I decided not to be the serial procrastinator that I always seem to be, so I’m getting these words out now before the “I’ll do it later” bug bites. This year was the second Creative South that my husband, Jason, and I attended. We felt a little more comfortable conversing and connecting with folks this time around. The big change was how at home we felt this year. Once you come to CS, you would be hard pressed not to feel connected to some of these awesome people after you leave. I know it’s said a million times, but they become family. Last year started a creative spark for us, but this year planted a forest of the most sincere creative love. Sounds hokey, but it’s the honest to goodness truth.
The best example of this is Lenny Terenzi’s talk at CS15. We already loved Lenny, how could you not? But when his words poured out, Jason and I couldn’t stop the waterworks. It’s an unbelievably moving story for anyone to hear, but boy, did it hit home for us. You see, we have two beautiful 6 year old identical twin boys. They are our everything. We were two designers who fell in love, schlepped along working, then BOOM! We have an ultrasound tech asking us if twins run in our family. Life changed in a major way, and the twin part was the least of the major changes. They were born 3 months early, both barely over 2 pounds each. For 3 months, we spent most nights sleeping with our shoes on in case the NICU called at 1:00 in the morning. I still can’t get the smell of the hospital antibacterial lotion out of my brain. The NICU beeps and blips have only recently stopped visiting my dreams. But we lived. And they lived. And they are adorable, by the way. Healthy, happy and so smart that they make two college graduates feel dumb sometimes. We walked away from all of that struggle seemingly unscathed, except we didn’t. This past year has been a hard one for our family. Not that we didn’t know that this new set of challenges wasn’t coming our way; we knew deep down we would be here. Both of our boys were diagnosed, 4 months apart, with autism. We don’t really tell many people at all. We’ve been protective of that information for a while now. Only family and close friends have known. If we were to be honest with ourselves, it’s been a major part of our lives since they were born. Now we just have a name for it.
Lenny’s talk brought our lives before us like a slow motion movie. Having kids with special needs is an unbelievable journey. I sat there listening to Lenny with a clear image in my mind of a water well being steadily drained with life’s demands. Jason and I did not have time for anything else in life other than our kids. Or at least that’s the solid routine we found ourselves in day after day. Wake up, kids, kids, kids, eat lunch, kids, kids, kids, dinner, kids, collapse in bed until alarm signals you to start it all over again. There were no more side projects, no more contemplating what creative ventures we would tackle in our spare time next. We felt lucky if we had enough time to cram in a date night once a year. This past year, we had to force ourselves to accept the fact that we were so burned out, so tired and so drained that we didn’t know if we could bounce back. A few months before CS I started trying to reignite that creative drive that I thought I had lost. I realized that I had to use my creativity in different ways, not just pen or pencil on paper. Free time wasn’t just going to magically appear, so we were going to have to make it happen. We’ve recently been able to find a little more time here and there for our marriage and our own design endeavors. Some days that time isn’t just small, it’s microscopic, but it’s there. Lenny helped us realize that we shouldn’t let situations and circumstances lead our lives for us. Challenges are only opportunities to shine.
I now sit down with our boys and have art time together. I break out my old dusty pencils and erasers while they go to town with crayons and colored pencils. We get their opinions on design projects we’re working on (which usually only ends up in a comparison to a Transformer/Power Ranger/superhero of some kind.) We now seek out those who can help us when we need a break more often. We are filling the walls of our home, our bookshelves and our lives with creative things and people that inspire us endlessly. (Shout out to Shauna Panczyszyn for creating the first piece of our new “awesome people/awesome work” wall.) We’ve been in such a rut for so long, I have to admit that it’s a bit of a struggle to make any of this happen. But it’s happening, and it will keep happening.
All of the workshops and talks at this year’s CS were, as always, exactly what we needed to keep going and keep aiming higher. Brian Manley’s awesome first talk of the day Friday sticks in my mind as he said “let your weakness be your uniqueness.” Couldn’t be more true with what we’re doing now in our lives. Will Gay, and his wife, Susana, inspired us as a creative couple seeking collaboration together and pushing each other to always grow and succeed. And Will, I apologize for rehashing the old Mobile stuff over and over, but it’s pretty cool to know that for an extremely short period of time, I tried my best to kick you and the other ADs at Denson Reed in the butt to get work done on unrealistic timelines :) And who wouldn’t get inspired by the work Shauna presented during her talk? CS 2015 rocked hard, and we walked away happy like we had been presented the best 20 course meal of our lives.
Mike, Peter, Rob, Lenny, these guys. These guys! To say they’re awesome doesn’t do them justice. Their dedication to CS and those who love to design and create is unreal. I’m a skeptic by nature, and there aren’t too many people I trust unconditionally, but these guys…if they said that next year CS was turning into a traveling circus and we needed to buy some red noses and to bring our pie-throwing game, I’d be there with squeaky big clown shoes on, no questions asked. Guys, I’m all in, cards on the table, you rock, please keep CS going forever! I love you all, and you couldn’t keep us away from Columbus in 2016!