Inspired by the Fishermen’s Fall Festival and the crisp fall air that came in with September.
Is anyone else as obsessed with before & afters as I am? There's something SO satisfying about obvious markers of progress. Here are a couple of #mcnallymidcentury before & afters. We've been working hard on making the house our own, and while I'm tempted not to share until it's totally "done," I'm going to show you our progress in hopes that you'll take time to recognize your own progress!
Our home was built in 1954 and “updated” in the early 90s. We want to keep the mid-century look while updating the home and creating a calm, peaceful feeling in the bathrooms and bedrooms. How do you think we’re doing so far?
The plant is a Prayer Plant (mine is specifically a Kim Prayer Plant - Maranta leuconeura 'Kim'.) The leaves fold up together in the evening like praying hands. It loves humidity and diffused light, and is doing great in the bathroom so far!
(Yes, there’s still a hole in the wall where the old toilet paper roll doo dad was. We’re working on it! :P)
It’s Been A Year?!
August 2019 marks one year since I’ve been with the Constellation & Co. crew. I suppose it takes a moment of reflection to realize how much time has passed and how much I’ve grown into my role. I’ve told Molly several times recently that it feels as if we both started last month. I’m amazed how a year has just flown for the both of us. I mean, we started the same day, a very special detail to me as we’ve become friends!
When I got hired by Sara last year, it was divine providence. I was praying for my “what next” and apparently, so was she. It’s a much bigger story than that, but the process of finding my way into C&Co was way too perfect for me to take credit.
I’ve learned and experienced a lot in my first year and the best way I could think to summarize it was in images and some overarching themes (That’s a creative writer for you!). Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along my C&Co journey.
I’m a writer and an illustrator, so I’m not unfamiliar with being creative and telling stories, but working at C&Co has really given me the opportunity to help Sara tell the story of Constellation & Co. and expand upon my definition of what comprises storytelling. I’ve had a hand in planning and designing window displays, copy editing catalogs, co-creating content for YouTube, illustrating for cards, staging and sharing social imagery, and figuring out how to best display products. I’ve learned that the “voice” you use throughout your writing, vlogging, podcasting, displays, and even your storefront all need to communicate the same message. It’s your brand and your story and most importantly, it needs to be authentic!
Trying New Things
You’d think that with my role being so versatile and ever-evolving that I’d be more open to change, but I struggle with it! And sometimes, it’s in the smallest of ways. I’ve written another blog about how I got into stationery and what it was like for me growing up and writing letters. My perfectionism often got in the way and kept me from sending snail mail.
After watching Sara send letter after letter, I’ve finally developed my own habit of regular writing. But, it took some self-bribing! See, these beautiful, pastel Lamy fountain pens arrived one day and I kept looking at them. I told myself I didn’t need one, that I wouldn’t use it enough, etc…. Then, one day I just decided to stop making up reasons not to buy one, took the plunge, and picked one in pastel pink (I had banned pink for a long time; it’s come back as a new favorite.)! Since then, I’ve learned to really love writing letters and am grateful I made a change. :)
Also, I can’t forget to mention that I took the plunge and added a furry, snail mail helper to my family this year! He’s more interested in playing with the stationery than sending it (and chewing on my Lamy pen), but it’s a good reminder to take better care of where I store things. :D
Mental Health Awareness
Sara’s focus on mental health and being transparent about what she’s going through has really helped me become aware of the worthiness of my own feelings. There’s only so much time before someone working in a feelings-focused, brutally honest, card carrying shop has to come face to face with the reality of life and the feelings that come with it.
I can definitely say that I’m more self-aware and better at noticing and caring for my needs, being honestly vulnerable, and accepting of the fact that life is life and that we can use words to express and share what we’re going through with those around us. It’s how we build community. <3
Connecting with Community
This year, I’ve discovered what it means to be part of a community. Sara has built friendships through Card Club, the Puget Sound Correspondence Society, the Snail Mail Superstar community, etc.… and I’ve been privileged to jump in and become part of communities she’s already formed!
I’ve received supportive snail mail from folks near and far and had the opportunity to make my own friends in shop, both coworkers and shop patrons alike! I am so pleased to see how joining C&Co has given me opportunities to grow over this past year and experience the joy of friendship and community in new ways.
P.S. Thanks for the snail mail, friends!!!
Looking back over this year, I can see I’ve made progress and overcome my fear of remaining stationary by diving into creative learnings, developing a stronger willingness to try new things, and by taking time to invest in myself as well as in my community. New things can be hard, especially for me, but joining the C&Co crew has opened me up to what I’m capable of and what good can come from being willing to trust that God has a good plan for me through change!
Thanks to Sara, Molly, and everyone who has supported me over the last year through smiles, snail mail, and sweet conversation. :D You’re a special part of my stationery journey and I’m excited to see what the next year holds.
P.P.S. Please make sure to let Sara and Molly know that you’re now aware of their secret talents when you’re next in shop.
Your friendly neighborhood printer here. It’s officially been a year since I responded to Sara’s “help wanted” post on Instagram (The wonders of social media, am I right?) and I, like Michelle, have been thinking a lot about everything I’ve learned in the past 12 months.
I’ve obviously grown a lot as a printer - I tackled and conquered Heidi (our feisty Heidelberg windmill and the “baby” of our three presses), I’ve had the opportunity to design a couple cards for the shop, and have enjoyed perfecting the card making process from start to finish (Literally, from taking the parent sheets of paper out of the box to packaging them to send to all of you.). But, I think being a part of this team has taught me something much more valuable, because what I’ve taken away most out of the last year is the importance of connecting with people.
Constellation & Co is built on making connections. It has made a business of keeping snail mail and the sentimental, written word alive because Sara values the connection that it drives and the ties that it has the power to make and keep. Snail mail is not the only way we connect, though. I look at snail mail as just a space keeper for whatever you’re interested in that connects you to other people. Insert your hobby here, and that’s where you’re going to find your people. For me and this job, and for me and Sara, the connection was letterpress printing.
I was one point of connection away from never seeing Sara’s post and never getting this job. Although the letterpress community is small, I hadn’t been a member of it for very long and I hadn’t yet discovered Constellation & Co. I had, however, just been in New York at a Book Arts summer camp of sorts and had made several great friends there, one of whom followed Sara on Instagram. She saw the post, knew I lived near Seattle, and tagged me. The rest is history. I couldn’t type an email to Sara fast enough, with a resume and short note about myself (all while trying to sound cool and totally not desperate). But, I was desperate. Not only for a job - which, I totally was - but desperate for a connection. A connection with someone who spoke the language of letterpress, someone I could learn from, and an environment I could grow in and continue to connect with fellow lovers of 100-year-old printing presses.
That’s all any of us really want, right? As I print in front of a giant window, I am able to do a lot of people watching. My favorite scenario to watch play out are the people that wander upon the shop by mistake, but do a double take as they catch a glimpse of the presses through the window and immediately make a quick dash for the door. I can tell they’re coming right for me. I can tell they’re a printer, or that they took letterpress printing in high school or college, or that their dad had a print shop in their basement. We have an instant connection, and for a few minutes we are speaking the same language.
I’m grateful for the friends and opportunities that this job and this past year has given me and I’m more excited then ever to see what the next one will bring.
It's a delight to see the incredible places our cards get to hang out. These are a few of our newest and most crush-worthy wholesale partners!
MADE in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Budd + Finn in Portland, Oregon
Retail Therapy in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington
Collage in Portland, Oregon
R.S.V.P. in Iowa City, Iowa
Our unique Hearty Congratulations patch cards have been a best seller in our line since we launched them in 2015. Recently, while telling Michelle the story of how they came to be, it occurred to me that I’ve never shared the story with you.
In the first few years of my experience with infertility, it appeared to me that all my friends were being inducted into an exclusive “Mom Club.” They suddenly had new things to talk about, tasks to complete, and events to attend. As someone who longed to be a mom, but was struggling to conceive, these melancholy musings lead me to sketch the original Mom Club patch in my notebook. It represented the sisterhood of moms my friends were becoming for each other, and how badly I wanted to be part of that “club.”
When I eventually did become a member of the Mom Club, I was inspired to bring the idea from a rough sketch to a digital design, and finally to an embroidered patch. I sewed the patch onto my first diaper bag with a whole lot of excitement and pride.
Over the years, we’ve added many new clubs to the roster. With my growing collection of felines and ink, I joined the Cat Lady and Tattoo Babe clubs. The Happy Hour, Bookworm, and Business Ladies clubs have been fan favorites. Customer requests brought the Type Nerd and Grandparents clubs to the table. Several of these patches have been ironed onto my collection of bags, denim jackets, and vests to show the world the things that I enjoy and share about the person that I am.
There remains one club that I’d not yet joined, and one patch that I’ve looked at in the past with wistful longing. The Official Homeowners Club was added to the collection as a personal aspiration. As a millennial living in Seattle who joined the workforce in the height of the recession, home ownership has seemed like a bit of a pipe dream. My husband and I have both worked very hard over the years in the hopes that someday, maybe, if we’re super lucky, it would be possible to own a home.
I’m pleased as punch to share with you now that we’ve recently joined the Homeowners Club! We’re the proud new owners of a beautiful 1950’s home in South Seattle. We are super excited to be embarking on a long term project of giving our time capsule of a house a facelift while retaining it’s midcentury modern charm. You can rest assured that we’ll be showing you our progress, sharing before and afters, and finding ways to weave some Constellation & Co. magic into this new homeowners adventure.
This year is full of big anniversaries and milestones–ten years of marriage, ten years in Seattle, ten years of designing greeting cards, five years of the brick & mortar shop–and I’m thrilled to celebrate by putting down roots in this city I love with the people I love.
Hi buddies! In this video, I'm reflecting on 10 years since my college graduation and sharing some student work and early Constellation & Co. cards, marketing, & events.
It's a delight to see the incredible places our cards get to hang out. These are a few of our newest and most crush-worthy wholesale partners!
Ace General Store in Excelsior, Minnesota
Calliope Paperie in Natick, Massachusetts
The Book Shop Nashville in East Nashville, Tennessee
Raggedy Man Goods & Gifts in Eau Claire, Wisconsin
In June of 2009, Brad (my fiancé at the time) and I drove from Sarasota, Florida to Seattle, Washington in a little silver Saturn. We stopped to visit friends & family and do some sight seeing along the way. We stopped to see the Saint Louis Arch, Mount Rushmore, and Yellowstone National Park. Our road trip fell in the few short months between graduating college and getting married (which we did back in Florida in September). This was our first real road trip together, and we sure picked a long one! If being engaged is the time for making sure you can survive a life together, that road trip was the proving ground. We solved problems together, faced our fears, agreed on music choices, and had a lot of fun adventuring.
Our first two trips to Seattle had been important signposts in our relationship. The first was at the end of 2007, about a month before we started dating. I’m certain that without that trip, we may not have started out at all. Getting out of our college bubble and picturing our future in the big city really helped to push us in a new direction. I loved Seattle for that, right away.
Our second trip to Seattle was for spring break, during our senior year of college. One night during that trip, Brad suggested that we take a “date night,” away from the guy friends we were traveling with, to have dinner at the Space Needle. Midway through that dinner, as the restaurant slowly spun, Brad asked me to marry him.
As deeply introverted as Brad is, proposing in public was a huge deal. Apparently other people were excited too, because as soon as he kneeled down, a guy yelled, “He’s proposing!” And as soon as I had the ring on my finger, he yelled again: “She said yes!” It was hilarious and silly and wonderful. That night was perfection. The two of us planned our life together, while looking out over the city we dreamed of calling home.
And so, for our third trip, we’d packed up all our belongings in Brad’s little car and moved here for good. We didn’t know a single person in the city, and we didn’t have jobs lined up. We’d signed a lease for our first apartment in Belltown via fax, while still in Florida. It was one of the bravest things either of us had ever done, but it didn’t feel too scary (though perhaps it should!) because we were tackling it together.
This June, we’re celebrating 10 years of calling Seattle home! Some days felt slow, and many flew by too quickly - for example, every single summer. But I’ve learned some things along the way that I wish 10 years ago Sara would have known. I’ll share them with you now.
TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED…about life in Seattle in the 10 years since I moved here:
Community is super important, but it takes time.
When we arrived in Seattle, we were in such a hurry to meet people and be part of a community. We threw ourselves into it completely, and got a little bit heartbroken when the first few friendships didn’t work out and stick around. It took a dose of patience to take the edge off that hunger to meet great people. The desire was good, but it probably won’t happen right away.
Choose an affordable place to live and stick with it.
We spent the first 4 years in Seattle living in 4 different places. It was ridiculous. All we did was move! It got super expensive, and totally wore us out. Finding an “affordable” place to live in Seattle now is kind of a laugh, but the idea is still a good one if you can manage to find a reasonable place. When we finally found a place that fit our budget and had enough space to functionally live, we stayed for 6 years. That really helped us feel at home and gave us time to dig into a neighborhood community.
Take advantage of everything the city has to offer! (Preferably on foot.)
The first few years living in the city we were in Belltown, which gave us easy access to public transit and was also really walkable to downtown. We were both kids from small towns/suburbs, so every new day in Seattle felt like an adventure. But honestly, after 10 years, when I walk around Seattle’s neighborhoods, it still feels like an adventure. Getting out of my car and onto my own two feet allows me to witness interesting things, check out local businesses on a whim, and otherwise experience city life that I would missed.
The Seattle freeze is a real thing, but you don’t have to give in to it.
People introvert hard in Seattle. You may never meet your neighbors or become a regular at your local coffee shop without some serious effort. I’ve learned that I have to push through the awkwardness and say hello/introduce myself if I want to build relationships. I can go with the introvert flow so easily, but when I get awkward and make an effort to meet people, my life is so much richer.
People lose their minds when the sun is out in the best way.
I remember the absolute shock I experienced on the first sunny day of spring, the first year I lived in Seattle. We were driving through the University of Washington campus, and girls were tanning in bikinis while boys threw frisbees, shirtless, in 50 degree weather! As two Floridians, we were still bundled up in coats at that point. 10 years later, I pull out my jean shorts on sunny days when the thermometer hits about 60 in the afternoon. Sunny days in Seattle are glorious, and it’s not unusual for people to call out sick from work when the weather is too nice. Seattle has taught me not to leave joy for tomorrow. When the sun is out, you go outside and soak it in. You never know when it will be back!
Fall, winter, and spring are for productivity. Summer is for joy.
This one goes hand in hand with number six. I plan all my big work projects during the cold, rainy months. As soon as the sun comes out and the warm weather rolls in, all my brain & body want to do is lounge around outside with an iced coffee. I’ve stopped planning work or home projects when it’s nice outside, because I absolutely will NOT follow through on them. Life’s too short not to be outside in Seattle’s insanely beautiful summertime!
Locals don’t carry umbrellas, but they do invest in really good rain jackets.
It’s a total Seattle stereotype, but it’s totally true. On most rainy days in Seattle, we just get a sprinkle (compared to the wild thunderstorms we’d get in the south). When you see someone carrying an umbrella in the Seattle drizzle, you know they’re a tourist. 😉 When we first moved here, I scoffed at the price of rain jackets. Considering how often I wear my rain jacket and waterproof boots, they’re worth every penny!
We have sweeping views, water, city life, nature, and culture! Washington has mountains, rain forests, deserts, and islands. Why would anyone live anywhere else?
I’m just kidding. (Sort of!) I love it here so much, I feel a little sad every time we take a trip and I watch Seattle getting farther away. I’m that obnoxious person that says “well in Seattle…” about everything, every time I travel. There are still days in which I drive up over a hill, and suddenly catch sight of a snow capped mountain range that takes my breath away.
You should really be a Sounders FC supporter.
Our close-knit soccer community is the most authentic, supportive, passionate community I’ve ever been a part of. The atmosphere for matches at CenturyLink Field is something you MUST experience as a Seattlelite, even if you don’t like soccer! I didn’t when we moved here, and I’m a total die hard fan now.
Vancouver and Portland are just a short road trip away!
The soccer fan in me must tell you that Seattle is (of course!) the king of Pacific Northwest cities. 😉 But really, it’s lovely to have 2 other big cities so close. My favorite way to access them is by taking the Amtrak train! I made a video about one of our trips that you can watch here. In my opinion, train travel is so much more comfortable and glamorous than flying, bussing, or driving. I get carsick during most travel, but I can read easily on a train, as well as write letters, work on my laptop, etc. You can also get up and walk around, take a trip to the observation car, and grab a beer or snack from the cafe car! It’s such a fun time.
So there you have it. Fellow Seattleites, is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!
When I was in design school, I was obsessed with design books and magazines. I sat on the floors of bookstores for hours, leafing through each page, soaking in the visuals and the names of each designer. Those were the people who I saw as successful. They were truly "famous" in my eyes. They'd really made something of their career.
This beautiful Ladies of Letterpress book isn't new. (Though, if you haven't seen it, you really should go pick up a copy! It's incredible.) I already knew that my work was in this book. In fact, I own a copy that sits on my own bookshelf. I see it all the time. I don't really think about it.
On one particular night a few weeks ago, I arrived early to meet a friend and wandered into the art supply store next door. I'd been feeling pretty blah about my career and my accomplishments that week. I walked up to the book section, reliving that college part of my life and hoping for a little inspiration. I spotted this book on the shelf, reached for it, and leafed through. My fingers flipped to this page, and my eyes came to rest on my own name.
I don't often feel successful. I focus on all the ways I've fallen short of my expectations, and I run down the long list of things I still want to do. But on this night, I took a moment to recognize how far I've come. 10 years ago, I was hungry for recognition like this. 10 years ago, this was on my bucket list of accomplishments in the world of design. I tend to skip through celebrating things like this, occasions and accomplishments that childhood or college me would have geeked out over. I hit fast forward on these things, because I'm afraid to slow down enough to celebrate the wins. I'm afraid that if I slow down and take that moment to feel happy, the next win won't come. And that's just silly.
For today, the list of things I've learned is short:
Be patient with yourself. It takes time to get those big wins you've been working toward.
When you get there, take a little victory lap. There's time for that. Don't let fear chase you away from celebrating.
What's something you've accomplished that college-aged you would have been so excited about? Let's celebrate together!
In case you want to check out the book, here's a link. I don't get anything from sharing it, but the ladies who put it together are very deserving of our support!
There's something magical about a printed catalog.
It had been over a year since we'd ordered them last, and I'd just about talked myself out of ordering new ones. Our industry has been moving more toward the digital in the last few years, and I'm feeling that as much as anyone else. When this new catalog arrived in my hands, it brought me back to the feeling of receiving my very first catalog.
The first C&Co wholesale catalog was a true labor of love. It had letterpress printed covers, hand-bound with black & white twine to a few digitally printed pages. I was so proud of it, despite the small quantity of cards contained within. It was the culmination of what I’d accomplished to that point.
For our first “real” catalog, the one I’d take to our first trade show, I had high expectations. My vision was to create a wholesale catalog that felt more like an issue of Kinfolk than a sales piece. We did product photo shoots all over town in the homes of our friends. To go along with the photos, I wrote small pieces about each person and their home. I wanted to bring pieces of our life in Seattle along with us on that trip to New York. I wanted our catalog to reflect all the things we loved about that season of our life. Looking back at that catalog, I see many things I’d change, but following that impulse for storytelling isn’t one of them.
Holding this 2019 catalog in my hands feels like a new kind of victory. As you may know, we lost our wholesale manager, Chelsa, to cancer last May. In the months following, it was incredibly painful for me to pick up where she left off. Chelsa loved her job and was passionate about serving our wholesale customers. In the height of my grief, searching my inbox for something and finding her name and her words was way too hard. I let the wholesale portion of C&Co sit dormant for a bit while I found my bearings.
It took me nearly a year to find the strength to focus myself on wholesale again. With the help of my husband, Brad, and the many hours he spent shooting new photos of our products, I slowly worked on a new catalog. I’m extremely proud of the cards I’ve written & designed in the last year, especially the cards about grief that were directly inspired by this experience of losing my dear friend and team member. I know she’d be proud of this catalog, and proud of the ways I’ve used my grief to make other people feel loved and less alone.
So for me, this new catalog is more than just a sales tool. It’s the final page in this chapter of loss. I’ll never forget my friend, and the ways she helped form Constellation & Co. with her kindness, compassion, hope, and joy. She’ll always be a part of who we are, what we do, and what we stand for. What she wanted for this company is for it to continue, to keep speaking words of truth and keep reaching more people. Today, sending this catalog into the world, I step forward and turn the page to greet the next chapter.
If you’re a wholesale buyer and would like more info about working with us, head to our wholesale page.
2019 is a year of big milestones for my family and for Constellation & Co. May 2019 marks 10 years since my husband, Brad, and I graduated from Ringling College of Art & Design. Later in 2009, we took a cross country road trip, moved to Seattle, and got married. 2009 was also the year that I started designing and printing greeting cards in the spare bedroom of our first Seattle apartment and selling them on Etsy. I’m carrying around so many thoughts and feelings as I anticipate this series of tenth anniversaries!
In an effort to commemorate this decade of life experiences, I’m rolling out a campaign called: C&Co10. Throughout the rest of 2019, you can look forward to blog posts, YouTube videos, throwback photos, and other forms of nostalgia. Here on the blog, I’ll tell stories and share lists of the top 10 things I’ve learned on a variety of topics. I’ll eventually end the series with a major announcement and a glimpse forward to the next 10 years. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
The Date: May 2009
The Place: Sarasota, Florida
The Occasion: My College Graduation
I completed my 4 years of college at Ringling College of Art & Design, a private visual arts school in southwest Florida. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Graphic & Interactive Communications. I graduated with honors, which seemed very important at the time, but the degree of honor exited my brain at some point in the last 10 years. I started college by moving into a dorm with my best friend from high school, Amanda. I ended college by celebrating with my fiancé, Brad. After 10 years, my college memories are a bit of a blur. I’m far enough out that I’ve forgotten most of the projects, forgotten many of the teachers, and forgotten all of the grades I received. I’ve distilled down what I do remember into this handy list:
TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED…about college in the 10 years since graduation:
I could have (& should have) gotten more sleep and I would still have been just as successful.
A bizarre phenomenon happened in my mind as art school student. I was lead to believe that spending the maximum amount of time available on a project would make that project better. It might have, but probably only the first one. The more lack of sleep I racked up, the more irrational and obsessive I became. I spent countless nights moving pixels around until the sun came up. While I felt very important at the time, I learned to burn out my body and mind as sacrificial payment for my work. I’ve been unlearning that lesson for the last 10 years. I firmly believe that I could have built better boundaries for the benefit of my physical & mental health, and still have succeeded in learning and getting good grades.
Clean, efficient work and plenty of sleep are actually the secret to long term success.
Few effective bosses celebrate their employees pulling all nighters. You don’t get paid extra for them, and they’re actually a symptom of poor planning & inefficiency during working hours. As my own boss, I know that working through the night will just make my head groggy, and will blow the rest of my week. I recognize late nights of work as a wake up call for how I’m spending my time and how many unnecessary things I’m saying yes to.
It’s so much easier to make friends in school than it is as an adult. Cherish that time while you have it.
I spent a lot of time in college feeling guilty about the time I spent away from my desk and the computer lab, goofing off with friends. Looking back, those silly adventures with college friends are my favorite memories from those 4 years. I miss having a group of people with similar interests and goals living in close proximity. I miss popping my head out of my door and grabbing whoever was around to go have an adventure. I wish I’d said yes to a few more adventures, and I wish I’d felt less guilty about taking that time.
You’re not actually all that mature between 18-22, and you have a lot left to learn.
Learning to eat healthy meals, sleep an appropriate amount of time, and navigate relationships are just as important, or perhaps even more important, educational opportunities than the classes you’re enrolled in. Make mistakes, get messy, and freak out - these things are inevitable - but learn from your mistakes and failures, and do better. Celebrate those learning experiences just as much as the ones you get a grade for.
Ask for help and get help when you need it.
I closed the door on my high school life hard when I arrived on campus. I wanted to separate myself from that life and the hurts & struggles experienced in those years. I thought that 40 miles and a new set of friends was enough to outrun my old life. It turns out that no matter how far you travel, your baggage comes with you. (I had to learn this again when I moved to Seattle.) My freshman year of college was really, really hard. Stepping through the doorway of my college’s counseling center was a big step for me. It didn’t “fix” all my problems and struggles, but it started me on a path of healing and working on my mental health that has carried me through the last 10 years.
No matter what your college tells you, the job search is on your own shoulders.
I believed the hype. I believed that the name of the college on my diploma would pave the way to a job for me. It didn’t. I believed that my GPA and the cords around my shoulders on graduation day would make a big difference. They didn’t. I say these things with absolutely no sense of anger or frustration with my school. I’m sure their job placement department helped a ton of my fellow graduates. It just didn’t help me, and I felt really let down at the time. In my chosen city, 3,000 miles from my alma mater, the institution’s name didn’t have a lot of pull. I also graduated at the height of the recession, and regardless of my efforts and my college’s efforts, there weren’t a lot of jobs to slip into. Getting my first jobs (regardless of whether or not I hated them), came from sending a lot of emails and being relentless in my search and follow up.
As much as you learned during college, you’ll need to learn twice as much in the next 4 years.
The messages on graduation day are all about your beautiful, bright future. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to dreams of exactly how bright and how beautiful your future will be. Unfortunately, no one steps out of their cap gown and directly into an incredible new life. The post-college era will be full of mistakes, harsh lessons, and growing pains. You’ll be faced each day with just how many things they didn’t teach you in college. You’ll wake up each morning to a new weight on your shoulders. You can skip a few classes, but you can’t skip your adult life. You can’t really negotiate with the due dates on your bills like you can with a professor. Don’t get me wrong, the post-college days are full of incredible new adventures, too! I just don’t want you to get slapped in the face with reality the way I did. Keep reality firmly seated in the chair next to you during that graduation ceremony. The next days will be good, but they will be hard. Be prepared.
Your professors can teach you what they know, but they can’t teach you about your passions.
I spent 4 years of college tamping down the things I was truly passionate about, in favor of the things that I thought I could get hired to do. When I graduated and realized there were no jobs, I had to spend time relearning the skill of being myself and following my passions. I spent so much time in college learning how to build websites in Flash (something I hated), because I was told that it was an important, marketable skill. In case you haven’t noticed: NO ONE BUILDS WEBSITES IN FLASH ANYMORE. Technologies will change. Industries will change. Job titles will change. Investing in your passions will turn dividends. Make note of the things that really excite you. Read the books that scream to you from the shelf. Feed your curiosity. Know about things that are beyond your major. You’ll carry those things with you, through your whole life, and they’ll make you a more interesting, well-rounded human. Your major will eventually be irrelevant. Your career will shift. Your passions will help carry you.
DON’T BE IN SUCH A HURRY.
You don’t have to slay the world in the year after graduating. You don’t have a land your dream job right away to be headed in the right direction. Keep learning and growing. Be patient. Each job, freelance gig, industry contact, and self-driven project are working together to make you the person who will eventually get that dream job, no matter what it is. You’re a person, not a career robot, and people grow slowly.
The “dream job” you have in mind on graduation day may not actually end up being your dream job in the end.
If you are wise, you will keep learning. Every day will be an opportunity to grow, and as you grow, your dreams will change. That’s not a sign that your earlier dreams were wrong, it’s a sign that you’re not stuck, still and stagnant. You will eventually look back at yourself on graduation day, and you will hardly recognize that person. What a beautiful thing that is! The Sara that crossed a stage wearing a weird dress and goofy hat isn’t the same person who sits here typing today. (The cat that sits next to me today is about 15 pounds larger than she was 10 years ago, but that’s a whole other conversation.) In May of 2009, I thought I knew exactly how my life would go, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had no idea what was headed my way. And yet, today, I couldn’t be more grateful for the weird, winding road that I’ve travelled. In another 10 years, I’m sure I’ll feel the same way about the Sara that I was today. (Heaven knows how large the cat may be by then!) We’re all a work in progress.
Today’s blog post was written by C&Co team member, Michelle!
Back in the 90s when stationery was neon, Lisa Frank was in, and Japanese mechanical pencils were popping up in the U.S., I was beginning my journey with snail mail.
It wasn’t my favorite thing. Being from the South, it involved a lot of manners and rules. Addressing a letter felt like agony. My first letter writing memory is of me sitting in the kitchen of our new house, fidgeting and complaining, struggling to understand the massive amount of letters and numbers and how to stack them in the right way, like you would a good block tower, so that our mail carrier knew where to send my messy-looking words. I was very much a perfectionist. The eraser shavings from my frustrated writing attempts made my envelopes look like sad, little construction sites.
This memory comes from a time when had just moved to a different state, the first really big thing to happen for me, especially as I had finally reached an age where friends began exchanging matching BFF jewelry and were special, treasured things. Leaving friends was hard. It was for this reason that I was beginning my writing journey. Telephone calls weren’t really a thing for some reason, so my closest gal pal had begun writing me from a few states away, asking in her misspellings and reversed letters how I was doing with all the new in my life. I even remember one of her letters including little wooden beads she had painted from a 90s craft set and how special it felt to receive them. I remember this so well because I never wrote her back and I regret it to this day! Sorry, Ruth. Letter writing was hard then!
The very next year, I did something else really huge; I went off to camp by myself. I was pretty young, so it was a big deal. I remember thinking how brave and proud I was of myself for going off without my family for two weeks. It was extra special because my mom, as well as my little sister and a friend wrote me letters for while I was away (later letting me know they sent them around the time I left so they’d arrive in time… so funny). My sister’s letters were mostly amoeba-like drawings of what I think was supposed to be our cat and family, but they were made just for me, so they were special. My mom sent the traditional kind of snail mail, a good few pages, handwritten on teacup-bordered paper, wishing me the best time and letting me know about all the people and pets that missed me. It’s funny now to think that two weeks seemed like forever and how important the letters were to me while I was away. Whenever I go home to visit and find that stationery set, I think about those camp letters (I see now we weren’t big letter writers since it’s still around!).
Over the next few years, that stationery set gathered dust as snail mail focused more on Valentine’s Day cards for my classmates, birthday invitations, and thank you notes in response to those invite-inspired gifts. And birthday cards. Lots of those! Don’t forget the handwritten notes passed between classmates and boyfriends throughout my tweens and teens. Ha!
It wasn’t really until college that traditional snail mail returned and had a bigger impact on my life. I remember being given my own college P.O. Box and going to check it religiously. Regardless of how much (or little) mail I got, there was something about having the opportunity to receive things of my own, on my own, for the first time. My mailbox was one of the first signs of growing into adulthood and taking ownership of myself. I even had a kind friend who wanted to be penpals. Sadly, I didn’t keep up with sending her letters, which I also regret! Ah!
When I was a sophomore in college, I had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester, one of my main reasons for going to college. No kidding. I wrote about it in my application essay.
I ended up in Rome, Italy and got to experience snail mail in another special way. My best friend from college knew that I would need a little love from home every so often, so she organized a letter campaign for me. She gathered letters from our friends to go with me, instructing me to open one a week. Although I was LOVING being abroad and settling in, I was still going through culture shock, learning a new language, adapting to being the new kid, and learning that the world was a much bigger place than what I thought would fit in the palm of my hand.
When I was having a hard time and realizing how small I was in a city older and bigger than I’d ever lived in, the letters would give me a sweet boost of encouragement and love from far away in a small, middle-of-nowhere town where friends were thinking of and missing me. I even had the cool experience of having one of my best friends come visit me and us getting to see one of Italy’s (and maybe the world’s) first ever post boxes together!
While I was abroad, I wrote very little snail mail, but I received it and cherished it. I still wish I had written more during that time, but that year, I began to understand a bit more about my relationship with snail mail and how it played a role in my life.
It was at a leather market in Florence that year that things got a bit clearer. A friend and I, although perhaps not great letter writers, were very much into literature and creative writing, so we were on a search for leather journals and sketchbooks. After pushing through crowds and getting to a quieter corner of all the excitement, we came upon a stall full of beautiful, leatherbound journals. And to our pleasant surprise, stationery.
This wasn’t just any stationery, though. It was Florentine, gilded paper with flowers galore with shining silver and gold accents. It was so elaborate and old-fashioned, like stepping back in time to the days when handwritten letters were one of the few ways to communicate. With that sense of awe, alongside a journal, I bought some stationery in the brightest and deepest of blues and silvers. I may have splurged even further and bought a Florentine paper-wrapped pen… shh.
When I got back into the States from my adventures, I laid out all of my treasures. And what I found was that almost every one of my finds was a paper good. Magazines, pamphlets, snail mail, maps… and that beautiful, Florentine stationery and it’s paper-wrapped pen of a cousin.
Life has changed a lot since that special year of self-discovery. I’ve even moved a few times, and each time, all of these paper goods (and many other stationery-related items) have come with me. I’m not willing to part with them. I now even have an overstuffed file folder of all the cards I’ve received since I was a teenager. So. Much. Paper.
I realize now as I’m looking back at my journey with snail mail that I’ve known something about myself for awhile. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m not the best letter writing kind of snail mail superstar, as I often wish I was. I have stationery gathering dust on both coasts of the United States of America (Sorry, Mom.).
And you know, that’s okay! I’ve finally come to a revelation of the unique relationship to the industry that’s all my own… and here it is:
I’m 100% a collector, guardian of, and preserver of snail mail and all it’s related fun!!!
I love paper. I love the beautiful variety of styles, colors, patterns, designs… I love the differences in people’s handwriting on cards and letters that makes each person unique and special. I love the smell of paper goods. I love the creativity and joy that comes from washi tape, colorful pens, stickers, and postcards. And the joy that comes from giving and receiving these things.
And although the act of letter writing isn’t how I tend to think about my journey with snail mail, I remember what it was like to find the special things that made letter writing not so much about perfection, but about fun and joy for me.
I remember visiting a stationery store with my mom in the 90s and buying a sticker book. I remember being rewarded for doing good work in school and getting to choose a prize from my teacher’s plastic treasure chest. I chose themed erasers almost every time (I still have my eraser collection!). I remember trading Lisa Frank stickers at the lunch table, Markie the unicorn being very coveted (I also still have these!). I remember picking out a mechanical pencil when they got popular, and mine being orange themed, even having a little orange slice dangling from the end. Then the gel pens… whew. I’ve recently invested in a series of gel pens to appease my inner child. And all the thank you notes and greeting cards in their variety of colors and themes. I finally got around to organizing them recently. Kind of.
And I love where God has led me on my unique snail mail journey, to Constellation & Co. I would never have imagined all those years ago when struggling to address a letter that I would be the one figuring out addresses for C & Co. shipments of beautiful cards, or when picking out my new favorite writing utensil as a child, that I’d get to be the one who helps maintain a shop full of these lovely, lovely kinds of things. What a privilege to work under Sara and be gatekeeper to joyful moments through the stationery items we sell that inspire relationship-building letter writing.
It’s crazy how seemingly small things can connect and become big life impactors, even in something as simple and wonderful as snail mail and it’s supporting stationery items.
Oh little me, who got her first sticker book at another lovely stationery shop over 20 years ago… who would have thought you’d be here, working in stationery? And maybe, just maybe, as you work with Sara, a little bit of her letter writing will rub off on you. Your life-long sticker collection needs to find some envelopes to decorate, after all! :)
We hosted a free letter writing social in April to help celebrate National Card & Letter Writing Month! The mighty group of 11 snail mail enthusiasts wrote & sent 40 pieces of mail and had a great time doing it. This was our first time hosting an event at the Nordby Conference Center (located in Fishermen’s Terminal, one building over from our shop), and it was great to have room to spread out! We’re working on choosing a date for the next event, stay tuned to our events page for more info.
Do you write letters you don’t intend to mail? I’ve heard it suggested over and over through the years as a way to process thoughts and feelings without the risk of involving others in our messy first drafts. I’ve never been very good at holding back. I tend to just go ahead and write or say what’s on my mind. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and my fountain pen scribbles away, pouring my heart onto paper. My internal struggle buzzes painfully on my fingertips until it’s been tapped out on the keys of a typewriter and freed from my mind.
I’ve always been more afraid of letting things go unsaid than I fear saying things I can’t take back. What about you? Do you share freely, or have a box of unsent letters? Maybe a little bit of both?
In a suitcase tied with string
On the highest shelf
In the closet down the hall
Hidden from myself
Fits of madness, pools of grief
Fevers of desire
How peculiar these remain
Salvaged from the fire
For some I crumpled some I burned
Some I tore to shreds
Lifetimes later, here they are
Ones I saved instead
Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent
Never reached their destination
Mostly born of pain
Resurfaced with the purpose of
A trip down memory lane
Broken hearted, breaking hearts
All the way it went
Evidence of what I saw
Life's a riddle, life's a dream
Life's an accident
Now I'm gonna set them free
Letters never sent
Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent
Once upon a time taboo
Letters never sent
Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent
Incongruous, and overdue
Letters never sent