Chelsea & The City: A year’s worth of lessons…illustrated

365 days ago I was a frightened 22-year old about to face the real world for the first time. Somehow, I made it through the year and came out pretty okay. I’ve had ups and downs and it has not been easy, but I wouldn’t change a single thing.

I am so thankful I have had the opportunity to blog for SND, but at some point all things must come to an end. My year of blogging is up, and for my last post I decided to break down the year with the five most important lessons learned.

A professional lesson: YES is the magic word

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Without saying yes to my acceptance letter a million miles away from home at Ball State, I would not be here today.

Without saying yes to volunteering my time to countless student media outlets at Ball State, I would not be here today.

Without saying yes to my first unpaid internship on Staten Island when I was 19, I would not be here today.

And without saying yes to every opportunity — big or small — as a freelancer at TIME, I would not be a full-time employee there today.

It is one simple word that can change your life forever. Get outside your comfort zone and say YES. You never know where it may lead you one day. It is the word that will get you to your dreams.

A design lesson: Never Stop at your first idea

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Before this year, usually when I had a somewhat good idea, I stuck with it. I never really took the time to push myself past it to see what else I could do. My last semester at Ball State my professors (thanks Jenn & Ryan) really started to push me to do that and I am so thankful. At TIME, and in my own personal projects, I have learned not to settle with my first idea. I’ve learned to keep pushing myself even when I feel like I don’t have any more ideas. I know there is always something more, something better. I just have to reach out there and find it. We show about 3 – 7 different designs per story at TIME. Sure, they are not all fantastic every time, but it is such a good exercise in pushing yourself further. This is such a valuable lesson that has helped me grow in my design abilities. I’ve proven to myself that I can create something better than I ever expected.

A freelance lesson: Never undervalue yourself

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This was a really hard lesson for me to learn. Coming straight from school and doing everything for free, I had no real concept of what my work was worth. And sure it’s not worth too much because I’m still new, but it is definitely worth more than I thought! And I thank all of you for showing me that and teaching me how to figure out the value of my work. If you undervalue yourself, people will undervalue your work as well. It has been a hard process figuring out what to charge and sometimes being turned away because of prices, but I know in the end I need to stand up for my work and make it worth something.

A personal lesson: Life is not a movie

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The real world seemed so glamorous to me a year ago. Boy, I had no idea what was coming. Bills, rent, making new friends, health care — a whirlwind of adulthood I was definitely not ready for. I am still struggling through this everyday. It was a transition I was not prepared for, but I don’t think anyone really can be. I am so thankful to have such supportive friends and family to help me through this. New York can be really lonely. Sure 8.3 million people live here, but honestly that makes it harder to meet people. I have learned a lot about myself and what I want in life this past year and I am very thankful for that. I know New York is the place I want to be and I just finally have to accept that life is not the movie I was hoping it was.

A TIME lesson: Listen & you will learn

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I am not a quiet person. If you know me, you know I love to talk, text and gchat, but when I started at TIME, I was surrounded by so much knowledge and wisdom all I wanted to do was listen. I wanted to talk to the designers, writers, editors and learn everything they had to say. I wanted to study the designs and learn everything I could. I am sure I still ask too many questions, but I always want to hear what those around me have to say. I know that every week I am becoming a better designer and honing my craft with every page and critique. I never think that I know best. I want to hear what others think is best and learn why. You never know what you will learn when you just stop and listen.

Again, I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to share with all of you this year! Please feel free to contact me about anything! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and thank you for the incredible work each and every one of you put out into the world everyday. You inspire me and countless others.

& always,

Chelsea Rae Kardokus