I found some old notes I had written to myself when I was hiding in Seattle.
Don’t take for granted those who stay by your side. Don’t hate yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. Don’t be ashamed of the things you truly enjoy. (You’ll meet someone else who appreciates it, too.)
Be prepared to lose everything you think you have, but never lose yourself.
Proceeding with honesty, confidence, and clarity. Hello again, life, it’s been a while.
I feel like my heart is breaking from my own inability to move forward.
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.
Stop working so hard to impress other people in order to win their money. Do something because you genuinely love to do it.
Why are we taught to focus on what makes each of us unique? Why are we taught to seek out what makes us different from one another? I feel like there is more power behind the idea that we are all connected by our numerous similarities, throughout our communities and across the globe. I feel like we would be less hesitant to help each other, it would be less common for us to turn a blind eye, if we were more able to feel the connection we have to each other. We build walls around us with thoughts of being different, special, better or worse from the next guy. This not only keeps us distanced from people but leaves us trapped in ourselves, competing with the world and lost in insecurity.
I remember a time when I would savor every sip, cherish every word, celebrate every moment…that was touched or associated with a specific origin or meaning. (Think back on your first crush, everything that person did was amazing, right?) The catch is, I created that meaning. Everything in our lives have value that we create within ourselves. Sure, someone can tell you it has a certain value but you are the one who decides to agree to accept that value. In other words, you have the power to also denounce or ignore it. I’m not saying to be rude and argue or belittle it; simply, you’re not obligated to always agree.
I know I’m being rather vague and all of this could be misconstrued into a very long debate. This all means something very specific to me. You are free to interpret it as you please.
I guess my main message here was to stay that if something or someone has lost their meaning, you also have the power to bring it back and celebrate them again.
I tried for years, now, to earn your approval; to win your praise. I’ve admired you, complimented you, loved you…I looked up to you. I saw so much of who I wanted to be in you. But there was always a wall between us, one I couldn’t scale and one you couldn’t see through. I’ve been beating myself against it hoping you could at least hear me but you’ve always been looking off into the distance; listening for other things, to other people. I tried to share everything, hoping I’d get a similar response. I did everything I could to bring our worlds together but you wouldn’t budge. I lost sight of myself and I know I can’t continue like this. You tell me all of the obvious things I should know and for some reason I depended on you to reflect them back to me. I need to live for myself…and you would have told me that, if I asked. Thank you for the indirect motivation you’ve given me all this time but now when I look at you all I can see is the pain I’ve allowed myself to collect. Maybe I’ve misunderstood some things, placed too much meaning behind lightweight words, expected too much from your ignorance…but I have to try to understand those for myself as I’ve finally started to do today. I can only hope you’ve realized how important you’ve been to me, even if it can’t be reciprocated.
Why have I been trying so hard all this time to define and mold myself into what is “good” by others’ standards? Why haven’t I, instead, concentrated on what I think is interesting, fun, and solves problems effectively by my own standards? I’m starting to realize that nothing else will “gel” or make sense with me unless I agree with them. Regardless of how much I desire to make someone else happy, it won’t ultimately satisfy my own desire to solve the same problem in my own particular way.
This in no way negates the need or openness I have for others’ opinions, I’ve just come to realize that I haven’t been allowing myself to be heard, even within my own thoughts. Essentially, if I have no respect for my own opinion, how can I expect myself to effectively and empathetically listen to others?
Be more open and willing.
Be less afraid of the idea of failure.
I was lost inside my thoughts; lost inside a book. Somehow I was still aware that the F was stopping soon at 23rd St. As I stood up to get off, slowly refocusing my eyes toward the people who had collected during my commute, I realized how completely disconnected I was from everyone. I had no clue who they were or when they got on because I never bothered to look up and observe the activity around me. Dazed, my auto-pilot propelled me slowly out of the train and toward the exit.
I noticed a guy setting up to play his guitar in my periphery. Normally I would ignore this, even if I’m curious. But this time something in me yelled, “Why the hell shouldn’t you stop and listen if it’s what you want to do?!” so I swerved left, waited, and listened. It was beautiful. I wanted to just park myself cross-legged right in front of him and watch him play for the rest of my afternoon, completely ignoring the fact that people would either have to jump over me or dive into the tracks because we’d have blocked off the entire walkway. Alternatively, I just asked him if would be OK to take an Instagram video and we talked briefly.
Kaz plays for a world roots band named Brown Rice Family, whose name stems from the belief that one should live in a healthy environment and eat naturally grown food. I’m excited to catch their show tomorrow night, my last night in New York.
Then I discovered that they make SOAP, too! Aaron and I have been using only handmade soaps and have this ridiculous collection of handmade soaps from different shops around Austin. I can’t wait to try Brown Rice Family’s handcrafted soaps!
I’m still glowing from this serendipitous meeting. Not only that, it was at 23rd St., my real favorite number (most of you know it as 5, but that’s another story). It’s wonderful what I find when I’m not looking for something; when I just allow myself to flow with the life around me.
What am I searching for?
I don’t even know what my ultimate goal is. I just sort of
drift haul ass through each day with an obscene amount of tasks to do. I can’t even gather my thoughts to have a casual conversation, much less a meaningful one. I’m focused not only on what my hands seem to be doing but also on what will happen in the next half hour, the next few hours, the coming evening, the next morning, next week, next month…and what didn’t get addressed still exists in the back of my thoughts like an annoying, badged app bouncing in the OSX doc silently screaming for my attention. I’LL GET TO YOU EVENTUALLY, CALM THE FUCK DOWN.
I’ve done it again—overloaded myself. If I take a step back and just reflect on what I’ve done just in the past month or so:
- Started working out 6 days a week every morning before work for at least an hour, plus a 20-30 minute jog on Saturday mornings
- Completely reformatted my diet which requires more attention, dedication, and preparation beforehand
- Attended a 2-hour Agile evening class every Tuesday after work on the complete opposite side of town from home for 6 weeks
- Attended an all-day experience mapping workshop
- Started studying 日本語 every other Wednesday night after work
- Started Charleston dance lessons every Wednesday night, which occurs immediately after 日本語 lesson
- Design, customized, and launched a website for my friends’ film
- Got stung by a scorpion 6 times down my jawline, neck, and shoulder while I was sleeping (terrifying, painful, and traumatic experience!)
- Attended my first Kyudo/meditation lesson
- Ran my first 5k
- Camped on the beach for the first time
- @Work: Launched my first iPhone app
- @Work: Started on the Android version
- @Work: Wireframed and oversaw a different, new app for a contracting partner
And upcoming is going to New York for a month to work remotely and attend 3-hour evening classes at SVA 4 nights a week.
I’ve done a lot…but what have I actually accomplished? What will I accomplish in the end? Am I giving myself enough time to appreciate the lessons learned? I’ve met a lot of very inspiring and helpful people along the way these past few weeks, but I hardly even give myself enough time to breathe. I think my social skills are suffering because I’m more focused on tasks rather than the people around me.
The first step is to identify the problem, right? I just need to learn how to manage my ravenous quest for knowledge down to smaller, bite-sized portions that I can chew slowly, savor, and enjoy. And then give myself time to be able to sit back and reflect on it.
I’m pretty sure I belong in Seattle.