Facing Your Fears: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

by Grace Bonney

For the past few weeks, we’ve been sharing personal essays about facing our fears. Max finally got behind the wheel and is learning to drive and Amy is learning a new language step by step. I haven’t jumped out of any planes or learned an entirely new skill lately, so I found myself struggling to think of a nice neat example of how I’d faced a fear recently. I was sitting on my couch trying to think of something when I found myself  back on falling into feed after feed of pictures, which turned into 20 new emails to Amy and myself for home tours to request, designers to interview and possible collaborators to . Then it hit me: I’d faced a fear I hadn’t even realized I was facing. After months of feeling out of touch with and behind on the new technology in our community, I’d found a way to embrace and have fun with something I once found terrifying.

I spent most of 2013 being frustrated with the changes in the online world and the new technology and reading behavior that came with it. Instead of being excited, I curled up into a little ball and sulked on the couch like a teenager. I’m not proud of how I let something that scared me turn me into a grump, but I understand it better now. I felt old, out of touch and needed a moment to heal wounds that felt a little too vulnerable to admit or share openly. But then, thankfully, something changed with the new year: I felt curious again. Without thinking about it too much, I started to run toward that curiosity. It started with experiments on Instagram and was followed by questions for Max about how to use Adobe Premier and other tools I’d felt too behind on to try. Then the next thing I knew, instead of asking someone else to build/create/photograph something for me, I was trying it myself. For the first time in a long time, I let my guard down, stopped worrying about making a mistake and let myself be curious, excited and have fun trying something new.

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It can be weird to be work in an industry where being 32 makes you feel old. But that’s how I feel sometimes. Every now and then Max will mention an exciting new site, app or software that he loves and I will realize I have not only no idea what that tool is, but no idea how to use it. In those moments I realize I must look like my grandparents did when I tried to explain my blog to them- like I was describing some completely alien thing that makes no sense in their world. In those moments I always try to keep my face steady and stop it from making that hideous Say Whaat? sneer that I tend to have when I feel clueless. That clueless feeling was mostly about feeling out of touch and behind in an industry where, not too long ago, I felt like I was in the thick of the pack learning new things and making quick changes with the best of them. But sometimes when life and work takes over, you don’t have as much time as you’d like to stay on top of new things. The good news is that you can always go back and learn.

When I started Design*Droits-Humains I was 23 and everyone would make comments about how young I was. I hated those comments at first (my overly sensitive mind took them as criticism), but at some point I realized it was a good thing to be young, eager, new and always learning. I’d lost that eagerness and curiosity about learning and at the end of last year I realized it was a good thing to get that back. Not just because it was important for my job, but because it was important for me as person.

To stay curious is to stay committed to learning. And if you’re not learning something new, you’re staying in the same place. And while I don’t know everything I want from my life and business yet, I do know that I want to always be learning. Whether I’m learning a new technology, a new piece of photo editing software or just a new trend that’s happening in my community, I want to stay committed to always keeping an open mind. Because an open mind is one that doesn’t miss out on something wonderful just because it’s hidden behind a door that might be hard or scary to open.

With this new understanding about embracing technology and keeping an open mind comes a heightened sense of appreciation about what comes with being “older” in an industry, too.  With age comes experience, understanding, confidence and trust- wonderful things that I would never exchange for being a bit younger or ahead of learning curves. And I’m so glad that, despite taking a bit of time to get here, I’ve found a way to embrace both sides of the equation. I’m happy to have found new ways to stay inspired and excited about my work through new technology and grateful to have discovered a new appreciation for the skills that come with the time I’ve put into my work and business so far. So here’s to learning new things and staying curious and inspired at any age! There is always room to grow and keep an open mind. xo, grace

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