I grew up in Philly. My parents came from the Philippines and they are the very stereotypical Filipino parents with expectations of being good in high school, go to a good college, then become a doctor, then move to New Jersey and then have babies. When you’re in high school and forced to be good at everything, you don’t really know what you’re good at. By Junior year, I had no idea what I was good at. I got A’s and was in Honor Roll and was in a million clubs, so I was good at everything, but not great at anything. I didn’t have a passion for anything, but I really liked art but I never saw it as an option.
While applying to schools, I totally thought I was going to the Ivy leagues. The plan was to go to Penn and major in Art Therapy, but I didn’t get in – I got waitlisted, and my whole world fell apart because this vision of my life was not coming through. So I had to think of a Plan B. Instead I went to Drexel, and within the first quarter of school, I knew it wasn’t for me! I knew right away I needed to be doing something creative.
So then, my parents did say I am not going to do any of that, become a graphic designer, or do art. So I ended up doing a double major so I can pursue art. I double majored for a really long time which in hindsight, if I were to talk to 18 year old me, I’d tell her “Don’t do it because you’ll stretch yourself too thin and you’re still not good at anything because you are sacrificing your time to appease somebody else.”
My parent’s concern came from a place of love and worry. Looking back, I know they wanted my life to be easier than theirs. But I was always pitting myself second. And I sacrificed a lot of my time that even in the back of my head, I knew this was something I would never be using. So by the time it was Senior year, I dropped my Psychology major to a minor. I had spent all this time and had taken all of these classes, which wasn’t a bad thing because I took stats and business classes that would help me prepare not only for the art side of graphic design. It was beneficial, but it was a lot of stress back then. I had no summers, and took extra classes to graduate on time, but in the end I really loved graphic design. The program was great and they really pushed me to find something I liked to do which is typography.
I took on a lot of internships, Drexel was really known for their co-op system which you take your Junior year, and it’s when you would go to school and at the same time go to work. I worked for Drexel Magazine for 6 months and got to learn a lot about working with vendors and clients while I was there. I knew this was something I could do. At the time I didn’t think it was something I’d do on my own as an entrepreneur, but I could see the groundwork being laid down to talk to people and organize projects. Looking back at it now, it’s about looking at those baby milestones like being able to print something, or how I’ve organized a project, and now I see how it helped lead me to where I am now, but at the time I couldn’t see it then.
After I graduated, I didn’t really have a job lined up but my boyfriend was going to grad school out in San Diego. And since I didn’t have anything lined up, lived at home while I was in college, and never lived anywhere other than Philly, it was the perfect opportunity to do something different and try something new! So I packed up 2 suitcases with all my belongings and moved out to San Diego and I’ve been here ever since.
It’s been 6 years now, and I didn’t think I’d live here for too long. But I fell in love with San Diego – it’s the weather, the people, and the city! The creative community and the work life here is a little bit more balanced I feel like compared to the East Coast in general. Out here in San Diego it’s been all about community, it’s a lot more supportive, and it’s more about raising each other up and helping each other achieve bigger and better things!
I feel a lot of the times, especially with Instagram and social media, there’s so much pressure to do a certain thing or follow a certain trend or do a certain kind of job, that talking to people in real life, it’s different where we are each other’s cheerleaders. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people, and one of the things I struggle with the most is self-doubt. I feel like self-doubt has stopped me from doing a lot of things and being fearful has stopped me from doing things. But having a support system out here in San Diego where everyone has been supportive and encouraging, I feel like everyone is all about community over competition.
I’m no expert, but when I have a moment of self-doubt, I have to step away from myself a little bit and look at what I have been doing from an outside perspective. For example, since I’ve done this #365DaysOfLettering, sometimes I’ll look back at day 1 and look through my progress and see how much I’ve changed, improved, and even found my own voice over that time. That makes me feel better, looking at my own journey and thinking it’s okay! You shouldn’t put that much pressure on yourself to be 10 times better than you were yesterday. I feel like looking at where you were and looking at where you are now is definitely something that gets me through those days when I feel down or in a rut or feeling like I’m not improving or growing.
When you’re in it, I feel like it’s hard to figure yourself out. There’ll be a time where I feel like I’m not growing or improving and I can be like that for as long as a month. It’s easy to say “pull yourself up” but it’s hard when you are in that frame of mind when you don’t believe that. You can have a million people around you telling you you’re amazing but you’re the most important person to convince yourself of that. If you don’t believe it, then nothing’s going to happen, you’ll still be trapped in that mindset. I feel like I get in my own way all the time, but it’s a matter of telling myself to stop for me to get out of it.
I feel like a lot of the time, when I look back at why I haven’t done things sooner or why I haven’t done a certain project yet, it’s because I’ve been scared of starting it or what if it doesn’t succeed, what if people think I’m stupid or I suck. But it’s always me who gets in the way of that. It’s only me in my own head thinking these negative things. I’m now starting to learn to get out of my own way and silence that part of myself. I’ve read this quote by Joan Jett that said “For me the challenge isn’t to be different but to be consistent.” which I really liked because over the past year, just doing something every day and pushing myself to create every single day has definitely helped me find my voice and see that it’s not about perfection, but about growth and learning.
During this project, I think the most important thing was finding the time to be creative and give myself the opportunity to work on my own stuff. I think one of the reasons why I haven’t done a lot of projects that have been on the back of my mind is because I haven’t been prioritizing my own time and myself. Having this 365 project has forced me to make time for myself and the things I think are important. It’s been one of the most influential projects I’ve ever done for myself. Sometimes there’ll be days where I feel like a design is complete shit and I don’t want to post it, or it’ll be completely awesome and it’ll set that tone for the rest of the week. I get bored easily and feel like sometimes a lot of my designs start to look the same, that’s when I learn something new or switch up mediums to do something different as much as I can.
Something I’d like to do is learn new styles and techniques to keep doing something different. There are people who have one style they stick to and they are really good at it and known for it, but that’s the exact opposite of what I want. I want to be doing something different all the time! When I get comfortable I get scared and I feel like I’m not growing and start freaking out a little bit, which is one of the reasons why I love being my own boss because I’m not doing the same thing twice for the most part or sitting at a desk doing the same thing over and over again.
When you’re in it, you can’t see what’s ahead or what’s behind you. Stop, take a minute and appreciate where you are right now. That’s the hardest part. A lot of people have big dreams but don’t plan it out. Like it’s a nebulous thing out in the universe that will come to them. But you’re the one who has to go to it!
After being a longtime follower of April’s, we finally got a chance to connect with a cup of coffee. We’ve witnessed her growth, especially with her completion of her 365 Days of Lettering project, where she shared a new piece every day for the whole year in 2017! As a San Diego transplant, she fits right in with the community and has even had her work printed for Creative Mornings last Fall.
She’s an amazing human being with a heart of gold and we are thrilled to be able to share her story. She reminds us that life is a journey, one that will always have its ups and downs, but we must always be grateful for where we are and take charge of our dreams! Be sure to follow her and keep up with her, as we have a very special collaboration in the works!