Preparing to watch the August’s total solar eclipse mid-air from a flight to SYP’s San Francisco office.
What I Did in 2017
- Published Patterns of Transformation: Designing Sex, Death, and Survival in the 21st Century
- Continued my work at SYPartners as a Senior Designer
- Curated ‘Writing The System’ discussion series for the Design Research proram at SVA
- Participated in the Steering Committee of SFPC
- Attended workshops on assiting the dying and awakening the third eye
- Studied life drawing with the incredible Andy in Park Slope
- Hired the fabulous Jacquette Timmons to coach me on personal finance
- Engaged in healing, like:
- Interviews: the Voices of VR podcast and No Proscenium podcast
- Talks: Infinity Makers Collective and a Products of Design class at SVA
Themes of The Year
1. Patterns of Transformation goes public
The big piece of unfinished work from 2016 was making my graduate research public. With input from many wise souls, I put it out as a dedicated website: patternsoftransforamtion.com.
Sharing it in an accessible way felt more important than engaging in a longer, bigger hustle to get it out in a flashy way. Who knows if this was the right decision in the end, but the goodwill and curiosity it’s generated has been hugely validating.
Something about the project overall feels unrealized still, like there is a level of clarity or greater good that can be done with the insights I developed. I’m simmering on it and enjoying the input of the many folks who have read it online.
2. Repressed distress resurfaces
When I was going through upheaval in 2015, it was hard to admit to myself how distressing it was in the moment. I was blindsided by the huge increase in professional responsibilities and ruptures in my personal life. At the time, I could tell that I was stepping up my personal leadership game out of necessity, which I described as ‘Steering A Big Ship’. In looking back, I see an undertone of denial about the amount of duress I was under. I couldn’t fully face the tumult until 2016. In that year, I stabilized the major parts of my life by closing my creative practice, finishing out my graduate degree, and getting a full-time position. I thought after all that, I would be in the clear.
What actually happened in 2017 was that the suppressed emotional struggles surfaced and demanded attention. It’s like when you work yourself really hard for a stretch and as soon as you’re done, you get sick. Your body realizes it now has an opportunity to throw up all the exacerbated fatigue it had been suppressing so you could get through the work binge. All you want to do is relax and enjoy a job well done, but instead, you’re sick as a dog. 2017 felt like a long emotional and psychological sick spell of expunging the toxins from years before. It’s hard to look back and admit publicly how much denial I was in. I feel pretty damn humbled by it all. The process lead me to uncover some deep wounds, far deeper than recent professional and personal upheavals. I look forward to sharing more about that once I’ve sorted it out further.
All this makes me reflect on two levels. One is the challenges of leadership and how great leadership requires unflinching clarity about the situation they are leading through, something I didn’t have back in 2015. The other level is the effect that trauma and unwelcome transitions have on an individual and how emotional stuff can really hang around until you deal with it.
3. This Regular Gig Thing
Having a full-time job after being independent for 7 years is simply uncanny. All the rules of life change. About a month into the job, I looked around at the civilized environment I had landed in and realized that this is why my previous creative practice was so captivating for people. Trespassing regularly for fun and adventure seemed like an unfathomable thing from the comfortable perch of the corporate office. It sunk in on a whole new level now that I was crossing over into respectable life as a gainfully employed human being. Now over a year in, I’m still bemused by all the things I no longer have to do for myself because I have the benefit of a smart, kind team and sane management systems to keep things humming along.
And my job isn’t just any job. We’re doing organizational transformation for the most impactful organizations in the world. Each project gets me into a new corner of society and industry. I’m wowed by the exemplary leadership I get to witness and the organizations I get to help. It’s been a stunning move from the fringes to the absolute center.
4. Spiritual Trespassing
People ask me all the time if I’m still creating adventures or involved in underground culture. The truth is I got my fill of that. I’m not over it, but I’m not aching for it either. What the stability of a full-time job has afforded me is space to roam spiritually. I’ve left aside my heady zen meditation for a more metaphysical third eye practice. I’m involved in energy work that took me so deep into unfamiliar realms of consciousness that I was totally freaked out but eager for more. I’ve also developed a deep fascination for ancient astrology, of all things.
So, while I may not my trespassing through the built environment anymore, I’m certainly trespassing spiritually (and mindful that this may well be intertwined with recovering from repressed distress).