The Should-Be Designer

It was 5:25AM and I am about 20 minutes into a drive to the airport where I have begun my much needed, week-long vacation to my home state of New York. Beside me is Janet who has recently retired from a job in environmental design and has taken up biking as a hobby. I ask her about this and so the exchange begins. We talk about the Silver Comet trail and other places to ride locally.

Getting to the end of that topic, we move on to our professional lives. She asks what I do. I train clients. Features, functions, applications. Five hours per day. Four days per week. She then asks me about my tenure there. Four and a half years. Second employee for this region. Then we start talking about my experience and about interviews. Most jobs I’ve gotten have been a result of connections, but my staying power is tied to my ability to learn something, drop it, and learn something else 100 times.

I should be designing something. I should be solving a problem. I should be spilling poetry all over the tables and walls and floors.

We start discussing design as that is her experience. She’s intrigued with my descriptions of differences in user experience, accessibility, and aesthetics. We talk about video games.

As we are talking she asks me about my value to my company. She asks if they know what my imagination is worth. She asks if I am going to get a masters. She asks if I’m happy where I am. I tell her the truth about those things and we are at the airport where security and check-in separates us.

For the rest of the week, as I’m walking New York and revisiting all the nostalgia there, I take note of what I notice. Architecture, clothing, the way text is displayed on various signs. I imagine myself in some striped shirt working in an office with a large window and a standing desk. It’s minimalistic and stylish. This version of my self expresses their inner designer. They are sketching solutions to problems.

I’m agitated with all of it because that’s where I should be. I should be designing something. I should be solving a problem. I should be spilling poetry all over the tables and walls and floors.

I don’t do that now. What I do now is wait for a future where those things are possible. I’m still agitated. I go home and I write for four days straight. I then take a full two weeks to write this entry because I am processing it. I am still processing this.

36 years and I am still trying to get all of what is inside of me out into the world. I should finish these courses I saw online. I should be modeling things. I should be in those hipster clothes with the window and a couple of wall hangings and furrowing my eyebrows with both frustration and excitement while I’m working toward the perfect solution for a problem that, when solved, could help tens or hundreds or thousands of people.

The following week, someone would ask me why I don’t design. Why I’m not designing. They have seen some things I’ve made in my free time and they note that I have done that while largely untrained. Things like this:

We mused at what I could do if I were. I go out to meet colleagues and friends and we eat chicken and I try to put this thought aside, but there he is, my inner designer, asking why I won’t join him for lunch.

Asking when I’m free to have a coffee and talk about some things.

Asking if maybe I need some time to think about things.

He’s still waiting on a response from me and sketching away at something really cool. I want his standing desk and his clothes and his control of his time. I tell him I’ll get back to him after my next meeting.

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