I can't do this but I'm doing it anyway

August 19th, 2014, 6pm

It was 22.2°C with few clouds. The breeze was gentle.

I’m struggling.

Deep breaths.

I can almost hear Ken’s voice in my head: Not enough contrast, fix that M, this doesn’t work, that’s misaligned. Sketch it again.

My estimated five hours has turned into eight and counting. I laugh — who do I think I am? Five hours, for a 3x4 foot chalkboard? — and get back to the feeling of impending doom.

Then I think, damn you, Amy.

… Amy Poehler, that is. I had just watched her YouTube video on courage a few days ago, where she says:

Great people do things before they’re ready.

But wait, let me backtrack a bit.

* * *

Victoria had posted on the email group, looking for someone who can do chalkboard lettering for an upcoming event. I dismiss it, because, well, I can’t do chalkboard lettering.

Then after a few minutes, David emails her and me, with one line: How about Christine Herrin?

Damn you, David!

It almost feels like we’re in a crowded club and he just volunteered me for karaoke on stage. I let out an audible “What! No!” as I get the email. Who am I kidding? I can’t do chalkboard lettering. And for Victoria, really? (Not only do I not know her personally, but she has 40,000 Twitter followers and a big Bay Area blog — not the ideal client to experiment with, I say.)

I’m already formulating my reply — oh, thanks for thinking of me, haha, sorry, I can’t do chalkboards, oh, see, I only do brush lettering … until I remember Amy.

… before they’re ready.

Then, “I’d love to!” as I close my eyes and click SEND.

* * *

And now I’m staring at the finished board: meh.

Word(s) to the wise: do not include a full hour of going through Dana Tanamachi’s portfolio before attempting your first chalkboard, because you will feel like crap (check.) Also, bust out a tape measure and figure out how big 3x4 actually is. (Sorry, I’m horrible visualizing measurements, really.) I went to Victoria’s house (she’s awesome) and was genuinely surprised at the size of the board — it was twice the size I expected — and you can only guess that not only did I quote her for five hours, but for a tiny board as well (this board was far from tiny. She sent me home in an Uber SUV.)

But, I suppose, things fall into place eventually. I’m going to stop nitpicking; I can already spot a few words that need to be realigned (which means erasing the entire line and starting from scratch… no) and kerned till there’s no tomorrow, but I’m going to leave it. Because I need to move on. We need to keep going. I need to keep going. Things need to get shipped (or in this case, put back on an Uber SUV headed to Noe Valley.)

I’m dusting chalk off my clothes, thankful for my friend Remy’s tip of using Caran d’Ache Neocolor II crayons instead of actual chalk — I’d be 10x more frustrated and covered in even more chalk had I not known — and thinking about that quote that got me here in the first place.

Having courage, being brave, going for the unknown… it all sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? You imagine discovering that you had it in you all along; that you were much better than you thought you were. But what if you realize that you’re actually horrible at it? Or worse, have misaligned letters at quarter to midnight when it’s too late to fix and you’ve spent twelve hours on the darned thing?

That’s where love comes in, I suppose. Good thing those twelve hours felt like the five I billed for (lesson learned, though: love can’t pay my San Francisco rent!) and that I could spend my days drawing letters (or, well, practicing how to draw them so they match the letters in my mind) and die a happy person. Sometimes, these letters love me back, sometimes they don’t, but today… we’re working on it.

So, I suppose, thank you, David. Damn you for putting me on the spot but you probably knew that pushing me to the front, karaoke tune in queue, was the only way to make sure I’d get on stage.

And, thank you, Amy. I sure as hell wasn’t ready for that, but now I’m going to be, the next time it comes along, tape measure and Neocolor IIs in hand.

* * *


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Christine Herrin

Designer. History major. Memory keeper, paper hoarder, frequent flyer.

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