, and I have grown to not only accept, but also love being an overachiever and, dare I say, a perfectionist? (another touchy word from my high school times).

I think part of getting over it came with age. As you get older, you simply stop giving a crap about what other people think, and get a clearer vision of your strengths and weaknesses. Another large part of getting over it came with realizing that “smartness” is not as black and white as my bullies made it out to be.

As I said before, I’m not a genius. Of course, sometimes I still envy those people who can gracefully absorb really complicated stuff through listening alone. Of course I think it would be awesome to, I don’t know, be the next Albert Einstein or something. But the truth is, I will never be that kind of smart. Still, my kind of smart is just as important.

My kind of smart is that I’m highly efficient, organized, clear-headed, and ambitious. I might not be able to understand every really complicated concept as fast as a laid-back genius, but give me some sample problems and a few hours, and I’ll pick that stuff up quickly and be raring to go the next time I see a similar problem. I’m the girl you go to if you want something done right, on time, and without a headache. Though I think I’m a more of a detail-oriented person by nature, I’ve been taking on more “big picture” tasks at work, and through practice and experience, succeeding at those too, and really enjoying them.

What’s your kind of smart?

Regardless of what it is, there’s really no point in feeling inferior. A good team has people of all different types of smart. Sometimes you need a straight-out physics-type genius. Sometimes you need a people-person that’s socially smart. Sometimes, you need a total sleazeball to get a specific task done. I swear! There will always be a way to spin your “smartness” to bring a lot to the table.

Since this essay is geared towards hard workers, I just need to say: If you’re an overachiever like me, and at times feel embarrassed or ashamed of your work ethic, stop that thinking right now! People that take initiative and seek out work are so desirable in the workplace, and honestly pretty hard to come by.

And one more thing I have to say: just because you’re hard working, doesn’t mean you’re just a workhorse either. I know so many overachievers who also happen to be very passionate and creative. Not only do they have bright ideas, they also take action and follow through on their goals diligently. As Picasso once said, “Action is the foundational key to all success.” Just because you’re willing to work hard on pretty much anything does NOT mean you lack substance. Maybe you haven’t found your passions yet. I didn’t home in on my passions until I was 21. Or maybe your passion is working hard, and there’s nothing wrong with that either! I personally find almost any type of work to be fulfilling as long as I’m super involved and I feel needed. You could throw me into a startup about cars, and even though I don’t care much about cars right now, if the environment was super fast-paced and I had a lot of responsibility, I’d probably get really into it. I think this is why I enjoyed working on pretty much any school project as a kid, regardless of the subject.

To close this up, since you’re probably wondering, I didn’t end up being number one in high school. During my senior year, I got a B in gym class on purpose because I couldn’t take the bullying anymore. I understand why I did this, because I was young, impressionable, and going through a tough time. If dropping to number 3 was going to ease the hate, then I wanted to do that.

If I could go back to high school knowing what I know now though, I would handle some things a bit differently. Most notably, I would own it. I wouldn’t dampen my projects, restrain my note-taking, or act chill about tests I was secretly freaking out about. I would just be myself, do my best, share my work, and shamelessly overachieve.

The Art of the Hustle

In the About section of sarahgrand.com, I claim that “anything is possible with enough passion and ambition.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s true. If you learn the Art of the Hustle, the world will be at your fingertips.

I first discovered the Art of the Hustle the summer after my junior year of college.

Junior year of college was a rough time. I am perhaps a bit too gritty, and for the first 20.5 years of my life, I put my head down and worked ferociously without question. In elementary school, I worked hard so I could get into the Gifted & Talented program in middle school. In middle school, I worked hard so I could get into honors classes in high school. In high school, I worked hard so I could score well on my AP tests and get into a good college. In college, I worked hard to…wait, what was I working hard for again? During my junior year of college, I came to the painful realization that there was no next step lined up for me. I was killing myself, losing sleep to study for exams like a freaking lunatic, without even the slightest idea of what all this effort was for.

It was not until my classmates started to gain focus and develop specific interests in the field of civil engineering that I finally stopped what I was doing and took a moment to think about what actually excited me. Then, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE: the things that excited me (i.e. design, writing, and entrepreneurship) had almost nothing to do with what I was studying. Whoops!

Isn’t it crazy that someone so “smart” on paper could lack so much common sense? I continually scored at the top of my class on exams, was a major asset on group projects, and could write papers like no one’s business. But, I didn’t know how to think.

Still, I don’t blame myself. In a future post, I will discuss exactly why I don’t blame myself, and what I think we can do as a society to help teenagers think for themselves and discover their passions at an earlier age, to avoid cases like mine.

Going back to the story, during the height of “all hell breaking loose,” I began applying for civil engineering internships because, clearly, interning in the very field I just discovered I wasn’t actually interested in was going to solve all my problems. I got an interview at a transportation firm and cried. I didn’t want to go. That’s when my parents intervened. My dad said, “You’re not going on the interview. You’re taking the summer off.”

Taking the summer off? That sounded like a terrible idea! Didn’t my dad realize that if I took the summer after junior year off I would never get a job after college, and hence never amount to anything?! I am actually cringing while writing this. But this is truthfully how warped my judgment was at the time. I seriously thought that taking one summer off (as a 20-year-old nonetheless) would negatively impact the rest of my life.

As scared as I was of “falling behind,” I followed my dad’s advice and went home to New Jersey that summer. Without schoolwork or employment to drown myself in, I was forced to spend some time thinking about what I actually wanted to do once college was over. Because Cooper Union is a very small and focused school, I hadn’t taken any classes outside of engineering, and thus hadn’t really been exposed to other industries. So, I wasn’t exactly sure where to start. I decided to start broad with location. If I was going to work anywhere after college, it was going to be in my favorite city of the world, New York! I searched “Companies in NYC.” At least it was a start.

Believe me, there are a lot of companies in New York City. I went through all of the big ones, and wrote down any that sparked my interest, completely disregarding if they had anything to do with my field of study. As I wrote down one company name, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, it struck me that I actually knew someone who worked there! Months earlier, I had been taking a walk in New Jersey when I ran into one of my friend’s moms, who mentioned she had recently taken a job there. Suddenly, things started looking up. I had a contact. Maybe I could get my foot in the door! To make a long story short, I did end up getting an internship at Martha Stewart for the fall of my senior year (and yes, I did get a respectable job straight out of college, though I didn’t intern anywhere the summer before graduating).

Getting an internship at Martha Stewart didn’t require too much hustling, because I had a contact there, and a pretty decent portfolio of cakes and crafts at the time. That being said, even if I didn’t have a willing and helpful contact, I know that I would have gotten a creative internship at least somewhere the upcoming semester, because that summer, I hustled.

The word “hustle” has some interesting connotations. I started using it after watching a documentary about Jay-Z’s drug-dealing period. In one scene, Jay-Z says something like, “I was the best drug dealer in town because I knew how to hustle.” So maybe it has some illicit connotations. To “hustle” also means to be a prostitute. Again, not the best undertones. But I like the word. So let’s just agree that by “hustle” I simply mean, “to work rapidly and aggressively.”

As I mentioned earlier, up until this point, I had put my head down and worked, without exactly taking initiative in matters or thinking for myself. But suddenly, my personal happiness, and the “successful” reputation I had worked so hard to cultivate all these years, were on the line. I didn’t want to be unemployed, or worse yet, at a job I absolutely hated after college. I needed to figure out a way to make it work. And putting my head down and doing what I was told wasn’t going to cut it anymore, because there was no plan ahead. (And I wasn’t going to grad school for the sake of having something lined up).

I started doing things I wasn’t exactly comfortable with – networking with people I had never met before, applying to positions online like a maniac, persistently following up with my contacts, even when I felt annoying. The same week I applied to the Martha Stewart internship (which happened to be in product design), I heard, totally by chance, of a product design summer course being offered at Cooper. Unfortunately, by the time I heard of the course, it had already started. But with my newfound gusto, I sent the professor a long email and a link to my website, and I weaseled my way right into that class. At the same time as all of this, I got a position as a summer cashier at the A.C. Moore craft store near my hometown. I had applied to a number of retail stores while applying to fall internships at creative companies, hoping to make some money on the side for the summer.

Suddenly, my summer “off” became very busy. I had a job in retail, a class in product design, and an internship at a company of my dreams lined up for the fall. Was I lucky? Maybe a little. But I don’t believe in luck so much.

In most cases, I think we create our own luck. I see luck as a choice, much as I see success as a choice and happiness as a choice. We are in control of our destinies. I could have come home that summer and moped around, wallowing in my own confusion. And to be honest, I did do that for a few days. But then I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and took action. I didn’t know where to start, so I started broad: location. Then I refined. I talked to people. A lot of people. I talked to someone who told me about the product design class at Cooper. I talked to my mom, who encouraged me to apply to A.C. Moore, along with a bunch of other retail stores (My mom has always believed kids should make some money on the side at all times…she’s the one who made me get off my butt and work at Dunkin Donuts once I turned 16. Love her.)

Yes, I’ve had certain privileges in my life. I have a supportive family and network, good health, and good looks (if I do say so myself). I’m sure these things didn’t hurt along the way. But they didn’t do the work for me either. I didn’t have an internship that summer, but I treated sorting things out like a full time job. Maybe all those years of putting my head down and getting gritty at school weren’t all for nothing. They taught me some skills associated with hustling, but not all the skills I needed to master the art.

You see, hustling isn’t just about working hard and doing your due diligence. You could put your head down and apply to thousands of jobs online and never hear back from any of them (though I’m sure eventually, if applying in the correct realm, something would come up). A lot of hustling is about taking initiative and going out of your comfort zone– cold calling people, meeting up with strangers who may be able to help, putting yourself out there, and not being afraid. Up until that summer, I had never really taken initiative in life simply because I never had to. The “next step” was always lined up for me. Once my path was disrupted, I was forced to get more aggressive, and through it all, I realized I actually kind of like taking control.

I get that in today’s market, it’s tough to get a job. But I truly believe that if you really want a job, you can get a job. It might not be your dream job, but it will be something—perhaps a stepping stone. If you want to switch industries, you can switch industries. If there’s a will, there’s a way. And if you want to work for yourself, with enough planning and hustle, you can work for yourself. With enough passion and ambition, I truly believe you can get anything you want out of life. One day, I hope to start my own business. I’m not ready for it yet. But I know that when the time does come, I will be able to do it. Again, anything is possible with enough passion and ambition.

Now that I am out of school and in the workforce, I take the lessons of that summer with me. Hustling doesn’t have to end once you get a job—it should continue once you are working too! No matter what industry you’re in, or even if you work for yourself, hustling combined with genuine passion should undoubtedly lead to success. That being said, success isn’t instant. You’ll still have to pay your dues, and in my opinion, any job that’s paying you, even a miserable one, is not above you (But I could go on about that in a whole other post. I hate entitlement, especially from young people).

I have only been out of college for two years, so I’m by no means a career expert, but my tips for hustling at work are listed below. Some of these are just general work advice points, and don’t have to do with hustling per se, but I included them anyways:

  1. See slow periods as opportunities: I don’t know about you, but slow periods at work drive me nuts! When I first started working, if I had nothing to do, I did, well…nothing. But I quickly realized that this would not only drive me crazy, but also make me look content. And I’m certainly not a content person. I began seeing slow periods as opportunities—opportunities to help out the department in areas they didn’t even know they needed help in. I made a tutorial for a notoriously inconvenient program and gave a presentation on it. I attempted to start a database of our contacts. Though that effort eventually fell through, it showed that I was capable of, and interested in, taking on work outside of my assigned duties. When new opportunities came up, my superiors often let me know first.
  1. Speak Up! Speaking up is really hard to do. I love to talk (I mean, look how much I’m writing in this post), but I get really shy at times, and I never want to come across as too aggressive or entitled. But, unless you work and live in Utopia, there are going to be times when you need to suck it up and say something. If something is frustrating you at work, and you keep your anger bottled up, you’ll probably either become totally miserable or rage quit one day. As long as you are calm and respectful when you speak up, realistically, the worst thing that can happen is things stay the same. And if that’s the case and nothing changes, then you can hustle for a new job, and leave that one. Simple as that. The best thing that can happen if you speak up is the problem gets fixed, and you get respect for taking action. Maybe I’m naïve, but I truly believe that most companies, and people, are good at the core. If your company or superiors don’t know the problem at hand, how can you expect them to help? I haven’t had to speak up too much at work, but anytime I did, I went to my direct manager. If you have issues with your direct manager, I would suggest going to HR, or really any superiors in the company you trust to take appropriate action.
  1. Figure out a way to become indispensable: This is kind of similar to my first point (see slow periods as opportunities). Whether you have slow periods or not, figure out needs in the company that the company doesn’t even know exist. And address those needs. Create your own role in the company. Don’t wait around for a promotion or new position to find you, because it generally won’t.
  1. Don’t take things too personally: If you become a hustler, you’ll have to develop a thick skin. Any time I’ve looked for new jobs or opportunities and I’ve cold-emailed strangers or acquaintances for advice, a good percentage of those efforts resulted in no response. That’s just the way it is. It’s not personal. People get busy. People might think you’re weird for reaching out to them, but that’s probably not the case. Even if it is, who cares? If you’re formally reaching out to a person, then you most likely don’t know them too well in the first place, and will probably never even see them in person. And, even if you do run into them in person after the fact, again, who cares? Also, don’t be afraid to follow up with a person if they don’t respond to your first email. Persistence is attractive. The same thing goes about not taking things personally if you’re already working at a job. People get in bad moods. People get busy. People have lives outside of work that might be more complicated than you think. For your own sanity, don’t take things to heart, and don’t let anyone you don’t respect get you down.
  1. Being genuine goes a long way: This is a major one. I am definitely NOT a perfect person. Like any other person, I have my flaws. But the one thing I’m most proud of about myself, and the single thing I’m most complimented on, both inside and outside of work, is my genuineness. I’m an open book. I don’t get embarrassed by too much stuff, and I don’t take myself too seriously. I’ve found these to be positive things at all my jobs, even in relatively traditional and corporate offices. Again, maybe I’m naïve, but I truly believe most people like to be around people that are human. If I worked alongside someone that never got nervous, stressed, angry, happy, excited, or sad, I’d get a little freaked out…wait, is that a robot? Keep it real, but don’t go overboard. Of course I don’t suggest having major emotional outbursts at work! Know your boundaries. And know when to be professional.
  1. Sit at the Table: I’m stealing this one from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Take ownership of your accomplishments. At meetings, if you’re part of the team, sit at the table, not on the sidelines! I know from firsthand experience this can be hard to do, especially if you’re the youngest on the team, or the only female. If you’re a woman, understand that men are more aggressive by nature. They are naturally more comfortable asking for raises, inquiring about new opportunities, taking credit for work, and negotiating contracts. It’s not their fault. The brains of men and women are wired differently. To keep up with your male coworkers, you’ll have to get more comfortable making these moves as well. You’ll also have to get comfortable with taking pride and ownership in your work. I have a habit of downplaying my contributions and brushing off my achievements, and it’s something that I’m working on. While I encourage initiative, I don’t believe that anyone (male or female) should have to exert excessive amounts of power or authority to prove their worth; work should generally speak for itself. Most competent people can see through bullshit sooner or later.
  1. Dress for Success: I can’t even believe I’m writing this one. Dressing nice and looking presentable are  NO-BRAINERS. It’s literally psychologically proven that well-dressed people are taken more seriously and deemed smarter, not only in the workplace, but also in LIFE. Get a routine. Wake up 15 minutes earlier and get presentable!
  1. Be Grateful: I briefly hinted at this point earlier in the post, and I won’t get too into it here, but any job that’s paying you, whether it’s at a local coffee shop or a Fortune 500 company, is worth being grateful for, at least in my opinion. I think that as humans, we often get greedy and lose sight of what is truly meaningful and important. Showing appreciation to a company, and the opportunities that company affords you, goes a long way. Also, be polite and respectable. I know that in today’s society there is a trend to question authority and existing ways, and I think that is a generally a good thing. But there is a way to question and challenge people and systems while still showing respect.

I think that is all I have for now! Hope you are all enjoying these articles! My next article will be about “the benefits of being single.” Have a nice Memorial Day Weekend!

Am I An Artist? (Getting Over Impostor Syndrome)

“So, is anyone here not a designer?” The moderator of the event peered around the room as the audience broke out in laughter. I nervously looked over at my roommate, who I had brought along with me as a wing-woman, not sure if I should raise my hand in response to this question…

I was at an event hosted by the American Institute of Graphic Arts in New York City. Four design directors of prominent magazines were speaking about their backgrounds and the responsibilities of their current positions. How did I end up here? I joined AIGA a couple months earlier because I love graphic design, and want to learn anything and everything I can about it. Yet, clearly, I am reluctant to consider myself a designer, well, a real designer at least.

If you ask me, I’m a civil engineer. That’s what I went to school for, and that’s what I do for my day job. I have no qualms about identifying as an engineer because I have tangible proof of my validity. I have a degree from an engineering school, a full-time job at a construction company, and I have even passed my “Fundamentals of Engineering” examination. Identifying as a designer, or dare I say an artist, is a bit more troublesome.

Aside from a semester-long internship at Martha Stewart (where my responsibilities primarily included pinning up inspiration images around the office), I have no formal work experience in the art or design industries. I have barely any educational training in these areas either. I have never experienced a critique of my work, and to be honest, I’m not really sure if I’m any “good” in my creative endeavors, at least from an expert’s standpoint.

Yet, making visual ideas come to life is something I’m extremely, madly passionate about. It’s something that I absolutely need to do, kind of like how a musician needs to make music. This insatiable desire to create is something that never goes away for me; I am always susceptible to becoming inspired, and my list of goals is always increasing.

I make all different kinds of things. When I was younger, I expressed my creativity through food design. A couple years ago, I discovered Adobe Illustrator, and got into graphic design. I bought myself a laser color printer and started making invitations and stationery out of my New York apartment. Today, I continue to do this, while searching for art and design opportunities with a farther reach.

Technically, you could say I’m a freelance artist and graphic designer. But, I feel super uncomfortable calling myself this. Maybe it’s because, unlike engineering, there are no standard qualifications or professional degrees to prove that one is a designer or artist. Maybe it’s because I did not go to art school, and my “side business” is not my main source of income. Maybe it’s simply due to a lack of personal confidence. Or, perhaps it’s because I don’t fit in with the art and design “scenes,” if you will; I’m not troubled or edgy or trying to make some sort of ironic statement. To quote Kevin Smith, “I just like making shit.”

Whatever the cause, it’s a conflicting feeling. I love my work, and deep down I know that I have talent. But, particularly when I share my work with other creative people, I wonder if it “counts” or is “valid.” I feel inferior compared to real artists, yet I’m not exactly sure what a real artist is.

For a long time, I lived in silence with this inferiority. Last summer, I attended a panel called “The Creative Journey” with three artists-turned-authors at BookCon in New York City. During the Q&A portion of the event, I decided to speak up about the invalidity I associated with my work for the very first time, asking the panelists if they had ever experienced something similar.

The moment I finished speaking, one of the panelists exclaimed, “Sounds like you have Impostor Syndrome!” Right then and there, just like that, I had a diagnosis. A simple diagnosis for something I thought was so emotionally complicated.

Though not officially listed in the DSM, Impostor Syndrome is a very real and common phenomenon, in which those affected have trouble internalizing or accepting their accomplishments. To put it simply, it’s a form of intellectual self-doubt. People experiencing it often brush off their own abilities and attribute achievements to luck, timing, or other external factors, fearing they will eventually be exposed as a “phony.”

The syndrome can affect anyone. I am an engineer/designer who feels illegitimate compared to those who went to art school, or work in creative jobs full time. Maybe you are a passionate musician with an unrelated day job, and feel fraudulent compared to those who fully devote their lives to music. Maybe you love to cook, and have many impressive accomplishments as a cook, but never went to culinary school, and feel inferior compared to “chefs.” The list goes on and on. The panelist that first told me about the syndrome, a well-respected author, cartoonist, artist, and blogger, even admitted that she feels uncomfortable referring to herself as an “author” in front of other writers.

The panelists at BookCon left me with some parting advice, which has really helped me get over feeling like an impostor, though I still have my moments of weakness (hence almost raising my hand at the recent magazine event). I’ll share their advice with you, and hopefully this will help if you have ever felt the same way before:

  1. Understand that being good at multiple things is BADASS: I used to think that going to engineering school and working in construction showed I wasn’t “truly” interested in art or design. But it’s actually quite the opposite. The fact that I come home from work, and voluntarily work on more work, solely out of passion, says a lot. Not many people have something they will devote time and energy to without some sort of reward other than personal satisfaction. If you are one of these people, understand that you are rare and special! And if you balance a totally different day job at the same time, that’s pretty badass.
  1. Own It: “Own it” is probably the best piece of advice I have ever received. Giving roundabout explanations for why you are qualified, acting a certain way, or interested in something just makes you seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about – the exact opposite of what you are going for. Take yourself seriously, be direct, and unapologetically own your accomplishments. Even if someone doesn’t like you or your work, they’ll at least respect the fact that you’re owning it and being yourself.
  1. Keep Making Stuff: Keep making stuff and never stop. Again, even if someone is not a fan of your work, they’ll respect your passion and the fact that you are producing volumes of work in the first place. Also, making things leads to new opportunities and better technical skills. I’m a novice right now, but I’m sure if I keep making things as diligently as I have for the past two years, I’ll eventually surpass those who went to art school, but are lazy bums.
  1. Realize You Are Not Alone: There are so many people that feel this way, that they named a whole syndrome after it! What you are feeling is totally common and normal, and knowing this may help you get over it. Also, remember that there are many, many people with lots of confidence that feel totally comfortable calling themselves artists (or whatever) that might not even necessarily have anything to show for it. So,  as long as you have the work, that’s all the proof you need.

New Website

I have not been posting any of my recent projects because I made a new website: sarahgrand.com. Check it out!