A month ago last year, I was living a dream in New York City, a magical place with endless energy.
Before I tell you exactly what I was doing in the Big Apple, let me back up a bit. Let me just start out by saying I am not (or was not) a designer by trade. I studied Corporate Communications and Spanish in college, I have a Master's in Marketing and my professional experience is in communications and social responsibility. It has definitely been a safer path (maybe not as safe as Finance...), but I have always secretly dreamed about doing something with design.
When I made the exciting and scary decision to start my own handbag line, I knew I needed some sort of design education. I was 30 and was definitely not at a place in my life where I could put everything on hold and put myself through four years of school just to see what would happen. I started Google-ing intensive handbag design courses and what came up was in Milan, Florence, Paris, London. Not only were the classes at prestigious schools, I loved romancing the idea of studying design in Paris, my favorite city in the world.
But I had to be practical. I researched options that were geographically closer, so I would not be spending a fortune I didn't have on getting to and staying in Europe. Of course, I still wanted somewhere that was big on arts and culture, maybe Austin, Mexico City, Los Angeles. Nothing I came up with seemed to be a good fit, but I finally struck Google gold when I found the T Project Showroom that brings in skilled designers and technicians from Italy to teach leather handbag and shoe design.
I finally decided to call for information towards the end of October, and when a woman with a thick Italian accent answered the phone, I knew I was on the right track. She told me that they were actually hosting a handbag design and pattern-making class in November at a discounted rate and that they would be bringing in two designers from Italy who have worked with the best in the industry.
Everything she said was music to my ears, but mid-November was just around the corner, and I doubted that I would be able to pull off missing work for a week and paying for a last minute trip to New York. When I asked her when the next course would be offered, she said it would be in June 2016, and my heart sank.
That weekend I started researching plane tickets and hotel accomodations, and surpringly, I found reasonable prices. It seemed like God was just putting everything into place for me, so I bought my ticket and decided I would deal with my boss later. I was going to New York to study handbag design with the best in the business, and I could not contain my excitement!
They say that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. This could not have been more true when I went to work the next week and had to tell my boss that in less than a month, I would be out of the office for an entire week studying handbag design, which was extremely relevant to my job title (insert sarcasm) in the company.
Fortunately, I had a plan for him and he could not have been more supportive. We agreed that I would continue with my responsibilities and that I would be on call at anytime for any issue that came up. This meant I would have to wake up at 5 am everyday to get a head start on emails, work through lunch, and continue working until midnight to fulfill my duties. But I didn´t care. I was just grateful that my boss was flexible and supportive enough to let me work out of the office while studying handbag design.
That week in New York was an intense blur of sketching, pattern-measuring-and-cutting, and a crazy workload, but I would not have it any other way. It was one of the most challenging weeks I have had in a long time, and not because of a grueling schedule, but because it had been so long since I was in school and learned completely new skills.
I had not taken an art class since elementary school (in middle school and high school I fulfilled my Art credits as a band geek), so when the first thing one of our instructors asked us to do was sketch a bag, I had no idea where to start. When we completed the excercise, I was mortified as I looked over at my peer's beautiful, 3-D sketches. I had to remind myself that I was there to LEARN and that comparing myself to someone with completely different experience than my own was no good.
When we moved onto pattern-making, I was even more of a hot mess. Between learning something that was so foreign to me and the language barrier with the instructors (sometimes it was easier to communicate with them in Spanish), I was an absolute train wreck and probably my instructors' worst nightmare . I had to ask the same questions over and over again. Even after multiple explanations, I could not wrap my head around certain concepts. Many times I fought back tears of frustration.
As the rest of the week flashed by, I felt stronger. My sketches were taking form and pattern-making started to make some sense. I knew that a week-long, intensive course did not make me a seasoned handbag designer, but it gave me the confidence I needed to keep going.
I am not telling this story to toot my own horn about living it up in NYC. I am telling you all this because I know that there are people out there that question whether or not their dreams are worthy or even achievable. Or people that feel like a fraud trying to follow a passion of theirs that is completely different from their day job or background. I constantly struggled with that feeling this past year.
I know I am not the only person who has doubted themselves and their dreams, and I share this story hoping that it might give you some encouragement. Believe me when I say that I have thoroughly researched people that became successful later in life (Vera Wang! Martha Stewart! Vivienne Westwood! Kerry Washington!) and read many quotes on why it is never too late to go after what's yours.
Failure is terrifying, but I truly believe that failure is the catalyst for our finest success and growth. Have you ever thought about the WORST thing that could happen if you fail? That you get up, dust yourself off and try again? Now, that doesn't sound too bad if you ask me.