Always Learning: The World's Oldest Intern
August 6, 2019
As I said in my first blog, I both write, illustrate and publish my own books. I created my first book on a whim. I made it for myself and it was silly and poignant. I was teaching high school art at the time, so my first illustrations were done on inexpensive classroom drawing paper, classroom colored pencils and sharpie markers. I showed it to colleagues, and it was a joy to see them laugh and giggle when they read it. I often worked alongside my students creating silly drawings to entertain. I had a portfolio filled with goofy designs, from satirical paper dolls, calendars, and greeting cards to political cartoons. I have an irreverent sense of humor. After receiving encouragement from people I respected, I decided to finally do something other than stuff them into another portfolio.
Then I turned 50, an no other age had ever hit me like 50 did. I had been living my previous life for other people. My family, my students and anyone who needed something from me. Fast forward to 51 and I was divorced, had a quit a stable teaching job, sold my home and moved my soon to be college freshman daughter “back home” to figure out what I really wanted to do with the last 1/3 of my life.
I was given the greatest gift of my life by my sister and allowed to be a hermit in her basement for 18 months, while I worked part time and got to know myself again. Practically speaking, I realized that I had fallen way behind when it came to art and computer technology and if I were going to make this children’s book thing my second career, there were skills I needed to acquire. I had a degree in illustration, and I was very confident in my drawing and rendering ability, but I didn’t know the first thing about putting a book together on a computer. I didn’t even know what program to use for that. I began looking for classes in Photoshop and illustrator, but I couldn’t find any that were affordable. Much to my amazement, I couldn’t find a community college course that was offering beginning Photoshop. Having voiced my frustration to my sister, she contacted a good friend of hers who had her own graphic design firm. She agreed to take me on as an intern. At 51 years old I signed on to be an intern. “The world’s oldest intern,” I thought as I drove to KGI Design Group on my first day.
The last computer program I had used for art was Mac-paint in 1987. I had a lot to learn. The owner/director of the firm looked at my little book dummy and was enthusiastic, encouraging and downright bubbly. I will never be able to thank her sufficiently for that moment. She and her assistant were extremely patient with me and in exchange I had nothing to offer. Adobe programs seemed so intimidating to me at the time and I felt a badly that I kept asking how to do the most basic tasks. I was hyper aware that I was pulling people away from work that was paying the bills. They had other interns who were in college who were versed well in these programs, and they were getting jobs done. But I stuck with it, and for some reason they stuck with me.
Within that time my first book went to print, and one of the designers had pretty much put the entire thing together for me. To alleviate my guilt, I offered to repaint all of their offices including the furniture as they were wanting to update. One by one I repainted each office and together we organized and gave the business a make-over. I felt less guilty and it was gratifying to see their joy as each room was transformed. In the process we all became very good friends and they remain such today.
I became comfortable enough on Adobe programs to teach myself and three years later, my computer skills are such that I can create print-ready books from cover to cover. In that time, I have also learned about social media marketing, I created my own website which I am constantly improving and updating, learning about SEO and how to back link my site. I trademark, copyright my work and anything else that is required. I knew how to do none of this when I left my old life three years ago. Currently I am teaching myself how to create and edit videos for online advertising and let’s not forget the business and finance end of everything. I have so much more to learn and it is a constant balance between creating and learning, and I am having the time of my life. When I don’t know how to do something, I watch a YouTube video or find someone who does. I have a small network, but it consists of very smart, successful people all of whom support me and respond almost instantly to any request for contacts or information. I will learn from anyone, no matter their age or position in life.
Is this harder than I thought at the beginning? Yes. Has it taken longer to make progress than I thought it would? Yes. Do I have days when I want to quit? Yes. But I don’t because there is no going back. What I don’t doubt is what I want. And what I no longer doubt is my tenacity and my passion for what I do. I am not embarrassed to acknowledge what I don’t know and do what it takes to learn how to do it. And I will continue to pass it on to you.
Until next time. Keep writing, keep drawing, keep dreaming.
“The teacher will become the student, and the student must become the teacher. This is the balance of life. You’re never too old to learn, and you’re never too young to teach."
Kenneth MarvinGrey Pearson