How to Come Out to Your Parents About Being a Graphic Designer


A Curious Beginning

I am the baby of my family by a lot. Like a lot a lot. With a sister 13 years older and a brother 2 years older than her, I grew up as this weird almost an only child but not quite. If you ask my siblings, I was the one who was spoiled. But, lucky me, because my parents had already successfully not killed two children, I wasn’t micromanaged and could get away with a lot more.

However, by the time I was in high school, both of my siblings had gone and proceeded to drop out of college, putting all of the pressure on me to be the first in the family. I was always great in school, at math and science in particular, so my parents really weren’t worried. They assumed I’d go do something with computers and be a big success.

During my senior year, I started receiving scholarships. I had managed to get the majority of college paid for but I still had no idea what I wanted to do. Yes, math came easy to me, but it was so boring. I couldn’t see myself mathing for the rest of my life. (Ironically, I am now Annie’s Asian and do all of her math for her, but at least this math is fun.) The only thing I was sure of, is that I wanted to do something creative. Then one day, a friend of mine started talking about becoming a journalist. I liked to casually write and it sounded kind of fun, so that was it. I was going to be a journalist.

Confrontation Time

I will never forget telling my mom what I had decided on. Her face said everything. For months, I got “but Kelsie, you’re so good at math” and “Kelsie, why don’t you work on computers like your brother did?” It wasn’t easy making the decision to go into a field that I knew wouldn’t pay as well, and having someone whose opinion I truly valued telling me I shouldn’t didn’t make it any easier. But I knew I would be happier overall so I had to do it.

Her trying to convince me to change my mind kicked my stubbornness into high-gear and I planted my feet and refused to budge. She was disappointed, but eventually, I had to stop caring. It wasn’t that I so badly wanted to be a journalist, I just HATED MATH and I needed to do something I at least liked to do.

Staying True

Freshman year of college passed, then the first semester of Sophomore year, and every time I saw my mom it was the same thing. “Why don’t you change your major?” At this point, I had fully come to terms with the fact that I was going to do something for the rest of my life that my parents didn’t support. It didn’t feel good, but I knew it was better than doing something I couldn’t stand.

During your Sophomore year of journalism school, you’re required to sit in on these lectures in a bunch of different creative fields. On a whim, I decided to go to one covering mobile user experience design (mobile UX). I was hooked. Within 30 minutes of the lecture, I was making an appointment at the dean’s office to change my major. I didn’t even know what communication design was at the time, but I knew I wanted to do it.

An Artist?!

After my appointments were in line, I called my mom with the news. When I told her I wanted to get into graphic design, I got a big, fat, “graphic WHAT?” At least she knew what journalism was. Now, her baby was going to be an artist? After an hour of unconvincingly explaining to her that it meant a whole lot more than doodling pretty pictures on paper, we had gotten nowhere.

Now, every time I saw my mom it was, “are you sure you don’t want to be a journalist?” And, “You could easily change your major again.” But this time, I really wasn’t budging. By the time graduation rolled around and I was officially the first in my family with a degree, she was finally starting to let off. It was clear that she would have much rather me gone into computer science than graphic design but I never let it get to me. I found something I loved to do and I was going to do it. No matter what.

Even now that I’m the art director at a successful full-service marketing agency in Austin, she still doesn’t quite understand what I do. I’ve given up explaining UX and UI design, logos, branding, and marketing as a whole, but she does finally see how much I love doing what I do. Getting here was a struggle, but being where I am now made it all worth it.

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