I Didn’t Snowboard, but I made Friends
And Also Had Epic Adventures at Montues, so.
It’s been over two weeks since Montues ended and yep, I still miss the snow-dusted pine trees and the blustery cold as I explored the village during my diligent hunt for sushi. (Food’s always a main distraction, ya know). The Instagram-worthy landscape aside, I’ll tell you what I also miss. My new friends. I miss the conversations we shared over dinner, or while dawdling in the hallway, or when we gathered by the fireplace. The authentic transparency as we traded life experiences and design ideologies face-to-face was refreshing to a girl like myself, accustomed to Slack conversations or Google Hangouts with fellow creatives.
I was immensely privileged to have been invited to the most non-conference I’ve ever been to, a three day event for designers in Lake Tahoe. I might have performed an awkward happy dance back in February when I discovered I was going and my dog rolled her eyes at me ’cause that’s what she freaking does. Focused on nurturing organic relationships among designers, Dann Petty’s Epicurrence: The Montues is an empowering setting for encouraging authentic connections between designers, definite personal growth, and a high of adventure and inspiration that lasts long after you’ve packed your gear and hit the road back home.
I took flight from Austin on Sunday morning and landed in LA with way too much stuff and the kind of smile that would’ve made Steve Harvey proud. I rushed to make my gate in time while dragging my bulky luggage in one hand, phone and a desperately-needed chai latte clutched in the other. Within moments I stumbled into a group of soon-to-be friends as I turned the corner, most of them familiar thanks to Twitter. And my epic Google stalking skills, of course.
Only the night before I had also discovered a former acquaintance on the Montues Slack, someone I had worked with almost two years ago during my season in the film industry. We were both doing photography and BTS videography on set, but lost touch after the feature wrapped. Not only had we switched careers to pursue design, and not only did we end up at the same event, but it also turned out we were being hosted at the same Airbnb. It was a crazy moment of, “Whoa, what the heck. Small world.” And lo and behold, there he was, sitting among my future new friends in the LA airport. (Hope you met and hung out with Bryce Komae, ’cause he’s pretty rad, amiright?)
I took a seat with Bryce who now works with the stellar guys at Knife & Fox, Eden who’s a co-founder of the company, funny David Grau who’s doing cool stuff over at Hopscotch, and Hearthstone buddy and one of the humblest men I’ve ever have the pleasure of knowing, Sacha Greif.
The camaraderie was palpable and instantaneous. As we talked, laughed, and got to know each other, I felt a growing excitement welling up in my little heart. And I wasn’t even in Tahoe yet. The truth is, I haven’t connected enough with designers since I switched careers from film to design. I also have no shame in admitting I’m still new to this. I’ve never gone to college for what I do. Entirely self-taught and driven to grow and succeed, it’s been a rollercoaster ride of trial and error, overcoming uncertainty, reveling in little successes, and unswerving experimentation with style and process. But I love what I do, I love design. End of story. And laughing alongside these new friends, I began to realize how much I was already learning about them; about design and culture, and how beautiful it was to be immersed in such differing views and experiences.
Montues solidified my understanding for our need for community. As a young designer in both age and experience, I feel that it’s easy to struggle with a sense of frustration and isolation as we navigate the complex waters of design for the first time. The exhilarating process of discovery and growth, tested by trial and error, is coupled with the occasionally paralyzing fear of feeling like we don’t know what the heck we’re doing and hustling alone while we try. As a former freelancer, I had grown accustomed to being a lone wolf designer. I had originally aspired to it, thinking that the best designers were the ones who could make their mark and churn out brilliance, enshrined in the glow of their laptop screen.
At Montues, I felt enabled and encouraged to approach the designers I respected in the industry. Title, status, and experience aside, connecting with my fellow creatives on a sincere friendship level provided an exhilarating realization that we are all truly in this journey together. The realization that, “Omg, these people have experienced the ups and downs of finding their place in this industry,” eased my worries. The truth was evident — there’s no shame in the growth that comes with consistently tackling challenges, asking too many seemingly-näive questions, and practicing, practicing, practicing your craft. At Montues, I felt validated and accepted by so many. Transparency and trust was nurtured. Real friendships were sparked.
I left Montues with a full heart. As I packed the Jeep in something like my pajamas and hugged all my new friends goodbye in the hotel lobby, I knew my experience had left me with more than just aspirations to grow as a designer and a reaffirmed love for snow. (After all I’m a nomadic East Coast girl who’s a sucker for adventure and good snowball fight). I felt inspired to take ownership of my design journey and thrive from a place of wholeness as a creative. I had rediscovered the courage to push forward when battling nagging doubts and the anxiety induced by Imposter Syndrome, to fear less the failure that naturally accompanies growth and experience, and the gutsy determination to work hard, play harder, and be a nice human being because honestly, we all should.
When you attend an Epicurrence event, see it as less of a networking opportunity and more of a chance to share life and laughter with some of the best hearts and minds in the industry. May you leave inspired to work on things you truly love and truly love the people you work with. Make new friends, keep em’ dang close, and keep s**t real.
And whatever you do, don’t forget to personally thank Dann. Shake his hand and let him know how grateful you are. Because an Epicurrence event will change you. And for the better.