How I Got Here

Or why being overly super sickeningly positive can lead to the best things


I’ve been sitting on writing this for a while… a year actually. It’s not been until recently that I’ve been able to say this aloud, but now I can say it aloud and laugh. So that’s a good thing. 

Recently, I’ve attended a student portfolio review and a conference where the first question I’ve been asked is “How did you get into this full time?” or “Do you really do this full time?”. Yes, I do. And the short answer is:

I got fired. 

The long answer however, seems to be more interesting because it is more relatable, and I’ve found through talking with others that this isn’t an unusual thing to happen in recent years. Why? I do not know, but there’s a sort of camaraderie among us that have been fired for jobs and gone freelance.

Three years ago, I graduated from the University of North Florida in good ol’ Jacksonville, Florida. It was there that I had an awesome opportunity to intern with Brunet-García Advertising, who I credit my career to. They asked me to hand letter a poster for “The World of Foote” and that really sparked my love for lettering. I had done it a little throughout college, but really had no idea what it was called nor that I could make a living doing it. After lettering that poster (and it was a LOT of lettering) I was hooked and couldn’t wait to do more. I practiced almost every evening for hours, and continued that throughout the remainder of my internship and into my next job at Body Central’s corporate headquarters. During that time I had the opportunity to do a little freelance lettering, and found out the “World of Foote” poster was accepted into the Communication Arts Typography Annual Two. Which, frankly, was awesome and I started freaking out at work.

In late August 2012, I received an email from a company in Orlando asking me to come interview for an art director position. I went down, I interviewed and then I waited. Three weeks later, I received the call and while they “had to do a bit of convincing” (red flag), they wanted to offer me the job. However, I would be a Junior Art Director and they would help me work my way up to art director. Three weeks later, I had quit two jobs, found an apartment (with help from my parents) and moved to Orlando to start what I thought would be a dream job. 

Christmastime came and several of the ADs and CDs came up and said they were glad I was “a part of the team” and they were “happy to have [me] on the team”. 

Imagine my surprise on February 1, 2013, when I was told I was fired effective immediately, with no reason. After being read a document, I stood up, shook the boss’ hand and thanked him for the opportunity before I went to collect my things. Also imagine my surprise when I received an email before I had left the parking lot informing the company I was no longer a part of the team. I guess they didn’t think to check that I had left and that my email was deactivated, but it was a nice additional stab in my gut. 

My parents hauled butt to get to my apartment where I sat dumbfounded, not sure what I was going to do. I was in a new city, with two friends, and no job. It was either job hunt or try freelancing. At that moment, I decided I was never going to let myself be a victim of the circumstances and with my parents’ support behind me, jumped head first into full time freelancing. That week I got my first big gig with BrainJuicer, and three weeks after that I was contacted by the folks at 3M Post-It Brand®. I threw myself into my work and contacted anyone and everyone that I wanted to do work for. I created personal pieces day and night, pulled all nighters to meet deadlines and put any social life aside for a few months. Unfortunately, I was still having horrid flashbacks to that day. 

In June 2013, I signed with Illustration LTD. I had been in contact with them since October 2012, and they had asked me to continue sending them work. When I sent them my Jacksonville Magazine chalk cover, they sent back a contract. That was it, I had an artist rep. Work picked up, my confidence increased and the flashbacks slowly started to fade. I started going out with one of my friends through that job, and through her met a whole group of people. Things started to come together as they were supposed to and I was able to do the best work I could and through it all remained positive, sometimes overly and sickeningly so. I never let the negativity take hold of my path and plan.

On February 1, 2014, I celebrated what I call “Freedom Day”. The day I got the chance to pursue my dream career, the day I had to be stronger than I ever have been. I got to celebrate my accomplishments over dinner and drinks by the beach with my family. It was wonderful. 

Dad even got the awful cover band to try and play “Take this job and shove it”. That’s love, my friends.



Oh, did I mention I got a dog? As I was sitting on my couch crying, mom said I could get a dog. Two months later I had my Teddy, we just celebrated his one year adopt-a-versary on April 6th. :) 

So there it is. Honest and true, how I got here. I don’t recommend it, but it’s good to know sometimes that you’re not alone. And what may seem to be the worst situation can actually turn out to be the best one for you. Remain optimistic, and don’t be a victim.

Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn

Orlando, Florida