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?

Realization and Release

Jay and I have been friends and so we’ve spent a long time chatting about this and that. On this particular day, my destination is Atlanta. On my way there, I see a police officer behind me. My hands become clammy, and I break into a cold sweat.

I explain these sensations and Jay feels that this is a good time to remind me that I only feel this way because of the media. About how police calls happen. About how yes some people do terrible things, but my involuntary, bodily reaction to the car in my rearview mirror was unwarranted.

When I quoted the Federal Bureau of Investigation on crime statistics and brought up recent events, he responded that if black people were doing positive things, they’d be on TV more. I asked what he watched.

Fox News.

I hung up and didn’t reply or respond to anything for a few months. Two weeks ago, he texted to ask me why I had not communicated or called.

“Well, when I explained to you that police in my rearview mirror gave me a low-level panic attack, you dismissed my experience as invalid. I took the space I needed to deal with that.”

I thought we were friends; I don’t understand why you would just cut me off like that over a difference of opinion.

I explained that my very real life and the lives of many others were not matters of opinion or debate. As the exchange receded into the back of my mind, I thought about how many times this has happened before.

He then sent me to a video of a black man sharing his reasons that reparations shouldn’t exist. I asked how this was relevant and got silence.

Now I’m here. In these situations, while there is a lot to be said about giving people chances to grow and evolve and learn, the discussion we need to have is one in which we see a person who holds a belief that is poisonous to us and is unwilling to have that perspective changed in any way.

Sure, they say that would be willing to given facts to back up claims, but then those facts – normally coming from painful experiences from ourselves and many others over hundreds of years and easily accessible on google, on the news, or just by interaction with other humans – are dismissed or derided if not entirely unremarked upon.

As this happens, I settle into the sobering truth: they aren’t changing for me. It’s not that I cannot save them, but rather that there was never any saving to be done to begin with.

The new normal for me of late has been looking at this across many communities and having to just pack things up because… what else am I going to do?

Sure, bygones could be bygones. I get that people are messy and imperfect, but I also have no tolerance who see discussions on systemic oppression and decisions on ice cream flavors on the same level of importance and are unwilling to change that fact about themselves.

And to be frank: do I want that? Why would I? It’s poisonous.

Suspended Animation

By and large, I tend to be on the minimal side of the line when it comes to owning things; I cycle through things I have – digital and non – on regular cycles and then rid myself of those things I don’t have a real need for. The Goodwill, in spite of my best intentions, sees me every few months or so as I continue to pare down on things.

However, today finds me staring down a box of letters from a friend-become-girlfriend-become-friend-again and it feels like I’m in a crucible. These are crystalline moments of openness to each other and I am loathe loathe to be parted from them.

On the one hand, we are more the people in those letters than we have ever been and we are also different people than we were at the time of those letters. Which is to say, having those letters in the scheme of things is not important unless, of course, we never speak again.

On the other hand, these moments of openness with people are rare. I part with many things easily, but handwritten letters? In 2019? When will I ever have that again?

And so the two sides of me war every single time I look at this letterbox. Also in here: an old journal. It’s amazing how so much, yet so little has changed since that writing. Work has the same issues, but I have had many different experiences and that raw feeling of writing just as the adventure was fresh on my bones… how would I ever recreate that?

Maybe it’s just that tendency humans have toward seeking immortality, but ugh. I don’t even have another word. Just ugh.

Compassion in Content

In a previous post, I spoke about my frustrations with the concept of how we get along with spoilers on the internet and while I am still in my feelings there, I also had a number of other things I saw within the last week where someone said, “You’ve had enough time to watch this, so if you haven’t done it, get off the net until you do…”

What gets to me about this is the lack of compassion. I draw my examples from the rush of Game of Thrones, but I have a larger question of why it never occurs to us to pause mid-sentence and just go, “Am I really about to ask someone to stop existing for my comfort?”

Because as I said before, that’s what we’re doing.

These are just strangers on the internet. OK, but also, it’s a space everyone shares and we post on the regular about the disparities people experience in all manner of ways on economic, societal, and other levels. How do you push and advocate for that, but then fail to notice the thread of that pattern in things like this spoiler debate.

It causes me pain because I have had to unfollow people I like due to the amount of “I don’t care” posts I see on this. In a world where someone asks for something so small as to not have a story ruined for them – in a world that is literally and figuratively on-fire – would this one exercise of thinking and caring about others really dampen your experience of the show?

I don’t think it would, however, next Sunday, I will likely see this same wave again of people going, “here’s me posting without a care in spite of people asking for weeks on end not to do this. In spite of the fact that I’ve ended whole relationships with people over being spoiled on a story or major plot point on things I want to enjoy. I’m going to just… do it to someone else.”

Maybe this isn’t new at all in any way shape or form, but for all of that lack of novelty, the wound sure doesn’t seem to be any less painful.

Drowning in the Dead Sea

So as those following my account may be aware, I’m a fan of Tré Melvin. He is funny and insightful and sharp all at once. For example, see how he goes from funny to punch-in-the-gut serious here.

He announced his release of this song to the world and so I had myself a listen. I got the immediate Jhené Aiko vibe circa a freestyle from the Souled Out album. In sum: very relaxed. You feel the numbness settling in here as he keeps the same tone throughout the song.

What got me in this song was the imagery. Here we have Tré drowning in the Dead Sea and the person he’s relating to – likely in a romantic scenario – paddling through his Red Sea.

Here in this relationship we have the contrast between drowning in a sea known for being so salty it removes moisture from anything that it touches versus the Red Sea that the Hebrews in the Bible passed through into what would be their freedom.

Moreover, this person is paddling. Not diving. Not swimming. Not even trying to get the freedom that the Red Sea promises.

I expect there will be more to look forward to from him in the future, music or otherwise, and I’ll enjoy writing about that when it happens, too.