A few months into my senior year of college, I started losing my hair. Suddenly, I was losing large chunks. I developed bald spots all over my scalp and eventually lost about a quarter of my hair. It was confusing and frustrating. After discovering that I had an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata, I knew something was going to have to change. I decided to take some of the pressure off myself and decided not to look for a job after school. My plan was to go home and regroup after I graduated and go from there.
However, I had a very supportive advisor who continued to alert me to job openings. I ended up applying for a couple of newspaper design positions. I think taking the pressure off myself helped me to become less stressed. I was still losing my hair but I didn’t feel as much pressure as I did before. I was offered and ultimately decided to accept a job in Phoenix working at the Gannett Design Studio right after school. This was something unexpected but I decided to move from Ohio to Phoenix without ever having visited Arizona. Two women in my class, including my best friend, also got jobs there so we all moved out there at the same time.
I’ve been working as a visual journalist at The Washington Post for the past six years. I joined the Emerging News Products team in 2013 and have helped launched several products, including the Washington Post Select app, The Lily and most recently By The Way. As the design editor for By The Way, I created the visual identity and aesthetic of the new travel publication. I make up the creative team along with two talented designers. Together we create and commission illustrations for each story we publish and create content and run @bytheway’s Instagram.
My college advisor, Julie Elman, always said, “Take the leap and dare to suck.” She was and still is one of the most supportive people in my career. I have a postcard that she drew and gave to our graduating class at my desk at work. It always gives me a boost when I’m feeling particularly uninspired.
Last April, I decided to take part in The 100 Day Project and try my hand at analog collage. I’ve been creating digital collages for work for years but had been wanting to create a consistent creative practice off the computer and outside of work. It’s more than 9 months later and I’m feeling the most creatively fulfilled I’ve felt in my adult life. I collage more days than not. I experiment with all kinds of collage, including collages in the wild. You can follow along what I’m up to on my Instagram, @rachelanneorr.
No matter how hard a period of growth feels, you will come out the other side.