Whoah how time flies! From selling at markets to planning a move to dealing with car problems and my own health, this spring has flown by and humbled me beyond words. I am finally finally getting around to my accountability updates, combining that of April and May! To recap, earlier this year, I started a series of “for purpose” works in attempt to create art that does good in addition to looking good. In March, I released my “wash your spirit clean” design in limited edition screen prints and tshirts, benefitting 350.org. I also released for preorder my “nevertheless, she persisted” design in screen printed posters, digital prints, and tshirts, benefitting the ACLU. You can learn more about the original designs and the nonprofits from my original post, here.
I am also so excited to share with you my newest design, “compassion”. This design is in response to the decline in our honey bee population and concern for what that could mean for nature as well as our own food production. I have created screen printed posters (not in my online shop yet) and wood wall art of this design. 15% of the sales of all of these products are being donated to Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of all pollinators and their ecosystems. A huge amount of what they do revolves around educating kids and the public on ways to protect and support pollinators such as by planting native plants that provide food and habitats for the different pollinators.
This design reads, “Compassion is our deepest nature. It arises from our interconnection with all things.” The source of this quote is not entirely agreed upon, but is believed by many to be a Buddhist proverb. I thought this quote fitting of the pollinator cause because this is one most people don’t really feel impacted by in their day to day lives. Many people are scared of bees. But they are so important for us. We need to have compassion towards this cause because while we may not feel the effects immediately of fewer pollinators, our ecosystem is so interconnected with theirs. Pulled from the Pollinator Partnership website, here are just a few reasons they matter to the human world:
Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.
Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila.
In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.
When I say that Invisible Children ruined my life in the best way possible, I don’t just say it because it’s a nice phrase. The past four years have been the hardest of my life, in ways bigger than exams and essays and wandering out blindly into the “real world” after graduation. The funny thing about being enlightened, and the one that no one warns you about, is that you suffer so much more mental and emotional pain as a result of being a more aware, more empathetic, and more humble human being.
Now you might be thinking, wow, this sounds like a terrible thing, why would I want to deal with all that extra baggage on a day to day basis? But I would argue to say that I am living much more now than I ever was before. This experience helped me come to two important realizations:
1. This is my only life.
Why would I spend it just going through the motions of what I think I should be doing? That not only sounds boring, but also unproductive. I strongly believe that if you do work you care about, you will work harder, you will work quicker, and your work will be better because of it.
And for those of you that are shaking your heads at the impracticality of it all, this doesn’t mean you have somehow have to find this amazing dream job with a nonprofit or for your favorite sports team or one that lets you travel across the world. A lot of times, finding a job you care about just means one where you can support their ethics and work environment. A small business. A company that has a ping pong table in the break room. One that encourages creativity and sharing ideas instead of stifling them. Or maybe it means you get the courage to break off on your own and stop feeling like it’s “just too far-fetched.”
2. I need to start thinking bigger than myself.
Seeing the suffering in other parts of the world that one evening and even more so with current events today made me realize not only that it’s selfish to develop all your thoughts and opinions solely around your own wants and needs, but also, in doing so, you are lacking forward thinking. We can see on a grander scale how “me me me” thinking has plagued the United States and the world already. Global warming is setting up future generations (and even this generation) for catastrophic consequences everywhere from the 6th global mass extinction to an increase in horrible and devastating natural disasters. We knew it was coming and we were too greedy to stop burning oil and look for alternative, possibly more costly options. We refuse to cut back on our excessive meat consumption, thus releasing incredible amounts of methane through grazing agriculture. We’ve known that discrimination and racism is wrong for over 100 years, yet somehow so many kids still grow up thinking it’s okay to judge someone based on their religion or the color of their skin, and even kill because of it.
I could go on but I think it’s unnecessary. The root cause of all of these things is a lack in forward thinking, because why should we care what happens to the world after we’re gone? Why should I, one person, feel responsible for helping people in a country devastated by a natural disaster halfway across the globe? To me it is all connected. No one wants to say that they don’t care about future generations or people who are suffering in another country. Most people would probably strongly refute it. But when it comes time to take action, to show up, to change your habits, to donate just a little bit of your paycheck, we often hold back. We don’t take that action that we say we support because “oh, I just donated XX amount to this other organization last month” or “well just changing my eating and waste habits aren’t going to make any difference in the grand scheme of things.”
Guess what? If everyone made these changes, it would make a difference. Not only would you encourage people around you to make little changes in how they live too, you would be setting up better and more sustainable habits for your children and future generations. That is how we create change. Saying your own habits and actions don’t matter is an excuse and it’s selfish and just generally not true.
So I want to leave you with a few words of encouragement based on what I’ve learned over the past four years.
When in doubt, do.
Learning shouldn’t stop once you’re done with school. We’re better people if we continue challenging ourselves and trying out new things. But fear of failure, laziness, and fear of being outside of our comfort zone often scares us into inaction. Saying “yes” is often higher risk, but the reward is so much greater and it keeps us moving forward.
Ever heard the phrase, “the world is your oyster”?
Take control over your life.
It’s impossible to be conscious of every little consequence of our day to day actions. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t matter or that we shouldn’t try. Next time you go out shopping, consider looking for locally made or fair trade products, so that you aren’t indirectly supporting sweatshops, poor working conditions, and unfair wages. Do you really need a giant hunk of meat with your dinner every day of the week? If so, can you purchase from a local farmer’s market instead? I’m not a vegetarian but I swear tofu is actually good, guys. Think a little bit more about the waste you are creating when you purchase items. Try to find one with recyclable, biodegradable, or just less packaging overall. Or consider if you really need the object at all. We are plagued by this drive to buy, buy, buy all the time, but it didn’t used to be that way and it doesn’t have to into the future. Small changes mean something. They add up. And everyone making small changes creates a movement.
US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, speaks about how influential young people are in society and why they should take greater action on issues they are passionate about at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Leadership Summit.
Be more empathetic, stress less.
I’ve found that when I am more open to considering and trying to understand other opinions and actions that I disagree with, I tend to be calmer, happier, less angry, and less stressed. This applies to almost every situation, even when I think those other opinions or actions are absolutely absurd. Because I’m not necessarily changing my opinion on the absurdity, but I am choosing to take a more thought out, less aggressive approach. Let me give an example. Road rage is a serious and kind of terrifying thing. Driving up and down 81 for three hours every time I came home from college over the past four years caused me a lot of stress and a lot of anger. Because so many people are just terrible and angry drivers. And terrible and angry drivers make me a terrible and aggressive driver. And one day, driving home again on 81, I just decided that I was going to stop. I wasn’t going to get angry at bad or aggressive drivers anymore because I didn’t like how it made me feel or act. We can choose how we feel and how we react. It made a world of difference. I am more relaxed, and I’m a better driver because of it. It doesn’t mean I don’t still think people do stupid things on the road, but I try and be empathetic when possible and take control over my own driving so that someone doesn’t get angry at me for doing something stupid or aggressive.
One of the most important ways I’ve applied this tip is politically. As passionate as I am about my own views, a huge portion of the population views things differently. And for the most part, that’s okay. The majority of my family has hugely different political views, and they are great, well-intentioned people that I love. Promoting, explaining, and supporting your just beliefs is good. But being entirely close-minded to other beliefs and opinions is not good. I would argue that it can be devastating. If we aren’t willing to change, adapt, and compromise, we will never make progress. And the world (both the physical Earth and the people around us) are going to change and adapt and leave us behind. So empathize. I love this video by RSA , The Empathic Civilisation, that shows how we are hard-wired for empathy and how that does us good.
Value your own worth.
While there are a handful of people that value themselves a little too much (I’m looking at you, Mr. Trump), I would say the vast majority of people undervalue their skills, their opinions, and their impact. I have always done this, particularly when it comes to pricing my products and services, which you can read more about in my blog post, “What it’s really like graduating from college with a degree in ‘Art.’”
Why do I do it? I naturally assume other people are more of an expert on things than I am. I took a beginner calligraphy course on modern calligraphy recently, and while I had a great time and learned a lot, I realized that my skills were almost, or could be with a little practice, just as good as that of the instructor. And that’s not to put her down, she was awesome. It’s to say that if I took more progressive action on selling my skills, then I could be just as successful as she. I just haven’t made that jump yet.
Another reason I undervalue myself is that I don’t want to come off as cocky or arrogant, but I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t that black and white. Confidence lies between insecurity and arrogance, and that is the goal we should all shoot for. It makes us better people and we become more valued by ourself and those around us.
Valuing you own worth breeds positive confidence which breeds success and action.
I live by the words: The future of the world hinges on our ability and willingness to stop at nothing.
I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve told it before. And it’s not life changing to anyone else but me. It’s how I became the me that I call myself today. The one I refer to that will do anything for something she believes in. The one that timidly shares her problems of anxiety with a group of friends she first met over the internet. The one that’s always churning in the background, regardless of what me is showing at the front. It’s the me that makes my eyes tear up to think about.
Fall of 2011 I moved into a dorm on the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech. I had gotten credit already for most required core classes, but I still needed something for Area 7: Critical Issues in Global Context. I signed up for a class called World Regions. Now, history and social studies have never been my strong point. How am I supposed to remember the leader of every major country in the world if I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner last night, and I forget the word “strainer” when trying to tell my mom what I need from the cupboard?
True story, I actually forgot that word tonight just a couple hours before I wrote this.
But I signed up for the course because I heard it was easy, had 3,000 students in it, and the professor was a baffling mix of humor and offensiveness that drove around in plaid Scion xB. This is the girl I was. Normal. I had my own problems and quirks like anyone else. I was introverted, quiet, a little nerdy, and took art classes outside of school. Even on the weekends. But I had a normal middle and high school experience.
Life changed me towards the beginning of the end of my first semester in college. It was a movie. (If that’s not of sign of the millennial age, I don’t know what is). Professor Boyer of that very World Regions class convinced me (and probably at least 1,000 more of us) with extra points to come see a screening of a movie. He did this thing where he showed screenings of movies about other cultures and countries for extra points in the class if we attended, probably in an efforts to try and “globalize us” or something. Funny I’d be looking back at that four years later, teary-eyed and eternally grateful that he ruined my life in the best way possible. And to think I almost didn’t go.
The film shown that night was called “Tony,” and it was shown by a group of weird looking things… err I mean, people… called “roadies” that drove all the way from California (one from Uganda) for a nonprofit called Invisible Children. Invisible Children is a millennial generation nonprofit that exists to stop a rebel group in central Africa called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and their leader, Joseph Kony, from committing terrible atrocities and human rights abuses, which they have been doing now for over 20 years.
Please watch. If you’ve seen it before, watch. If you’ve never even heard of Invisible Children or Joseph Kony before, please. Watch. I can’t promise it won’t ruin you. And I can’t promise you’ll care. But I did and I did with such a fury and a passion that I can’t not use every opportunity I have to try and convince others to do the same.
After the movie, there was a presentation about what Invisible Children was and a discussion with a young Ugandan who had been directly affected by the conflict. I can’t say I remember the words they said. I can’t remember the ones that struck my heart with such force, I was shaken and lost of strength. But I remember standing back up. It’s funny, actually. That I just kept standing up. Tears in my eyes, gripping the seat in front of me for balance, I just kept standing up in the middle of the room, while the roadies were still presenting. Good thing I was in the back, because I’m sure people were staring at me. The film, the talk, the staggering realization that this was going on in today’s world, that people weren’t stopping them, that people my age and younger were facing the worst human rights abuses imaginable was just more than my mind could bear. It’s like my body knew that I needed to do something that instance to help the cause, but my mind, in its utter astonishment, just hadn’t caught up yet.
Once the presentation ended, and I figured out how to move my legs again, I started to act. I immediately joined the Frontline, a campaign to raise $2 million in four months for Invisible Children’s Protection Plan. I organized a team in my dorm to raise even though there were only a couple of weeks of the tour left. I was a leader for the first time in my life, it was terrifying and humbling and exhausting. But I did because I wanted to, I needed to. Me, the definition of “that quiet art kid”, wanted to be a leader so that I could share a story that was bigger and more important than myself. That sort of feeling only comes around a few times in a lifetime.
This was only the beginning. It was a seed and a spark. A moment. I happened to be there and it changed me forever. But this was only the beginning.
Stay tuned for The Moment That Made Me: Part 2 to see how this spark brought me to life. In the meantime, I’ll be back there reliving all my best and hardest and most inspiring memories since then and trying to pretend I’m not crying at something ridiculous.
One of my favorite things about forward-thinking, millennial age nonprofits is that they have this unyielding energy and positivity about their cause. Disappearing are the days of showing a sad dog to sad music on television to guilt viewers into donating. Disappearing are the endless charades of phone calls and letters and “free” calendars. We have learned that people react to positivity and passion over scare-tactics and guilt trips.
“People are tired of being asked to do the least they can do. They are hungry to do the most they can do.” -Dan Pallotta at Fourth Estate Leadership Summit 2013
I am so excited to be living on Earth during this time when people are excited to do good, get involved in global issues, and make change. Startups, crowdfunding campaigns, and small nonprofits are popping up across my news feed every day, and at first they made me feel like I could do anything I set my heart to. I saw the wild success of Invisible Children’s viral video, Kony 2012, and believed with all my heart that I could do that too. With my own passion, I could start a fire.
In the time since then, I’ve started, become a leader of, or become a part of many ventures. I became co-president of my college Invisible Children club. I started a campaign selling my arts and crafts to raise money for charities. I planned a cross-country road trip with my high school best friend. I joined a friend to help her start a nonprofit for kids in foster homes. I planned with another group an organization that would teach young people how to become active global citizens. I became head graphic designer as a volunteer for a digital magazine devoted to telling worthwhile and relevant stories while giving back to charities. I started an Etsy shop and blog about the creative lifestyle.
As a self-proclaimed introvert and a generally anxious human being, I was so proud of myself for these things that I did. They took courage. They took stepping outside my comfort zone. But let me tell you what happened. The Invisible Children club slowly lost interest during my term and ceased to exist by only one semester after I stepped down as co-president. I stopped selling my crafts because I didn’t know how to continue and grow it into a real, legal business. We had to cancel our cross country road trip for money and scheduling problems. My friend decided the nonprofit was something that we would have to hold off on. The educational organization started seeming “too far-fetched” and “not the right time” and “maybe not a good idea,” and slowly disappeared into the dust.
The magazine and my Etsy shop–my newest endeavors–are still active, but I can’t help but lose hope sometimes during the times we are struggling. And with a new business or venture of any kind, you probably know that struggles aren’t hard to come by. I think to myself, is it worth it? Am I cut out to do this? Doubt creeps into my mind. Am I doing this right? Can I make it out of the rut? I want to run back to a 9-5 job and some stability. Why is this not working? Why won’t anyone help me?
You may know these feelings. Whether for a business, individual endeavor, or volunteer/activist cause, you may be feeling your own creeping sense of doubt. Sometimes it’s hard to look back at your past failures and say, “This has helped me grow.This has taught me these lessons.” instead of “I can’t do this now because I have failed so many times before.” To me, saying this is so hard because although my past failures have helped me learn and grow, a big part of me still knows that my natural state is not that of a leader. It’s not 10 miles out of my comfort zone or knowledge range. I don’t feel comfortable there. The odds are against me in these new endeavors and positive thinking alone isn’t going to make me succeed.
So what then, do you do when you’ve lost hope? Ask yourself what you’re losing. If it’s a business venture, are you losing money? Are you losing valuable time? Are you losing yourself? Look deeply at these losses and weigh them against your initial reasons for starting your endeavor. Many times I find that my losses aren’t actually so bad after all. I was upset because I was not succeeding. If you are simply not succeeding yet, then there is no reason to give up. Without any or substantial loss, your endeavor still has great value to you. After all, you started at zero, right?
Recognizing that I am just not doing as well as I had envisioned is an incredibly powerful tool to bring back my energy, focus, and dedication to a cause. It is my habit (and I’m sure a lot of yours as well) to have way higher expectations and goals for myself than I would have for someone else. So cut yourself a break. Look back at your expectations and think, I may not have met my goals yet, but here is what I have done and here is what I’ve learned. Because if I continue to learn more about my cause, continue to produce quality content, and continue to push my boundaries, I know that I will be able to grow and succeed and get better. It may happen slowly. I may later evaluate that my losses have become too high. But they are not that way today, and that is why I can keep going.
I feel like it’s customary and required to share a little bit about myself, tell ya’ll what I do and why, and give a little schpiel about my shop that makes you want to go and buy all the things. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Hi, my name is Becca and I am the creative behind South Ranch Creative. What is a creative? To me, a creative is someone who isn’t just good at painting, or drawing, or writing, or thinking outside the box. A creative dabbles, and as someone who naturally sees beauty, elegance, and communication better than your non-creative, he/she has a small leg up when entering new creative ventures. And I LOVE to learn new things. So I start new creative ventures a lot.
So that leaves the South Ranch. Well friends, that is my home! I live in a sleepy rural town on 4 1/2 acres, where the biggest news of the week is when a set of teens take their horses through the McDonald’s drive-thru (not kidding). My home has been such a big influence on my work from the beginning. Not everyone has the opportunity to take fallen tree branches, old fence posts, and barbed wire from out in their yard and create a whole set of wedding decorations with it!
I am a recent graduate of Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES!) in Visual Communication Design and decided to start doing freelance as well as sell my arts and crafts in an attempt to eventually make a life out of it. You might say that I didn’t exactly “fit in” to your classic design agency lifestyle; I wanted to do something that was more meaningful to myself. This means working for nonprofits and not giant corporate agencies, for individuals of passion and not companies just wanting to sell you something. This means making the happiest day of someone’s life just a little more special, or creating work out of found, recycled, or reclaimed materials instead of buying new. In case you haven’t gathered this yet from my little rant, yes, I am an activist. A dirty word to some, a badge of pride to others, I have transformed over the past four years of college into someone who is more compassionate, more considerate, and exponentially more humble. And I have the nonprofit, Invisible Children to thank for that.
I am actually in this photo carrying the banner for the MOVE|DC in Washington, how cool is that?!?!
Now you know I am a creative and an activist, but what else am I? I am a dreamer. You might say that I am an optimist to a fault, and I will affectionately take that description in stride. I am always thinking about the possibilities and hoping for a better future. It may make me naive in a way, but I find it hard to put all of my passion and motivation towards a project if I don’t believe that the outcome will mean anything. Lastly, I am an adventurer. I’ve never been out of the United States, I am terrified of flying, and yet I call myself an adventurer. Adventures aren’t restricted to a location, time, or distance from home and that’s what makes them so mysterious and alluring. They are best unplanned and unmapped. My wanderlust towards nature makes me a natural environmentalist so yes, I have some hippie genes in me too.
All of this–my creativity, my activism, my optimism, and my wanderlust–make up the core of South Ranch Creative. They saturate the work I sell and are the base of what I will be posting about in this blog. You might find DIY projects, a photo album of my latest road trip, a post about the nonprofit I just did work for, or the history behind one of my found or reclaimed crafts. If my art and my passions resonate with you, I encourage you to join me in this journey, and I look forward to hearing about your journeys too.