I once read an article about liberal arts colleges’ inability to prepare students for careers (of course I’ve lost track of the source and vehemently disagreed with most of the thesis anyway). The author took a dig about how it’s this baffling time where we tell students that their most important task every day is to read books, then we wonder why they show up to the workplace with no real job skills.
It has been my experience that a liberal arts and straight-up arts education has been invaluable in my career, and even though I will be paying for my degrees for the rest of my life, I have never regretted any of my education for even a moment.
I talk a lot with friends about how much I love my job, but I realize that if they’re mostly hearing stories about shipping and logistics and working super late, it may not come across as such a dreamy experience that a girl could have such a crush on. One friend asked me if I regretted not pursuing a career that used my degrees, and I was flummoxed because honestly, I draw on my experiences and education every single day.
As I tried to think of a way to explain the intricacies of how and why I love my job, I hit on something crucial: this job is the only one I’ve ever had where the principle guiding force behind decisions is purely aesthetic. Working in art or science, I saw again and again where vision got cut short and compromised by funding. At my job, the question is almost never about the bottom line, but more, “What is the most elegant and beautiful way to do this?” When you work with objects as important and unique as the ones that make their way across my desk each day, everything in support of them gets elevated. It is a privilege just to be there, let alone to play a daily role in making it run.
I can’t help but contrast the experience of being so immersed in design and luxury with times when I was working in A/R or retail while the store was struggling. I spent my days fretting over purchase orders and invoices, then went home to fret over my own finances. I had the very distressing impression that I would spend my entire adult life shuffling papers, reconciling balance sheets that never added up in our favor, and marveling at the way interest accrued so mercilessly. Part of what motivated me to go to art school was the certainty that I just wasn’t cut out for chasing money. If I was going to be poor anyway, I figured at least I could have beauty in my personal life.
But now, work is a holiday for me. Our office has the same rarefied atmosphere of my favorite museums and galleries, where you can actually feel the reverence and consideration for the pieces. I spend my days in a world where money is no object and the most prized commodities are proportion, purity, and vision. Whatever mood or weight I may walk in carrying, it almost always dissipates when I see a particularly beautiful photo, the way a stone catches light, or a designer’s sketch from 1925 of a bracelet that I’m holding in my hand.
This year my job took me to London and Paris already, and I’m returning to Paris for another 3 weeks this September. Just after that, Hong Kong. (I promise, we’ll talk about all this stuff soon.) I feel so incredibly grateful and happy at my job that sometimes I worry I will wake up and learn it was all an elaborate, exquisite dream.
When I had to leave school two years ago three semesters shy of a chemistry degree (for financial reasons, of course), I thought it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. At the time I chose to interpret it as the universe telling me I was supposed to be on another path, but I was skeptical that it was really an opportunity and not just piss poor luck. Today I mentioned to someone that I never would have gotten my wonderful, lovely job if I hadn’t been looking at exactly that moment in time. And if I hadn’t been so fiercely motivated to keep from losing my apartment, I probably wouldn’t have even thought to apply for this job.
For maybe the first time since I was a child, when I think about the possibilities for the future, they actually seem limitless. It is genuinely exhilarating.