From skies to skills and plows to pixels, my thesis digs deeper into the history of hardships, resilience, and recovery. It examines how farm life lessons of childhood are a continuum from even before my time in history. Now, even with all the progress and new technologies, the original ways of cultivation, employment, and spirituality have persisted and serve as the foundation for how I live in recovery, teach, write, and run my design firm today.
The seeds were first planted for this thesis
from a curious ask of “Why am I here?”
This is when I began to understand addiction, toxic positivity, and how the resilience and mindfulness tools within you can lead to physical, mental, and spiritual health. How to build a safe space where a creative career and life can align honestly and authentically. How through the work of recovery, you are responsible for cultivating and creating your own gratitude.
The answer became an autoethnographic study.
My hope is that you will look inside yourself at what you might be numbing from, and look at what practicing gratitude might look and feel like to you. How old patterns and habits can create pressure to be perfectionistic, not feel enough, not feel at all, and only stay at surface level. These behaviors, I have learned, have a long-term unhealthy effect on designers and can lead to burnout, depression, and addiction. Through personal work and research in recovery to create a safe space, beliefs can change, blindspots can be overcome, anxiety can be reduced, and depression can be alleviated.
This thesis tells a bit about my rural raisin’, Kentucky farm background and how I learned at an early age the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties — how to run and hide in a safe space and doodle away the drama. Discovering my inner toughness was a key piece in my toolbox I didn’t even realize was there. By looking back at my sense of place, I learned confidence and compassion to help heal the muddy parts of life today. This healing-centered focus is now the foundation from which I run my design firm.
This thesis is a vulnerable story, a study of the self through my grad school journey. How it’s important to have an understanding of learned behaviors, and how I began to face my own truths and habits. How I realized I was responsible for the unhealthy habits I was using to cope with hardships as an adult. I learned to examine myself honestly, the good and the bad, and made a choice to learn new ways to respond to life’s stresses. Using mindfulness, meditation, and writing, I uncovered cycles to break and new ones to create.
The hard truths I faced while writing and researching revealed an unhealthy alcohol addiction. Years of people pleasin’, panic attacks, and toxic positivity had caught up with me. My failed attempts to control the stress of running a creative company, the shame and guilt cycles with alcohol, were real but not really me. Now I am privileged to share the process of how I regained possession of my truest self. It is the biggest reward today. Through community, sharing, and writing, I found a way to live a clear, authentic, happy life. Hangover-free mornings never get old.
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