Life in the Junk Drawer
When I was 29, a high school teacher asked me to mentor a student who was studying game design. Impostor syndrome answered for me: “Oh, I’m not qualified.” After all, I hadn’t really published any video games, and I wasn’t really in the “industry” (whatever that is). But they insisted.

Our introduction was smooth sailing until my mentee asked me, “how did you become a game designer?” I considered lying. Then I went through the reproducible steps, the way you would if you were trying to find the source of a bug in a program:

  1. Obtain an experimental film degree
  2. Make zero dollars as an animator
  3. Draw newspaper comics; get fired when you run out of jokes
  4. Salute the heimlich maneuver poster doing a year in food service
  5. Somehow, become a college professor?
  6. Work a 9-5 and play video games at your desk
  7. Work at a startup; dream of having time to play games
  8. Make a ton of crappy video games in your spare time and make zero dollars

Somehow all of that was supposed to add up to a career, but it looked more like a kitchen junk drawer. You know the one: the drawer crammed with loose rubber bands, plum sauce packets, and the last shreds of your dignity.  But then something awesome happened. I turned 30.
Based on my highly scientific study (sample size of 1), being 30 is the coolest thing that could happen to a person. In your 20s, you think your life is over if you haven’t figured your life out and become a rock star or a billionaire. But after having three decades of life experience, the idea of becoming a prized artist or the president or whatever suddenly sounds boring. Posting on social media starts to feel like work, so you stop laboring over posting vacation pics. Overnight, you stop worrying about piddly stuff like taking too long of a lunch break, and you stop going to parties you didn’t want to go to in the first place. And that’s when things get fun.
At 30, I started creating for myself. I drew comics that no one will ever read. I made video games and gave them away for free. I went to the gym because I liked the way it made me feel. And I looked back on my “junk drawer” of a career and decided it was actually full of powerful and necessary stuff: tools and memories and stories (and sauce packets). In fact, a kitchen can’t function without one.

What I thought was a weakness turned into my source of power. When a mentee asks me for help, I always have a story to tell or an example to teach from. Plus, I’m pretty boss at trivia. If I’m this powerful at 30, how outrageous will 40 be? At 50, I’ll practically be a demigod, I imagine. 
Ruthie Edwards is a 30 (!!!)  year old UX Designer at WONGDOODY in NYC. She can be found on Twitter @ruthie_edwards or on her website.
Art used in this issue: “Tête de femme, de profil” by Marie Laurencin
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