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Here is the note I wrote six months ago when I was at my lowest and the idea for a Calendar Project had just popped into my head. I shared it with only my closest friends then, but I think I am ready to share it openly now. Half a year on, I am in a better place. I am laughing more, learning more, singing more. Life has by no means let up on me. But I think we are equals now.

==

Dearest Friends & Family, 

Hello! :) 

(Yes, I am using the Facebook Note. Please forgive its quaintness.) I just wanted to share with y’all something I’ve been working really hard on over the past few weeks. I’ve called it the “Calendar Project”, and it has been my labor of love. If you haven’t yet seen my post on Facebook (another mechanism that is quickly antiquating), here’s what it is: I am designing a set of desktop wallpapers, on the month, every month, for the next year, and I am sharing them with everyone via www.fromthisdesk.com/calendarproject. Uh, yes… they are free. :) 

I say on the website that this is an exercise in discipline for me, because I am challenging myself to create something worth sharing every month. Actually, it’s a little more than that. I know I’ve told you just how rough of a time I’ve been having since I’ve come home to Singapore. I have been adjusting badly, and struggling through many of my days. I wrestled a lot with feeling trapped and being lost. (I am saying this having lived in central Florida. If you’ve lived in central Florida, you will understand Trapped and you will most definitely understand Lost.) Just before this idea popped into my head, I was at the lowest I’d been my entire life.

People (you) told me I needed to work towards something I felt was worthwhile – something I could pour my energy into, so that work wouldn’t be the only thing I had. For a long time, I was stumped. And then, a couple of weeks ago on a Friday night, I stayed home and listened to music until I drifted off to sleep. In the morning, the most curious thing happened – I woke up with my heart full. Looking back, I think I just hadn’t realized how silent my days had become. I held on to that sense of possibility and it gradually took shape and became the Calendar Project. I’m using the Calendar Project as reason for me to take time out of my day to just create, even as life insists on steamrolling the crap out of me. It’s taken me years to realize that design is what I am happiest doing. And I am excited at the prospect of doing this every month for the next 12, while I slowly climb myself out of whatever it is I’d got myself into. 

But: I owe so much of my sanity to you, my dearest friends and family. Thank you for listening to me when I felt I could no longer listen to myself. Thank you for your good advice, actual/proverbial shoulders to lean on, and for you unluckier folks (sorry, really sorry) for letting me cry until my face shriveled up and my nose popped off. It is mostly because of your support and love at my worst that I can look towards becoming me at my best. The Calendar Project is for you. You mean more to me than you know. 

Oh! Before I forget: fromthisdesk.com/calendarproject & facebook.com/thecalendarproject!! 

Love, 

Geneve 

 

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14 Jan / An Odd Christmas

Yes, I know the holidays are over. :( Yes, I know I have to wait till next year. But this was a landmark Christmas for me in that I didn’t spend it being buried in snow. The season kind of loses its charm when your eyebrows have frozen off.

But that didn’t stop me from getting to work with possibly my most favorite people to work with ever – the folks at The Second City. This year, I helped them out with their holiday greeting cards… if you can even call them that. They’re cards, anyway. They’re also weird in a way I love, so as you can probably imagine, I had great fun working on them…

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 “Bring up politics. We dare you. Happy holidays from The Second City.”

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 “This would be so creepy without the sashes.”

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I’m going to try to write about every month’s wallpaper here on my blog. To find out more about the Calendar Project, click here

January is all about New Year’s Resolutions, and Spectacularly Not Keeping To Them. I thought it’d be fun to put together all the stuff we promised we wouldn’t do as the previous year drew to a close. Designed while I ate my way through vacation, it seemed particularly fitting. So, in honor of all inevitable failures and botched plans,  I bring you January 2015’s wallpaper: “Failed Resolutions”. Enjoy: http://bit.ly/1BhsnN8

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Also, if it’s a mobile phone wallpaper you need, we’ve got you covered. (Check out all the different sizes on the download page.)

JAN2015_iPhone6_A JAN2015_iPhone6_B

Letters To My 18-Year-Old Self

A couple of weeks ago, I dug up from the recesses of the Internet – mercifully, password-protected – a couple of blog posts I had written from when I was 18. I expected them to be bad. So bad, I read them with one eye closed, cursor hovering over the ‘x’ button. But you know what? Aside from a bad analogy there and a wistful trope here, they weren’t terrible.

In fact, for better or for worse, I was pretty fundamentally the same at 18. I still loved creative stuff, designed a lot, wrote some, was eternally fascinated by street art, and busted my gut 5 times a week canoeing. (Okay, so I don’t canoe any more, but the rest, I swear, is the same.)

At the same time, I read with a twinge of sadness at how I thought I knew what I wanted, at that age, for the rest of my life. “I never want to betray myself into following a “high-flying” career path I hate,” I wrote. “All I want is a stable job that pays the bills, and lets me sing and design on the side.”

Well.

We all know life isn’t as simple as that. Gosh, Geneve, you were so unprepared for how the next 6 years would change you, I found myself saying. You had absolutely no idea. 

And then it all came flooding back – the whirlwind of everyone else’s ambition, applying to colleges overseas, the faint hope of scholarships, and the twinges of envy of those who could afford the leap on their own. All at once, the dreams we were told we had to pursue reached a frenzied apex. University, it seemed, was the be-all and end-all of life. It would pave the way for the next 30 years or so of our careers. No room for mistakes. We had no idea.

I shared this with a good friend of mine just last week. We were classmates during the time and recalled with a certain wistfulness just how young we were then, and just how much we thought we knew about ourselves. “We’re probably going to look back in 20 years and say the same thing about now,” she said. But I guess that is my point:

“At 18, or at any age really, but even more so when you are young – you’ve got to be really lucky or have looked into some sort of crystal ball to know what you’ll be like in 5, 10, 20, or even 50 years.”

At 18, or at any age really, but even more so when you are young – you’ve got to be really lucky or have looked into some sort of crystal ball to know what you’ll be like in 5, 10, 20, or even 50 years. People constantly change. And hopefully they learn with every episode of adversity and triumph. The years after I graduated Junior College I found within me a deep wellspring of ambition – goodness knows where from – that would have astounded my 18-year-old self. Perhaps all that happened was that I became more confident in my ideals and values, and had more opportunities to flesh out my views on the world. In short: I grew some.

Anyway, TL;DR,  my friend and I are mulling over the idea of starting a writing exercise of some sort. It is tentatively titled “letters to our 18-year-old selves” (I am sure Tumblr has every permutation of that URL already taken, so we might have to regroup on that one) and will hopefully feature nuggets of insight on growth and learning, and what we would say to our fresh-out-of-JC selves. We’re thinking it might even take on an open format, with people contributing, since so many of our friends’ experiences were unique – but nevertheless featured common undercurrents.

Ultimately, we hope to reassure and encourage, and put it out there definitively that it is okay to not know at 18. It is okay to be confused and scared, especially when so much is expected of you. That paths in life are not absolute, and that mustering the courage to take the next step, no matter what it is, will always be rewarding. That there is often more room for making mistakes than people will have you believe. That confidence and perhaps even passion will come with time. 

After all, and I say this with incredible hope, what are you but a lifelong work-in-progress?

Posted by geneve in new projects, thoughts Read More

16 Aug / New Stuff

New stuff! New stuff! New stuff is in the works!

I’m in the midst of trying to make my site less design-centric in order to incorporate some of my writing and multimedia projects. Problem is, it’s always going to look more appealing with photos and graphics up front, so how do I give everything else equal airtime?

Still looking for a solution. Relishing the challenge. :)

Posted by geneve in from this desk, thoughts Read More

If you’d asked me 12 months earlier, I’d have referred to myself as a “Designer.” I was knee-deep in my internship at The Second City, and loving every moment of zaniness it presented to me. I was also putting out branding suites for Harvard College Faith & Action, my own freelance shop, and preparing to take on a couple of wedding design gigs.

Then Disney happened.

Okay, I love being dramatic. I don’t mean, the Disney internship fell into my lap – I mean, I did actively pursue it. People I speak to regularly might even say that I was obsessed with getting it. So at some level, I knew even then that I wasn’t just a designer, since the gig that I really wanted (and ended up getting) was one in media relations & issues management, not in graphic design. The job description sounded challenging, which made me want it even more. So what changed?

I guess I knew that at some point, I had to diversify. Design has never been my only skill, although it was one I had the most fun with. I realized, however, that the projects I loved most continued to be the ones I could build and manage on my own. And then it became clear – I loved challenge. I loved planning and managing as much as I loved design. I was happiest in gigs that could stretch me and allow me to think strategically. This was an important realization for me, and one that allowed me to learn as much as I did at Disney. Because I felt like the skills I needed to succeed at this internship didn’t come as naturally – writing, for instance, and research – I knew I had to work twice as hard. I asked questions, read up extensively, and tried not to be daunted by expectations. And occasionally, I volunteered my design skills. I’d say that it is entirely to my team’s credit that they took a chance on someone whose latest job on their resume was a design one. I wonder what they saw in my application – I still wonder – but I couldn’t be more grateful.

“Because I felt like the skills I needed to succeed at this internship didn’t come as naturally – writing, for instance, and research – I knew I had to work twice as hard.”

And then I fell in love with it all – the thrill and gravity of managing important issues, the fast-paced nature of problem-solving in a business context, the exhilaration of being “on the ground.” The writing got easier, I gradually gained the trust of my team, and I found opportunities to put in my two cents. My strong software skills – the ones honed by years of graphic design – even made me a technical resource. At the same time, I saw how members of my team (they have, combined, more than 100 years of expertise) managed complex situations with confidence and ease. Proverbial teddy bear clutched to my chest, I wanted to be like them someday. 

I think I finally have some semblance of clarity: an understanding of visual communication, i.e. design, can only make me a more well-rounded communications professional. Those skills don’t run counter to my career; They serve to enhance it. The more tools I can put on the table for any future employer, the better off I will be.

So what do I call myself now? I don’t know. I still design. I also write. I have planning skills. I can’t ignore the fact that I will be a civil servant soon. I guess I’ll leave it open-ended for now. :)

 

This blog post was originally written for Northwestern University’s EPICS Blog.

Walt Disney famously said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” For me, picking up and leaving Evanston had been one of the most intimidating things I’d ever had to do. But doing it led to one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had in my life – interning for Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Team-Disney

Since I’ve been here, many of my friends have asked me what is like working for Disney. “For one, I never have to explain what the company does,” is what I usually say. In truth though, I’ve been having a blast. As part of the External Communications team, I’ve been actively engaged in writing, research, and content planning – all the things that make up a solid media relations internship.

But what’s made my time here truly one-of-a-kind has been the opportunity to be part of such an incredible variety of meaningful experiences: I’ve produced a video featuring Disney employees (here called Cast Members) talking about their moms. I’ve assisted in a live broadcast of Good Morning America. I’ve written a story that got picked up by a local TV channel about Princess Belle reading to preschoolers. I even helped build a neighborhood playground as a Disney VoluntEAR. And, as of earlier this month, I can officially count myself one of the first to ride Magic Kingdom’s highly anticipated newest attraction, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, as part of an international press event attended by more than 250 media.

“The one thing that ties it all together is the desire to tell compelling stories with humor and heart. This… is the driving force of what Disney does.” 

I suppose the one thing that ties it all together is the desire to tell compelling stories with humor and heart. This principle is the driving force of what Disney does, and stems the legacy Walt himself left behind. For me, it meant learning early on how to write a press release or a Facebook post with an understanding of what moves people. Here, the power of a good story is never underestimated.

One last thing – I’ve found it amazing how easy it is to reach out to other Cast Members, despite the company’s sheer size. In fact, it is part of the corporate culture to allow for opportunities to meet other professionals, something I’ve seen people do with much enthusiasm. After all, the range of roles at Disney is so broad and diverse that there is great deal of interest in what others do. There is almost a sense of kinship in the way people within Disney regard each other – I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Ultimately, my time at Disney has been immensely energizing, and an unmatched experience. There is just so much to learn here, and the best part is, your work makes a real difference, both within the company and out in the community. I suppose it isn’t unexpected that Walt Disney himself said it best:

“Most of my life I have done what I wanted to do. I have had fun on the job.”

 

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Here’s a recent post from the Second City Network written by Andel Sudik and visually conceptualized by me. The blog post came to me as a regular list, but the Editor was looking for something they’d never before considered: incorporating artwork into the humor. I proposed a solution – what better way to say-something-without-saying-anything-at-all than with an infographic? See if you get any smarter after reading this one.

This was originally posted on The Second City Network.

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Hello everybody! I’ve got a fresh new site!

So this has been a long time coming. I say farewell to my old blog, at last. For a time, it will sit pretty in some unknown subdirectory on cyberspace, but once the beta-testing for this new site is done, I will archive it forever.

I loved my old site. I think I was experiencing some sort of separation anxiety from it, which is why I took so long to change the theme. It was simple, functional, clean – but I knew it lacked the potential to take me into the future. While I loved its simplicity, it wasn’t mobile-friendly at all – as some of you pointed out to me – it could only display 12 portfolio items, and the blog pages remained much to be desired. So, against my will, I took this summer to develop a new site based off a new theme, so that I could futureproof my website and my brand.

So ignore my nostalgia, friends! Do let me know what you think of this new site below. It is fully responsive, has cool animations, and has a ton of random functions such as the ability to make

 

95%%
Cool Pie Charts

Current Exhaustion Level (%)

and

 

Awesome
10%
Progress Bars
100%

 

So, you know. Pros and cons.

In truth, though, redeveloping your website is hard work. I’ve done this before for clients and student groups I’ve been in, and each time you fear to death the unwelcome encounter with “Error establishing database connection” or worse, a completely blank screen. And every time you think you’ve got yourself completely covered, a new error pops up to stall you. I don’t think I could have done it without the help of my good friend, Chin Yang, a veritable prodigy, who also happens to be a very nice guy all around. So here’s a public shout out to him!

So enjoy my new site, everybody! There’s going to be a bunch of new content up very soon, where I outline my work with Harvard College Faith & Action and talk about Second City (again). (I promise it’s still awesome.)

 

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