I started my career from a background in visual design and general computer nerdery (think FFXI & WoW). The stereotype is always an introverted, heads-down, headphones-on, G.S.D. kind of creature who shies away from anything social. I was as introverted as they come, stressing myself into nightmares at just the mere thought of having to answer phone calls for customer support training; or shuffling away without making eye contact until I found an isolated stairwell to hide in until I had to get back to work or go to class.
But following the UX path has taught me that it takes a lot more courage, energy, and fighting spirit to be able to really grasp problems hands-on or even raise more questions in a quest to find the true problem before trying to create a solution. With that said, I had to become what I feared the most—a people person. I mean, let’s be real, there’s no “user” without people. I really screwed myself with this path, didn’t I? Yet, I haven’t backed down…that’s what is most surprising. In fact, I think I actually enjoy this work more than making things pretty. WTF happened to me? It makes a little sense, though. I’d still much rather work in the background to create the foundation of something than have to suffer and burn under the spotlight for creating the face of a product.
Let me backtrack a bit…I’ve always been an obsessive list-maker, an almost too thorough note taker, and I love listening to people and learning about their lives and experiences. I mean, there’s no way I could ever experience everything in this world or in any way lead some sort of magical, exciting life that isn’t my own (did I mention my obscene level of self loathing? Maybe I should have become a brooding novelist…). Anyway, these skills just happen to be quite useful in the user experience realm! I think after years of ignoring my random quirks and believing I’ll only amount to some sort of known-after-death artist, I’ve finally discovered where I might be able to offer some useful skills. Elizabeth Gilbert said something about how home is where you’re able to do something you love more than yourself. And I love helping and listening to people more than anything else. I may not always be the one who can help, but I will work my ass off trying to find the right person or people who can. And with this narrow-sighted goal I can fearlessly talk to people and make the necessary connections to get the party started without giving my impending anti-social anxiety attack any room to surface.
Maybe it’s my age or my recent yoga practice, but I’ve become more accepting of myself these days and it has really started to clear my mind. I feel like I’m on to something, so I’ll sit back for awhile and see where this is all taking me, without resistance. If I’ve learned anything recently, it is to live in the moment and give it my all, because we can only move forward with flexibility and acceptance.