Colleen Murphy, Class of 2009, WTN -> BOS -> FLO -> SF -> CLT
What are you up to? I recently made a dramatic change in my life and moved from San Francisco, California to Charlotte, North Carolina (I’m always down for an adventure) so that I could kick it with one of my favorite humans and my high-school sweetheart, Chad. After 5 years of being apart, we reconnected via e-mail. Soon enough, Chad flew out to visit SF last November and we’ve been back together since.
When it comes to my career, I feel like I have a ton going on right now. I’m the lead creative on the marketing team for a tech company in San Francisco. My employer allowed me to work remotely from North Carolina. Since I work from home, a lot of my day is spent on the computer designing, meeting via Skype, or e-mailing. Working from home is a love/hate relationship; it can be so lonely that I talk to my plants but it also allows me to have a flexible schedule and to travel more often.
In addition to my full-time job, I run TOWN Mag. I started working on TOWN in January of 2016 but it’s been an idea long before that. I had been sitting on the idea since college and with the support from some creative Watertown friends, I started doing the work. I love being able to combine art, design, technology, and social impact. I want to give back to my roots and include everyone in the conversation; everyone’s story truly does matter.
I’m also teaching graphic design and photography to amazing high schools students at Behailu Academy here in North Carolina. My main goal is to use my creativity to make positive change and inspire others. I’ve always been interested in social change and activism, and now more than ever I’m determined to create community, teach empathy, and use my skills to shed light on certain causes, whether it be through photography or graphic design.
How'd you get here? It’s a long story. I am so lucky, I feel as though I’ve lived a lifetime in my short 25 years on earth.
In 2014, I graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, MA with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design and a minor in photography. My overall university experience was eye-opening, expensive, interesting, inspiring, and nomadic. Northeastern has a program called COOP and my career experience bleeds into my college experience. Throughout the past 5 years, I’ve lived in 4 different cities, 2 different countries, I’ve worked for 4+ companies, with so many different job titles. I worked for Reebok as a photography and graphic design intern. I worked in Florence, Italy as a European tour guide/intern for a travel company. I nannied, freelanced, and worked at a daycare. I pedicabbed my way through senior year, giving rides to people in and out of Fenway during Red Sox games.
After graduation, I applied for 150 jobs in San Francisco, my next destination. All rejected. I decided to move to SF anyway. I nannied until I landed a design job at a start-up electric bike company. Pretty soon I was riding around San Francisco photographing an electric bike. Then, all of a sudden - bam! The love of my young Watertown life shows up at my door in San Francisco after 5 years of being apart. My philosophies and values started to shift. Fast forward a year later and here I am, living under the Mason Dixon line, learning to love, with my career fully in-tact, figuring out what is coming next.
I think these past couple of years I’ve felt the most confused and rejected. It has been a crazy ride. There have been such high moments like launching TOWN, or learning to ski in Lake Tahoe, or riding an electric bike down the Las Vegas strip. I’ve met amazing people from all over the world; from Kazakstan to Colorado to Florence (shout out to all of the inspiring friends I’ve met). But I’d also be lying if I said that it’s all roses and rainbows all the time. There are low moments too, like feeling completely alone on a snowy Boston night, or having coworkers who are complete bullies, or having a crazy roommate constantly threatening you with lawsuits. Would I trade it? No way. This is what makes life so fantastic and interesting. I’m always learning so much about myself and the world and I’m extremely lucky to have these opportunities, even the "low" moments (I've been really lucky and haven't had "lows" like some people have).
Throughout it all, Watertown has been my roots and support system. My parents have helped me financially and emotionally, and for that I am grateful and privileged. My friends from home remain as important to me as they did 10 years ago and although we have followed extremely different paths, we still know we're townies at heart.
What are your goals? I want to do everything. It’s kind of scary because it’s hard for me to really decide what I really want to do. I’m confused! First and foremost, I’d like to find a city that I really want to live in for longer than 1 year. I am interested in activism and social impact, and I’m thinking about going back to school for education, political science, or art. I also want to be a photographer for the New York Times or National Geographic. I want to hike in every country and I want to live in Japan for at least 3 months. I also have a few business ideas that focus on art, social impact, and international travel. For now, I’m riding the wave. Since I don’t know exactly what I’m destined to do, I’m following my heart and standing up for what I believe in and trusting the universe will show me the way.
Advice for WHS Students? There are no rules or limits in life, only consequences. You can do whatever you want. There are, of course, steps to be taken to get where you want to go, but as long as you have an end goal in sight, for years or decades, you can do it. If you are determined and focused, you can do whatever makes you happy. If you are confused about what makes you happy, be patient, it will come. If you feel like money limits you on doing what makes you happy - don’t let it. Save your money for your goals and only buy things that you need. If you feel like nothing really matters, you are kind of right. We truly are just floating in space. But a great teacher and friend of mine once said, “Nothing really matters. But why not make it matter?”
If you could have a superpower just for today, what would it be? TO FLY.