Dear 18-year-old Fariz: Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
Creative Chronicles is a series of articles exploring the lives of four Singaporean Creatives. Previously in Series 1, our Creatives shared where they are in their creative journey today through a selection of images. In this Series 2, they revisited a challenging time in their lives and wrote a letter addressed to their younger selves. The letters were then used as conversation starters during our chat with the Creatives.
In this article, we chat with Fariz, Senior User Experience Designer at Chemistry. Writing to his 18-year-old self who bore the disappointment of not being able to pursue the design field of his choice, Fariz shares how he reframed it into an opportunity to explore different fields, eventually influencing his design journey today.
We present his letter and a curation of themes that emerged from our chat. Instead of presenting the conversation chronologically, we delve into each theme through verbatim quotes from various parts of our chat. We hope you find them as insightful as we have.
Studio Dojo: Why did you choose to write to your 18-year-old self?
This was a defining moment. After my O-levels, I was hard and fast that I wanted to go to Lasalle and do a fashion design course. My dad was quite supportive. Fun fact, my mom used to be a seamstress, so I thought she would be supportive about it but she was determined that fashion design was not my call.
It resulted in a couple of weeks of me being angry and confused and I found myself at this crossroad of life – okay, I’ve set myself up to do fashion design for the past three years, and that’s not going to happen. What is the next best thing that I could do? I looked at other courses and saw Visual Communication and figured maybe that’s the next best thing that’s out there.
I do remember trying my best to make full use of that situation. And pushing myself to have an open mindset was quite helpful for me. When I started to open up, I started to explore more, and then, I got to be a bit more curious. And that led me to be more willing to try new things. So, it was a sequential thing for me – the more I opened up, the more creative I got. And that creativity was well-received from lecturers. Once I got that down, I got the validation from them and that was a nice feedback loop for me.
But I also felt petty over not going to a fashion school, so I would go to the Classified section of the newspaper and find sewing classes to attend. I found one taught by a seamstress in Hougang. Every Wednesday, for two years, I would secretly go to her house and learn sewing – drafting patterns, sewing pattern pieces, types of needles – and I even did a mini collection and held a fashion show with my friends! I was very gung ho about it back then. If I didn’t get to pursue fashion, I was still going to do in my own terms. I remember how there were times that I used my mom’s sewing machine and she questioned how I knew how to sew. I replied that I learned from books. One day, she asked me to help and sew curtains for the house for Hari Raya. Actions like these speak volumes to me and mean just as much.
These two design passions merged for my final year project where I created a brand experience for Aussino, a bedding company, and complemented it by having local fashion designers come up with their own bedding series. That project was really the sweet spot between the two passions. Looking back, in a way, I was quite lucky that I didn’t get into fashion design, because I would not have discovered all these other creative aptitudes within myself or pushed myself to try other possibilities of what design could be. I think that the path, even though it wasn’t a great one, was a great learning experience for me. Without that experience, I don’t think I would learn as fast and as much as I needed to.
Studio Dojo: What is your biggest learning that you would want to share with your 18-year-old self?
At that age, I was very lucky to know that this is something that I want to do for almost the rest of my life because it’s something I’m passionate about. So once you have the passion, obviously you have the potential. There are always things to learn and things to prove to yourself and others, so you can only get better from there on.
If anything, I would tell my younger self that you should do more, not just fashion or visual design, but learn as much as possible from other domains like product design, interior design, etc. The design work is so big, it’s good for me to explore as many places and experiences as possible, so that I know where I could fit in.
And my experience made me realise the need to be open and receptive even though certain things might neither be in your domain nor what you are comfortable with. For example, as a UX designer, maybe you need to learn a little bit about coding, a little bit about data science, or behavioral science. That’s not within your domain necessarily but it’s good to learn more about such complementary fields.
Also ‘design’ is constantly changing, it’s definitely dynamic. So with that, as a designer, you also need to be almost like that as well, right? Every five years, I think that design itself changes, not just in the sense of it having more disciplines but rather its definition itself. And I think a designer needs to change accordingly. Some designers are very hardcore and stick to their domain, and that’s completely fine because it’s something that they enjoy. But for me, I’m more of a generative designer where I like to transform myself and see how I can be of relevance to the space and design itself.
Studio Dojo: What kinds of support helped 18-year-old Fariz through this period?
Looking back, I did have a safe space in poly because of my peers. Thanks to them, I could completely be my true self. I was in a creative school and people there were just as crazy, weird and different as I was. So, it was a very liberating experience to be who I was. My lecturers were also very supportive of me, I was very heartened. Honestly, they were amazing, always giving me opportunities to reach my fullest potential by giving me different responsibilities. It was definitely a steep learning curve but a good way for me to realize my abilities at that point.
I also had myself to rely on, to support and hype myself into staying motivated. I said “I love you” in the letter because at that point in time, 18-year-old Fariz might have been in a very vulnerable position where I was fresh out of school, in a new environment, and I didn’t know what my peers were going to think of me. But I just had to learn to cope with it and be in a better headspace to protect myself from being hurt.
Because I know how I was like back then, the hardest part about writing to my younger self has been keeping the writing open-ended. I wanted some ambiguity and to make sure that my younger self isn’t immediately influenced to lead a certain path because of my letter. Because hey, maybe there were certain parts in my life back that may have led to different happenings and me being in a different field altogether.
I’ll admit that my 18-year-old self was quite myopic and close-minded. So if I were to introduce my current self to him, it might be a bit unsettling for him to know that I’m in a completely different space. He would probably ask “Oh, why aren’t you a creative director in a fashion house? That’s my dream!”. I think he would be very shocked and maybe not too keen to see my 29-year-old self. But little does he realize that the work that I do now also holds a lot of value and impact.
To acknowledge that whatever you set yourself up for might not be something that you necessarily live out eventually, is very humbling. But it also took me a long time to accept that. In that sense, it’s quite poetic for me to do this and keep it as open-ended as possible, so that whoever reads this – Fariz from this universe or another – is able to take it and make full use of it to his best abilities.
Catch up on Fariz’s article in Series 1: Life of a Senior Designer: Designing Value, Valuing Design