The Gone Bar

It was 4PM when I got into the Lyft and greeting my driver. We’ll call him Adam.

After the normal convo about where I was headed, we started to discuss plans for the evening of New Year’s Eve. He mentioned going to the Go Bar. After a bit of conversation, I learned that this bar – which I hadn’t been to – was closing after this New Year’s Celebration. We talked about the varying thoughts on reasons for this; it was a successful bar 20 years running, but there were multiple complaints about noise from people nearby… from a known club… that’s been there for 20 years.

You can only imagine the kind of people who would do this.

This was especially concerning for Adam because that bar was one of very few regular gathering spaces for LGBTQIA+ folks and I felt that pain of a world where you constantly fight to make your own space only to have it evaporate with the morning mist and always being at risk of doing so at any time.

We exchanged some information and later on that night, I went to the bar for the first and last time it would exist. Every person there was talking, dancing (to damn good music, I might add), and generally being enjoyable. There wasn’t a single unpleasant person on the premises. I bought a t-shirt and ran into a few familiar faces and made friends with new ones.

I watched it all like the final fluttering heartbeats before a flatline. Only hours before, a friend who is chronically ill and facing their own mortality told me that a letter I sent them cemented their decision to go out and have fun even as they felt the life seeping from their bones. They went out and had fun not knowing how long they’ll live beyond that night.

My hands should be covered in third-degree burns from all of these dying embers I’ve been carrying.

Happy New Year, Go Bar. Happy New Year and may I find somewhere worthy to put these embers.

Stepping into 2020

If you’ve been a reader here for any amount of time, you’ll know that my years aren’t measured by resolutions, but rather by themes I take it to it. Most of the themes emerge after reflection on the previous year. That has left me feeling very uneasy about what lies ahead.

2020 is going to be wild and uncomfortable.

Over the last year, there has been a lot of growth and change for me professionally that has left me a different person. The more I reflect, the more 2020 means less about doing new things and more about leaving things that haven’t served me well behind. If 2019 was “Chiseling”, then 2020 is going to be “Sanding and Polish”.

Unlike all the prior years where there was more uncertainty about who or what I would be or be doing for the year to come, this one comes with a settled knowing to it. Of what I can keep, what I will rearrange, what I will make room for whether more or less. There’s a part of me that is somewhat saddened by it. The explanation of that feeling will be another entry.

In the meantime, I hope your holiday has been wonderful and that your support systems to get through them or celebrate them have been strong. I’ll see you all in 2020 with what will likely be a multi-part update on where the heck I’ve been.

o/

We Made It! We… made it?

At this point in my career, I’ve seen many things and while I have yet to see everything, I’ve seen enough to know what strengths I have and don’t. I’ve seen the rise of Paradiselandia from the beginning until now and have been every role and then some to get to that point.

Recently, we stepped into that most illustrious of spotlights that every large and growing company tries to break into at some point: public trade. We’ve now entered a rarefied space with an entrance marked in three letters.

I don’t know how to explain how disconnected I was – and still am – from that moment. The things I’m connected to are here on the ground with me. Those things – those people – are stressed because we’re out here doing our best while not having a clue.

This isn’t to say I’m in any way ungrateful for the opportunity or the experience, but I’m one for intrinsic rewards; I do things to the best of my abilities because I care about the people it touches; including the people here working with me.

When kindness and a good culture prospers, that’s where the win lies for me. But standing near a table as we toast, I look at people and think about the individual lives that make all of this work. Their challenges. The things they spend late hours, early hours, and weekends to make happen.

The stress on their faces as they aim for these things. The moments they open up and share things that frustrate them or anger them or sadden them.

Is this what winning looks like? Souls ground into powder and fragmented culture where people start to forget the people we needed to be to get here on an interpersonal level? I don’t mind losing if it does.

When I think about what winning looks like, I think about the way we got there and how connected everyone feels to what we’ve achieved. I hope we haven’t gained the world while losing our soul in the process. Very few companies can or do.

Diversity & Inclusion in the real world

Where I work – Paradiselandia, of course – a survey was sent out asking what parts of a Diversity and Inclusion initiative they would like to be a part of and what issues they would like to solve. For the sake of timeline, that was in July.

We are now approaching the latter part of October.

A few weeks before that, we had a Pride event here and the people of Paradiselandia were out and about there. The next day, I asked one of the HR folks if we have any kind of internal initiative for the people who work here.

HR person: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well, I’d hate for people to see us at all of these events for pride and such, but not feel safe and seen while working in this office. How are we making that an intentional part of our culture?”

A week later, I would learn that the person who sent the initial survey left the company and no one was assigned as her successor. A different, well-intentioned person, came to the office a week later and I asked them what was happening there.

It turns out that they have no idea how to make this work, but they have tried with an FB workplace group. I asked a bunch of questions about who we are talking to in these communities (PoC, LGBTQ+, etc) about how to scale a community initiative like this and after getting those answers (“We haven’t spoken to anyone and we don’t know where or how to start honestly.”), I made some suggestions for follow-up actions and we went our separate ways.

The follow-up actions involve me.

Because they have to. Yes, I care about these things and I volunteered as such. I live to make communities where people who are usually made to feel unsafe or uncared for can find a bit of relief and I’m happy to be a part of things like that.

…but also? If I didn’t volunteer, this wouldn’t happen because no one knows where to begin when thinking of ways to deal with people like me or the spectrum of marginalized groups that exist. Also? Only two people have been involved until this point in trying to even broach the subject in a formal, company-wide manner. I am the only person who followed-up to find out what happened after the subject was brought up.

I can’t help thinking about how often it is that if you are part of a marginalized group you are constantly having to spend time and energy to teach people how to include you. How to be aware of you. How to treat you properly. Always educating and having to be on hand to educate lest you be rendered invisible or worse.

The truth is that, in the real world, Diversity and Inclusion sounds really cool. Socially conscious. Aware. Who doesn’t want that as part of their brand?

But also? It requires people to actually be those things. That means google. That means reading. That means a lot of hard conversations that expose you to a world beyond your perspective in which you are not ever going to be the center. That means dealing with a lot of pain and anger from people who are asked to draw forth their trauma again and again to explain things people could look up and/or defend their right to be angry in the face of injustice.

That also means being accountable to do better with what you learn.

The lion’s share of making that happen falls on me and people who look like me because we have to know these things in order to function. And isn’t that the funny part? The punchline? That every Diversity and Inclusion initiative in the real world is a seance. A summoning. A thing in which, in spite of all the resources we have available, doesn’t happen unless the marginalized speak up for it again and again and again.

Design Struggles: Transitioning

It’s Tuesday and I’m sitting at my desk willing the energy of the last DesignHaus meetup to get me through this powerpoint and accompanying google doc wherein I have to explain my vision for how to execute on community development and growth.

I’ve spent a few weeks looking up user research and UX design, then finding patterns between the roles and writing a job description for it. That went into the doc and the powerpoint as I have to now convince people that this role at the company is important and that I should be the person to step into it.

Can we just take a moment to appreciate how exhausting this side of design jobs are?

By “this side” I mean having to convince people to do what they already know they need to do. You know you need a visual refresh on your branding, but also let me explain why you should do what you specifically hired you to do with 39 powerpoint slides plus another 5 slides with concepts for each.

“Part of being a designer is being able to tell a good story, so we should…”

Stop. Stop and go have a white claw. If I were talking about trying to convince an external 3rd party that had no idea who I was or why this was critical, then sure. Consultant mode: activated.

However, when you are working in a company with multiple people stating that a UX-specific mission must be done and you bravely state, “So I hear this is an issue, I’d be happy to step in and help!” only to get the reply of, “OK, but then again… do we need to do that….” as clients are at the door asking where in the JIRA their product enhancement request for 10 years ago is…

Why? Why do this? What benefit – other than feeling someone else squirm under the pressure of this power dynamic – do you get out of a scenario like this?