Guest Post, Rachel Stiff: What’s up with the Sky?

Rachel Stiff bio pictureIn Los Angeles, California the air has a certain quality to it. Light behaves differently here as well. Smog and moisture pair up each day in different quantities to determine the forecast. Sidewalks, concrete walls and highway overpasses show sign of human presence. Graffiti is a constant companion. The city is home to the largest homeless population in the United States. Watch out for scatological debris. Beautiful flowers and thick monstrous foliage line the interstate. From behind the steering wheel of a car, a traffic jam allows for much time viewing the ditch and searching for inner stillness.

One summer, I was granted an artist residency in Chinatown. This area is known as DTLA or Downtown Los Angeles. Miles of industrial buildings loom sleepily–warehouses of decommissioned factories begging for the downtown artist movement to breathe life back into them. After the three-month long residency was over, I decided to stay in L.A. Wanting to make a little history for myself, I sought exhibitions. Some of them hard earned, while others came as invitation.

I kept my studio downtown, but found a job on the Westside in Venice. The commute after work was a nightmare, and I was often too tired to make it happen. Day to day logistics can be tough in a city this size where almost everyone has a car and must use it. Not having much experience with big cities, I was in awe at the enormous population and constant activity. There is immeasurable human history compressed between seemingly endless layers of buildings, landforms, plants, cars and interstate systems. I was enjoying new friends and nurturing connections, but couldn’t shake the feeling of being caged in.

What's Up With The Sky, Painting by Rachel StiffCommuting to Las Vegas nearly once a month, I enjoyed watching the city limits gradually give way to barren desert. It was a shift in thinking; a different state of mind. City life with its complex relationship to the natural world is swept up into the strict order of a new eco-system. The austere and beautiful design of the Mojave Desert appealed to me. When returning to L.A., an omnipresent heavy smog can be observed, looming eerily beyond the San Bernardino Mountains. Around this time, I had a breakthrough in the studio. As with any new movement comes uncertainty. ‘What’s up with the Sky?’ has proven successful on levels both aesthetic and as a true representation of my love-hate relationship with Western mega-cities.

Intern Post, Corinne Randall: I’m No Doctor, But I Took a Chance on Living in Their World

Medical Device SalesI’ve now done it countless times: I’m sitting in a physician’s office. His or her white coat is hanging in the corner, complementing a wall of endless diplomas. A shelf packed with thick books on neurosurgery, degenerative spinal disorders or orthopedic trauma is staring me in the face. A man or woman with years upon years of medical training and experience is about to walk through the door–and I’m about to convince them that I am the one who has just the product to help heal their patients. This never ceases to ignite a burning anticipation that I can feel radiating from my toes to my forehead.

Now, if someone had told me three years ago that I would finish college and enter the world of medical sales, I would have taken a step back, cocked my head and probably giggled a little bit (nervously, that is.) I didn’t think my brain was wired for the medical field. Throughout my college career I knew that when it came to my “real world” career, I’d be staying far, far away from anything that had to do with science, and didn’t have to do with the arts. However, as I have come to find out within the past year and a half–we can surprise ourselves.

In July of 2013, I was offered a serious position with a medical distributorship in Las Vegas. Previously, I had worked as poetry and nonfiction intern with Superstition Review, and then for six months as an admissions counselor for an online community college. I was petrified. So, of course, I packed up everything and went for it.

In my current position, I sell a post-operative healing device to Orthopedic, Spine and Neurosurgeons across the Las Vegas territory. My role is to provide a healing service to the patients of these physicians as they recover from surgery. I schedule a lot of meetings, read numerous scientific studies, work to make myself a “part” of the community within a doctor’s office, visit patient homes and provide A LOT of Starbucks for my customers. I meet new people every day and work to memorize all their names. I’ll rehearse sales pitches in the mirror. I have many early mornings that turn into late nights. My car is constantly running out of gas. You can find me in any part of this city at any given time of the day. However, despite what seems to be chaos, two things are always motivating me: the well-being of patients along with the drive to further my knowledge. I can’t imagine a work day where I’m looking to achieve only one of those two things.

Here’s the thing: we win some, we lose some. We triumph and we fail. Even Winston Churchill once said: “success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have days where I have failed with a potential customer and where I have doubted whether I made the right decision in choosing this path. I’d also be lying if I said those days didn’t inspire me to work harder the next. One of the most important lessons I have learned from my experience thus far is to never let the highs get too high or the lows too low. During the course of my undergraduate Creative Writing studies at Arizona State University, I learned during my many workshop classes that criticism can be as beautiful as praise in terms of growth. When applied to the world of sales that I have so deeply immersed myself in, not much of that lesson is lost in translation. I love that my work is always pushing me to learn more and be better. Initiating and maintaining business with someone is half my battle. The other, (arguably more important) half is to ask myself how tomorrow can surpass today.

As kids, I think we all heard people say “don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t.” Correct: don’t. However, instead of rambling on about the device that I sell, I wanted the point of this blog post to be “don’t let you tell you that you can’t.” I did, temporarily, and let me tell you: it’s fun to prove yourself wrong.