Can you pinpoint one small, seemingly inconsequential decision that altered the course of your life in a big, positive way?
When I was a kid, I wrote original superhero fiction all of the time. Growing up, I received a Polaroid camera for Christmas and used it until I couldn’t afford anymore of that expensive film. From an early age, I wrote and directed plays in school and the community. In high school, I taught myself graphic design and coding so my band could have logos and a web presence. In college, I made a half hour comedy film rather than create a presentation in class. I fully acknowledge that this forward momentum was very important, but I made a single decision that channeled all of this background into a focused path.
I had to pee, so I picked the closest restroom.
Near the end of my psychology degree at LA Tech, during the first lecture for a statistical analysis course, I reconnected with a girl I had met the previous quarter. After class, we ended up chatting back to the parking lot. Said goodbye and then started the walk across campus to my own car. I didn’t get very far before my bladder started giving its warnings, so I decided to walk to the nearest building for its restroom. Turns out, it was the Visual Arts Center. I had spent maybe a total of forty minutes inside this building throughout my college career at that point. After the restroom, above the water fountain, was a poster promoting a new web design course. I had no experience beyond what I had learned through necessity for my personal websites, but I was instantly intrigued. I went to the front office and asked about signing up for it. There was a list of prerequisites I didn’t meet, so they told me to speak directly to the professor, Matt Willemsen.
Went downstairs and met him in his office. Told him I was interested in the class, that I didn’t have an art or design course background, but I did know how to code and create graphic designs to some amateur standard. Showed him my website. Maybe the course needed numbers to run, I don’t know, but he decided to waive prior requirements and let me into the class. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.
Being in that course was like discovering a playground for the first time. Everything was amazing. I could just create. In fact, that was the goal of the course. Because I lacked a proper design background, I didn’t know of any correct or incorrect approaches. It really was just full speed ahead and figuring it out as I went. It was paradise. I engulfed so much time in there that I dropped the statistical analysis course.
This soon led to meeting the photography professor down the hall, which led to applying to their MFA program. From this path, it snowballed into studying in Paris, seeing my work in magazines and galleries, working as a photo professor, guest speaking at different institutions, and giving workshops in Maine, among other things that basically summarize as life. I never forgot the opportunity Matt gave me that day by letting an unproven kid into his upper-level course, and I make sure to keep that same mentality whenever in a position to offer that back out to someone else. I know that giving a single chance to someone has eventually led to where I am right now and what’s in store for the future.
All started by a decision to use the restroom.