User vs Person

Is a user the same as a person?

We acknowledge the gap when we notice people having multiple Instagram accounts.

Maybe it’s cleaner in enterprise? One employee is a one login account. But what about admin roles? When am I the employee, and when am I the IT admin?

What is the organizing principle when fragments of individuals are scattered across different parts of the internet?

Is the definition of an individual still make sense?

Helping, Contextually

I keep yearly … not goals, but more broad themes that I use to guide my activities for the year. It might be as broad as looking for new adventures. Or as simple as getting stronger. Or making more art.

This year is about structure. And I was readying a mid-year check-in that I wanted to post publicly. I got as far as designing the images for Instagram (my current choice for social media.)

And yet I’m not posting it. And I can’t put my finger on it.

Part of me feels like it’s a humble brag and weird flex. Part of me feel gauche to talk about me doing well. Part of me feels like it’s not part of the conversation.

And part of me feels like it’s tone-deaf to many people. It hard to post anything that feels like advice to a crowd. At least to me.

It doesn’t seem like I would miss the mark on too many people even if some of it might resonate with others.

Or maybe I’m too afraid of criticism. Or all of it. I’m not sure yet.

Leftover Atoms

A smaller topic: I can’t help but admire a roast chicken. I roasted one a week ago, and it’s so versatile into planning leftovers and meals. The original meal was roast chicken over vegetables and couscous. Then I made beans the next day which opened up tacos. Sliced the breast thin into a sandwich. I had a bag of frozen pita, which I toasted and stuffed with chicken and couscous and lettuce. Any soup works. Omelettes. Using the juices to make a gravy. Which I parlayed into poutine.

Nothing revolutionary or something every family cook realized centuries ago. But something satisfying about looking inside a fridge, and making a new combination on the spot.

Uncertainty

During the/this pandemic, the theme I’m thinking about the most is uncertainty. And perhaps specifically our comfort or lack of comfort to uncertainty.

I can’t say I’m particularly good at it historically. I like knowing the answer. I dislike knowing someone is withholding information. I don’t like surprises.

But as I looked at my life during this time as I discovered the basics are covered. Family is safe for the time being. I have a job. I can access food. The pandemic itself isn’t all-consuming to me.

I’m not particularly hung up on knowing when this will end. Trying to attach a timeline to something of this scale, and when I have very little influence on illuminating solutions–has put me into a rather neutral position. The pace of science can only go so fast, and taking classes back in college–there’s an uncertainty that comes with research. It’s just takes an unknown factor of time to figure out which variables and vectors actually matter, and which ones don’t.

And the research being the foundation of the whole enterprise, you can feel that root uncertainty permeate every layer above. Decision makers depend on experts. So if experts are figuring it out, their advice will shift rapidly. Which means decisions made will appear wrong or right or fuzzy accordingly. Things said confidently will appear foolish, and yet people yearn for confident answers.

That’s a particular level of comfort that’s hard to salve.

We’re getting used to ever faster pace of doing things, and yet to acknowledge certain processes remain slow. And we feel the incongruence of 24-hour news cycle trying to report on a scientific method that works on a monthly, yearly, or even longer time scale. So maybe it’s not about comfort, but more recognizing different sources of tension within a system, and reacting accordingly.

Playing with Boundaries

Everything plays with boundaries. Being most familiar with design, the world of design seems particularly concerned with them.

Often designers are hired to “break boundaries,” “think outside the box,” and to innovate.

But there’s also the nuance of respecting the boundaries. Sometimes to maintain them as it’s deemed necessary.

As in maintaining aspects of a brand built over years, or matching a piece of software to the internal processes of a company.

It’s assessing of boundaries that feels less talked about. Less sexy I suppose.

But it might be the most applicable to applying design to life broadly.

To look at your life, and assessing what should be maintained and what is mutable. And to do it with a rationale that makes sense to you.

Why Travel?

A month ago, a friend asked if I missed traveling. I didn’t really feel like I did. But I’ve been wondering about why ever since then.

I’m still not sure why not.

The inverse of the question is what was I getting out of traveling.

  • A new space
  • New food
  • Different culture / pace
  • A place that doesn’t know who I am
  • Freedom of time
  • New stories
  • New sights
  • New people
  • Different activities
  • Freedom to try new things
  • Finding a new way to articulate my own feelings and thoughts

There’s no equivalent to a place. I can’t replicate Dublin or Singapore.

Its unique combination of everything (weather, food, people, history, philosophies) is what makes a place a place.

But is there ways to tease out what I want in smaller slices?

Reading a book doesn’t compare. But does it give me a sense of a different world? A different perspective? A new story?

Or playing a video game? Or watching a movie?

Cooking or ruminating on a thought is a way to explore an idea or trigger a sense memory. New hobbies is that exploration and trying different things.

I dunno. None of captures the holistic experience, but it’s small doses of the things I’m looking for. Is it good enough? Maybe for now. Maybe not. Maybe I don’t have a choice in the matter with the world the way it is.

When you’re restricted in moving along the physical dimensions of X, Y, and Z. What are you left with? Moving through time. Past, present, future.

Memory, living, and planning. Backwards, forwards.

Again, this all might be intellectual denial. But something to think about for myself.

The Oboist to The Drummer

I keep making metaphors from domains I know nothing about, but nevertheless. I’ve been thinking about ways of living and life coaches.

More and more, context and nuance rise up in my priorities. To know where that person wants to go rather than where I think they should go.

That’s been a hard lesson especially when I feel like I know the person.

But my data set aka life living has kept reminding I’m always wrong. Because they aren’t me.

So I’m thinking about what advice or feedback actually applies.

Things from my expertise seems obvious. But how often is that other person also a tech-based designer with an art background growing up in the 90s in an Asian-American household?

Seems fruitless.

But then I was re-reading some old music advice quotes I had written down. And thinking about the oboist and the drummer. They’re both musicians, but because of the instruments — it seems much clearer what music advice would apply. Maybe rhythm, maybe reading music, maybe getting gigs.

But the actual instrument itself, or how to play it (“just blow air hard into your snare drum”, or maintenance, or how you fit into the orchestra or band. It’s clearer to see the limits of guidance.

At the same time, it’s clearer to see where the overlap is. It’s murkier when it comes to life, but I’ll be thinking about this as I think about giving feedback in the future.

Isolated Introspection

I’ve been trying to pinpoint why I’m feeling so fine during this outbreak.

The majority is obvious, my life is pretty stable. Everyone’s healthy. I’m not sick. My obligations are pretty simple, no kids or whatnots. I have a job.

But on a deeper level, I’ve been thinking about what else.

Even about the solitude, I’m not that bothered by. I was quite petulant when I was in the mindset of dating. But that was mostly ego, and have calmed down since then.

I’m glad to have learned how to cook from my mom. Broader, I’m glad that I got the sense of enjoyment from the family in-general.

I’m glad to be of the digital world, I find richness in it rather than dystopian despair.

I’m glad to had therapy in the past and present. I’ve been able to gain the tools to work through internal struggles, and feel much more solid and clear.

I’m glad to be trained as an artist. It’s nice to have to an outlet for both energy and a method of expressing thoughts and feelings. A release valve.

I’m glad to have found comfort in the cold universe. I’ve always liked science for a number of a reasons. But especially in the idea that of all this is chance, and the universe doesn’t care about any particular thing. I rather dread the idea of a heaven, or waiting for a better place. I enjoy what is here now, and that’s all I want.

I’m glad to have no expectations. You play the hand you’re dealt, and that’s that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sore loser in poker, but with life–you do what you can, and that’s basically the extent of it. I’m glad to have gotten that feeling from my immigrant parents.

I’m glad to have let go of too-narrow goals. It drove me during my twenties, but after an existential crisis, I’ve tried to let go of any future that’s too specific. Broader ideas of growth and general ballparks is fine with me now. (Most of the time, but that’s an internal thing to work out.) This is nice though as it lets me be flexible without wasting all that time on the guilt of “deviating.”

That’s the motley list I can think of so far.

What We’re Supposed To Do

Banal opener: isolation in quarantine is tough for some people.

The thing I want to hone into is the existential. There’s plenty of other things that make things tough, but I’m even less qualified to talk about such things.

I sensing a dread in people that’s less about the virus, but closer to what people feel they’re supposed to be doing.

Notions of self and goals and what you’re working towards are some things to be confronted when you’re removed from the rhythms of regular life.

The simple one is “I would definitely start doing X or work towards Y if only I had the free time.” Be it writing or learning the guitar or whatever it may be.

But now given all the time inside this quarantine, how many have actually started such things?

It’s a confrontation of reality to sound perfectly dramatic, but there’s truth there. That what was stopping you wasn’t external, but rather internal.

(I say “you” but mean “me” as much as anyone else.)

There’s discomfort with the self. Things that could be swept away or distracted with going out or watching TV are now with you in your home, and ever more present.

How to deal with such things is outside the purview of this post. And again with things I’m qualified for, it only extends to myself. Which is true for everyone I think. Which is the crux of the issue.

The hinderances and truths of this is that it’s always been internal, and nobody external like myself can deal with it on your behalf.

Finding Another

Strange how a global pandemic shifts what you end up thinking about. One of mine is how explicit I’ve been in locating where someone is when I talk to them.

I think about how prefunctionary “how are you?” had become. It had become closer to “hello” than actually asking how someone was. You were supposed to reply to “Fine,” regardless of what was actually happening. And that made sense for the most part. Generally, there wasn’t time or space to really deal with whatever was going on the interior.

But now to even have a conversation, I’m finding the desire to calibrate. And I think others are too. On the one layer, I feel the need to as I’m in a pretty good spot. Everyone is healthy, my foundations are stable, and I’m pretty used to a remote lifestyle. So it seems uncouth to talk as if everyone is in the same spot.

I wonder, however, if there’s an undercurrent for some. That being that we’ll realize that we rarely know where anyone is at any given time. That if we feel that we know then those are assumptions.

Maybe for most of life that’s close enough. We may perceive colors differently. You call it periwinkle, I call it purple. But we’re close enough to keep moving.

But this time we’re in, it much more tangible the nuances (or gulfs) of difference we’re all at. That we aren’t as together as we thought.

“Being in the ballpark” is a phrase to approximate a guess or realm of proximity. But maybe we’re realizing there’s a wide difference of experience sitting in the lower seats versus the nosebleed seats versus being in the dugout versus being at the pitcher’s mound.

Even a ballpark is a pretty big place.