Today, I made a Linked In proclamation.
April 2012 – December 2016
Just like that.
Key strokes. Enter.
This was a tiny business. A micro-studio of one-sometimes-two. Our closing will affect few people – our collaborative partners, our clients. I could quietly wind things down. Let that be it.
Let a Linked In headstone memorialise.
I could do this.
In 2012, the man I love created a side-project for himself.
He would, he declared:
- research topics
- collect data
- sketch concepts
- execute graphics, and
- blog process.
For an entire year.
Um. The hour-devouring job? The full-time wife? Babe-don’t-you-think-that-maybe…
Nah! It’ll be AWESOME, eh!
I turned my back – assessing options – and it was birthed.
A Brief Introduction to Gareth James Parry.
Big horn-rimmed glasses. Bowties. Loud shirts. Satchel, suede boots.
Disguise: Standard Bearded Hipster.
He is Charming. Horrifying so. And possesses Phil Dunphy-worthy – Tigger-worthy – levels of enthusiasm. For Moleskine notebooks and people and birds and human-centred design and wizards and radical social reform.
He is breath-catchingly creatively gifted. Irritatingly free of artistic self-doubt. Stuffed to the very eyeballs with why-not-edness. He came pre-programmed for insane projects.
He leaves a wake behind him.
Gareth James Parry set out to make fifty two infographics in fifty two weeks largely because he is Gareth.
But he also set out to make fifty two infographics in fifty two weeks because of me.
A creative distraction
is a very sensible
In 2012 I was sick.
I had been sick for a long time. Stuck year after year in a Groundhog Day of illness. My life narrowed to four brick walls and an orange tile roof.
He’d seen all of it. The initial terror, the frantic diagnostics. The parade of failed treatments. The down and up and over and under – the endless, brutal, rollercoastering.
He’d witnessed my pain, and held his own quietly.
On and on and on.
So, in the hours while I slept, he began to craft for himself fifty two distractions.
Look! New followers! Comments!
I watched as he researched, sketched, built, and blogged. As he replied to actual real live fans, and lost sleep, and swore at Illustrator. As he hit creative walls, and failed concepts, and then became suddenly – and inexplicably – entirely enthusiastic all over again.
I offered – a graphic designer in percale prison – what I could. Swatch book consultations. Line length amendments. Proportion adjustments and composition tweaks.
I delivered – with merriment, with turned-up nose – my weekly scolding: Oh-dear-GOD-where-did-you-find-that-typeface.
Would it be…
Just like that.
I stood, pyjama-clad, at his shoulder as he searched for a domain name.
Do you think, perhaps…
Could I help?
On the good days – you know?
Chronic illness necessitates wise use of Good Days – to buy groceries, to work a few hours, to see a friend. To walk around the block.
Good Days become about snatching up tiny moments of Other People’s Lives. For sucking things in, for soaking in them. For imprinting them.
To have them there, ready, to pull on during the Nothing Days.
The bellyful of painkiller days.
The saw and spoke to no-one days.
The days of trying-not-to-move. Trying-not-to-hurl.
There were so very many Nothing Days.
But then – eight months after The Infographers launched – Good Days arrived in bulk.
This isn’t the story of the delivery mechanism for bulk Good Days – she and it and that will find their way into another family of words.
But here, these ones belong.
In November 2012 – eleven years on – I was yanked from my duvet bandage. Given back my legs arms mind.
I was given them back. All of them. Bulk delivery. Over just three months.
I was thirty two. Thirty two and well.
Thirty two and venturing back out into the world on wobbly legs.
Thirty two and Carlton-dancing, hill-climbing, high-fiving, laugh-crying.
Thirty two and repeating repeating repeating:
How does all this work, again?
Waiting for me to stumble over – high-fiving, laugh-crying – was Gareth. Our little business.
I fell into them, gratefully.
And together we rolled around – gleefully – in Life 2.0.
We visualised polluted waterways, made wall-sized sticker charts, and helped a Nelson-based greengrocer sell potatoes. We were published by Oxford University Press.
We worked with politicians, a Texan coffee shop, and a Taiwanese Sausage museum. We made live sketchnotes at TEDxWellington, crafted piechart-print cardboard couture, and executed ill-advised ideas spectacularly.
We exhibited. We collaborated. We basked.
We also face-planted.
I sobbed in the car. There were clients that didn’t pay. Marital shouting matches. And some wholly excruciating lessons in the value of contingency.
But early, we met The Extraordinary Women. They snatched us up and held us tightly in their community of creative ones.
Without them we would not be here, and I would not be writing this. Again and again they strong-armed me out of doubt.
Yup. Ya can.
I cannot imagine a better vehicle for re-learning to live.
We are now four years into Life 2.0.
And our little business has done its job.
We release it.
New work is pulling us.
To everyone who came with us, thank you. All of you. The clients, the collaborators. The counsellors, the commiserators, the cheerleaders.
Those who made platforms. Those who opened doors. Those who knew and stood in fierce support. Those who have offered friendships vast and vulnerable.
Every one of you made a ripple.
Here’s to those four years – to the joy and the mess of them.
Here’s to beginnings, and endings, and beginning-agains.
Here’s to whatever is next.