After almost two months out of AC4D, and after meeting some of the new students who are going to be in the next year, I’ve collected my thoughts (albeit messily) on what it has been like post-graduation. This post is intended to educate the new students going in, to connect with AC4D alums, and hopefully to give comfort to the folks in my class who are still probably going through their own processing.
I’ll be the first to admit it, I was terrified of graduating. The last time I graduated from an educational institution, I had a serious disconnect with reality and fell into a depression. I actually recorded this story for RISK! podcast during my time at AC4D, and it was fresh on my mind when I graduated.
This time was different. Instead of feeling unprepared for the “real world” post-college, I felt incredibly prepared. I had productive thought patterns and artifacts and a killer portfolio and contract work; I had GANTT charts and efficiency to tackle even the most complex of problems. It feels amazing to be doing the work you’ve always wanted to do with the people you want to do it with. Without AC4D, I wouldn’t be doing what I love today.
On the flip side, I was entirely oblivious to how my year in the program had changed the relationships around me. There is something for me about the creative process that naturally distances yourself from others in its observation and analysis. I wondered if in the search to become closer to others by making and doing I was ending up alienating myself. I’m currently a terrific designer who is growing and establishing bonds with clients—where exactly was my passion in doing the same thing with my friends and family?
That, I currently don’t have the answer to, but like every question I ask that’s a wicked problem, I’m currently whiteboarding it out. I’m setting constraints. My fiancee will not let me make a GANTT chart to track the progress of our relationship (though I tried), and I don’t need or want to have that kind of predictability. I’m getting used to setting my own structure and pace in my own life, and what’s good for myself and those around me who I care about.
My year at AC4D seems like such a blur. I vaguely remember the emotional highs and lows, but every once in a while, I pick out a memory that I truly cherish, like first time I saw Alex’s baby over Skype. It was late and we were both bone tired, and Alex was holding his newborn baby and calling out design ideas over Skype to me. We both laughed at how ridiculous it was to have a kid in the middle of an intensive program, but I also remember having a deep well of respect for Alex for taking on possibly the two most trying moments of his life at the same time. I still have that respect for him.
My only piece of advice for students going into the program is that it is going to be possibly the most intense, exciting, infuriating, and empowering year of your life. You will feel all of these emotions, sometimes all at once.
Record it. Take pictures. Don’t trust your memory to remember it all because after this year is over, you’ll be thinking “what the hell happened to me?” It won’t feel real, but once you see a photograph or a video, you’ll remember again and know that you achieved something amazing with the help of some amazing people.