A Purple Life: Creativity at Work Interviews

You probably know A Purple Life from her very supportive, funny, and clever social media presence (or from Marketwatch).  

If you want a lesson on tactful social indifference, she is a go-to person who will entertain and challenge you regarding societal norms.  She doesn’t care what you think (and she’s super nice about it). Bringing these two characteristics together is a creative talent in itself.  

I remember when I first heard her on Fire Drill Podcast and internally celebrated finally getting to hear her voice. I had felt connected to her ever since she posted a picture outside her apartment and I realized I had stood there once on vacation. (Funny how internet relationships start, isn’t it?)  

Anyhow, hearing her on podcasts confirmed she wasn’t a super-talented internet robot but instead a super-talented human.

Having never met her in person, it is dawning on me she is probably one of my favorite people in existence where I wouldn’t recognize their face on the street.  Whenever a purple haired person walks by, I have to wonder…

Take it away Purple!  Tell us about that Purple magic!

Do you consider yourself creative?

I do consider myself creative. (Did my purple hair and facial piercings give me away?) I’ve always been obsessed with visual and audio stimuli. I listen to music almost every minute I’m not interacting with people throughout the day. It makes me happy. If you ever need someone to come over for an impromptu dance party or a partner in crime for karaoke, I’m your girl.

I’ve also always been interested in creating beauty in the world (with mixed results). Early in life that involved doodling and creating art as presents for friends and family. More recently I’ve been teaching myself calligraphy and watercolor. I’m also obsessed with taking photos. Several of my friends call me their “personal photographer” since they know I’ll be capturing what’s happening around them so they don’t need to and can still reminisce later. In these ways I think I am creative - I’m always trying to add more beauty to our world.

What role has creativity played in your working life? Private life? Finances?  

One of the main reasons I chose my career in ad agencies was because it seemed more creative than my other options. I went into the client service side of it, but was still surrounded by creative ideas and was able to use another aspect of creativity that I hadn’t anticipated: creative problem-solving. That’s basically my whole job. A problem reveals itself and I figure out how to solve it.

In my personal life, all the hobbies I mentioned above help both calm me and make me feel like I’m adding beauty to our world in some small way. As for my finances, I’ve been able to find creative ways to get what I want for less cost.

For example, I love to travel (and my mom prefers fancy destinations).  When I started my path to early retirement I realized that paying for the places she wanted to visit wouldn’t fit into my new budget so I learned how to travel hack so we could get first class flights for basically free. I also learned how to use geo-arbitrage so we would choose to visit places where we still get the same fancy things my mom enjoys, but for much less money.

Are there any areas of living you approach in an especially innovative way?

I’m not sure I can call it innovative, but it does seem to be fairly rare among the people I hang out with at least: I don’t do anything to please other people or society. I stay true to myself no matter what other people think. I refuse to succumb to peer pressure in order to appear ‘normal.’

For example, I travel without my partner often. I go places (like fancy international locations that I mentioned) with my mom. I backpack around Europe with friends and often simply travel alone. For some reason, this is surprising to people. They have some idea that partners must always be together and it’s somehow ‘weird’ to be apart at times and live your own lives. We disagree with that obviously and are not interested in if our lifestyle is considered ‘weird’ by others. This is who we are and what makes us happy.

To take this one step further, we also happen to never plan on getting married or having kids. Those facts have been met with a wide variety of reactions including some weird ones such as “oh your parents must be so disappointed to not have any grandchildren from you!” Super strange. Who cares what other people think about your life decisions? It’s your life. Live it for you.

Do you have a system for keeping track of ideas?  For example, do you use a series of notebooks or certain apps?

I use the free version of Evernote to digitally record and easily search my ideas. I actually love physically writing things down (it helps me work through my thoughts), but I have way too many notebooks and they’re obviously harder to search through so I often write something physically to start figuring out my thoughts and later transfer it into Evernote once I have everything figured out. I actually put a ban on buying more notebooks because I love to buy them and have way too many of them. I’m trying to fill them all up before purchasing any more.

What systems do you have in place for mastering and tackling your finances?

I’ve used YNAB for over 4 years to track my finances. Before that I used Mint.com, but it never changed my behavior. YNAB completely changed how I thought about money and budgeting. They present everything as a choice - you can have anything, but not everything.

For example, if I go over in a category like eating out (which I did often last year), it’s no big deal - there’s no judgement. I just have to decide what other category that overage will come out of. I usually picked clothing since I have enough clothes. It was no big deal.

YNAB’s system makes it clear that you are not a failure simply because you didn’t hit a certain number. Budgeting decisions are in essence choices, not rules. YNAB helped me see these choices and steadily decrease my spending from about $30,000 a year to $17,715 last year. That change combined with job hopping and increasing my salary cut my time to retirement in half.

Do you mind sharing if you were formally identified as gifted in school? (Keep in mind, many extraordinary individuals are missed).  Do you have any positive or negative thoughts about gifted education or gifted psychology?

I wasn’t identified as gifted in school (I don’t think they did that formally), but I did have some of the highest grades and was in a lot of A.P. classes. If memory serves, I finished high school with the second highest grades in the class (only because a ringer joined senior year and took valedictorian away from me 🙂 . My Mom was valedictorian of her high school). When I visited a therapist in my youth they gave me a few IQ tests and claimed I was “above average.” I don’t think I know enough about gifted education or psychology to comment on it either way.

Do you mind sharing if you’ve had any mental health struggles?  If so, did those struggles impact your finances in any way?

I have. I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life (another reason I was visiting with a therapist when I was young). My biological father actually committed suicide as a result of his depression so I’ve always been aware of what can happen when mental health goes untreated.

I’m not sure how my struggles have impacted my finances - perhaps in spending extra money on items that help me cope with what’s happening in my head. However, I’ve been working for most of my life on my mental health issues and been pretty successful. It’s an ongoing struggle and something I wish more people were willing to talk about so it becomes less taboo to admit if you need help.

What is your favorite DIY hack?  Did you come up with it on your own?

[Michelle again here.  Purple thought this upcoming answer wouldn’t be satisfying.  However, I think it’s an important point for others (even if it’s different from how I live), so I’m leaving this response in.]

I actually don’t have one. I’ve always lived in apartments and am not a handy person. If I need something I tell the landlord and they take care of it. That’s one of the top reasons I’m planning to be a renter for life.

What role (if any) has art and music played in your life? Can you tell us some favorite bands?

As I mentioned above, music plays a huge role in my life. I’m constantly listening to music and reveling in its beauty. I’ve tried my hand at singing (mostly at karaoke…) and a few instruments, but keep coming back to consuming music. My music taste is all over the place, but my favorite artists lately include Years & Years, Ramin Djawadi (I love original scores), and Sam Smith (Spotify claims I listened to his new album for 69 hours in 2018 - the numbers speak for themselves 🙂 ). Traditional art (such as paintings and sculptures in museums) plays less of a role in my life, but I see the world we live in as art itself and try to capture that with my photography and through exploration.

Michelle Again:

I’m so glad to have learned more about the role of music and creativity in Purple’s life.  Her writing style is effortless and full of heart.  Her unique voice and clever branding can really stick with a person.

Maybe when she retires at the ripe old age of 30 she will show us her face so we can all tell her how awesome she is if we run into her on the streets of Seattle?

2 Replies to “A Purple Life: Creativity at Work Interviews”

  1. So awesome! I was identified as gifted in 4th grade and participated in a special program every year until they cut the funds. 🙁

    Purple is a masterpiece in her own way! Loved reading more about her.

    1. Thanks for dropping by the blog Liz! Those programs often get cut and it’s sad for both the teachers and the students. Glad you enjoyed learning more about Purple.

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