Day 184 - Jesse (1st person I approached)
July 03, 2014 - Jesse was sitting at a table on the sidewalk having a snack. I asked him if he would chat with me, and explained what I was doing. I showed him The Stranger Project 2014 Facebook page, and said that I’d want to take his picture as well. He readily agreed to chat saying,
“Sure, although I don’t know exactly what you’ll be asking me.” Blind faith!
Jesse was born and raised in North Vancouver, British Columbia (BC).
“I have one younger sister. I think like many siblings, we’ve gotten closer as we’ve gotten older. I think my entire family have gotten closer as we’ve all gotten older,” he said, smiling.
Jesse learned to snowboard when he was eleven years old.
“One of my cousins was into it and he got me started. It became one of my passions. I’d snowboard all winter and then skateboard whenever I could. While they’re similar, skateboarding is definitely harder than snowboarding. I’ve been doing both ever since I started as a kid,” he told me.
“I went to school in North Vancouver. In Grade ten my school Principal and my parents sat down and decided I should change schools. I was so into skateboarding, they felt that in order for me to graduate, I’d be better off going to another school. I would go to school every day, but then my friends and I would meet up and instead of going to say, Social Studies, we’d go skateboarding. Looking back I realize that it wasn’t the best decision to keep making, but at the time, it seemed fine,” Jesse said.
“The new school wasn’t that far away. Some of my friends knew people that went to the other school. I made new friends pretty quickly. It didn’t take that long to settle in.” I asked Jesse if he thought it was a good thing that he changed schools.
“Well, I graduated,” he said. “There was a chef training program at the new school. When we were talking about switching schools, the Principal had suggested that I might want to consider taking that class, so I did. I’m really happy that I took it as well. I certainly wouldn’t have learned to cook like I can now if I hadn't taken chef training,” he said.
After graduating high school, Jesse got a job cooking in a restaurant in North Vancouver.
“I did that for a couple of years. And continued snowboarding and skateboarding,” he said. “I realized that while I was passionate about snowboarding and skateboarding, I was never going to be good enough to become a professional. I wanted to do something that would still be involved with boarding though. I went to Capilano College (now Capilano University) for three years and learned to become a graphic designer,” said Jesse. During the summer months, Jesse worked for the North Vancouver District as a gardener and groundskeeper.
“It was a good job, I liked being outside and it paid decently too. The college work was intense during the school year, so I was able to make some money in the summer to help through the rest of the year,” he said. Jesse worked in that job each summer for the duration of college.
When he finished college, his connection with the North Vancouver District came in handy once again.
“I got a job working as an assistant to a sign painter that had worked for the district for many years. He was of the ‘old school’ and actually painted signs by hand, with paint and brushes. It was a great opportunity to learn about an art form that is dying out these days. Everyone is doing things with computers now, so I was lucky. He was also looking to expand his experience too. So while he taught me a lot about the traditional art of sign painting, I taught him what I could about designing with a computer. We worked together for about nine months before the funding ran out. Not many graphic designers get that kind of experience. I was lucky to have worked with him,” said Jesse, with genuine appreciation in his voice.
“I was dating a girl at the time and we made a fairly spontaneous decision to move to Montreal. The time between deciding and going was only about two months. My parents were supportive telling me ‘yeah you should make a move’ and so we did. I had already been working freelance graphics with some clients. The beauty of working digitally is it doesn’t matter where you’re located,” he said. They were in Montreal for six months and then came home for Christmas.
“Things hadn’t been going that well between my girlfriend and I and we just never went back. We broke up not long after coming back to Vancouver.”
In the leaner times of establishing himself as a graphic designer Jesse has picked up work along the way.
“I worked in a snowboard shop for a while. And I have a couple of friends that scale trees for a living. I’ve helped out with limbing, cutting branches into smaller pieces and putting them into the chipper,” he said. Freelance graphics has become Jesse’s full-time career now, but with a twist.
“I managed to get a few bigger contracts with snowboard companies and now I do design work mostly for snow and skate board companies. It’s cool that I’ve been able to take a passion of mine and make it into what I do for a living. I feel like I’m involved in the industry," says Jesse.
I asked him if he’s happy with how things have turned out so far.
“Yeah I am. I’ve recently learned an important lesson too. At first I was scrambling for work and saying yes to everything. And now I’m learning to say no to jobs from time to time. I think it’s easy to get so busy that you end up not enjoying what you’re doing. There has to be balance. I’m learning to say no, and to actually enjoy the work I’m doing. That’s been my latest lesson.” #notastranger