Reflections on Race

I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to understand how life is different for 2nd Generation Asian Americans. I spent weeks showing up to stranger’s homes and asking them what being Asian American means to each of them; I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about race. How do I–as a six-foot tall, red-headed ,white woman–show up to someone’s home with the explicit intention asking difficult questions to understand experiences that are impossible for me to have? I’ve had to acknowledge that I might not always get it right. Right now, I’m working through how I can share what I learned with others in a way that speaks to the specific experience of the (rather diverse) people we talked to. I am constantly thinking of ways to make this topic resonate with a mostly white audience without people having a defensive or dismissive reaction.

I have to admit, it’s the first time I’ve actively had to worry about an audience connecting because of ethnicity. I recognize that many people have similar thoughts every time they walk out their door. Last week, a classmate’s colleague talked to our Research class about White Privilege. She talked about taking cultural expectations other than White America into consideration when designing anything. I thought that was an important conversation to start. In the time since, I’ve had a couple of conversations with classmates about White Privilege, and I realized when reflecting on those conversations, that “White Privilege” was being used synonymously with “racism.” Each individual, human or otherwise, has advantages and disadvantages in their life. Each individual has challenges in their life. You can understand that and treat people in full equality and that can be a wonderful thing. But if you look at things macroscopically, there are patterns in those individual experiences. Why are black people more likely to be in debt? Why are white people more likely to have someone in their lives that they can borrow money from to cover small debts? The answers are complicated, but it’s part of Privilege. Systematically, there are biases that help people who look like me, probably because people who look like me built the system. As we go forward as designers, I do think it’s important to think about how we present ourselves to our research participants. How do we honor diverse experiences in our design?

Asian Americans, as the highest educated and highest earning minority population in the country, have an interesting relationship to the Privilege framework. There’s a diverse group of people who are lumped into the category of “Asian American” who’s only shared language is English. There’s a whole lot of pressure put on Asian Americans to “succeed:” to have high earning jobs, live out the American Dream, be the “Model Minority.” One pattern I’ve noticed in our research, is that when fitting in means financial success, and money is synonymous with whiteness, people of color don’t have a clear idea of where they fit into American society. I’m thinking a lot about how we can tell stories about our participants, giving our audience context, without falling into outlining “The Asian American Story.” Whatever that is, it’s varied, it’s complicated, and I’m really not sure that it’s for me to tell.

Letting go to gain control

This week, two people told me to focus on what I can control. In both cases, I said “ok, sure” and kept on working on a ridiculous amount of things all at once. Mid-week, I was forced to take a breath, and when I did I realized that I was thinking of what I can control as what I can get control over, instead of actions I can take right now. That was an uncomfortable realization for me. I haven’t been making as much progress as I could be, because I’ve been letting outside forces influence my productivity.

I’ve decided to look at everything, especially my shortcomings, as opportunities to learn. I may not always succeed in the way I plan, but that doesn’t mean the experience is a failure. I’ve started asking more questions of myself like: How do I make myself heard in this situation? What do I need to ask for to make this work?

Hearing “focus on what you can control” has given me permission to let go of perfection, to have an opinion, to be wrong, to speak up for what I need. By naming the things I cannot control, I’m able to look for opportunities in them, and find confidence in myself.

Week 1/32

“The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing” is a famous translation from Socrates, made famous-er by Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I won’t give AC4D quite the status of Socrates, but I will admit that I am in a distinctly new place. My current job involves imagining and implementing very real places/experiences and I have a pretty good idea of how I feel about it. This week has not redirected my “how”, but it has greatly impacted my “who”. I have little doubt that the “how” will be on the carving board soon.

Socrates was trying to say something about quantity of data in versus data out. I realized this week that I was designing A LOT and doing little to connect with others- including my coworkers. The process of getting into class work has had an immediate impact on the kind of person I hope to be at 32/32. People are really great if you take the time to pause and listen. Pk

Whole body.

My introduction to AC4D came 3 years ago when I met David Gottlieb. Dave was a student then and we were both new to Austin. Adventures abound in the live music capital but there was something electric in the conversations shared between his cohort. I was drawn to them and spent hours entrenched in discussions around community, entrepreneurship and politics. I have a fashion and sales background and it didn’t enter into my mind that AC4D could be a part of my journey. Our conversations existed in outer orbit, far from my center, and I felt lucky to enjoy them for a short time.

Two and a half years forward, I am still struggling to understand my place in work. I work for a brilliant start-up in Oakland, CA, attempting to unravel the perfume industry. I believe in our mission, methods and people but navigating the organization of our office and others before it is exhausting. I come in inspired and leave frustrated, feeling that I have so much to contribute and learn but that the communication channels are broken- each crack invisible to the naked eye. I can spend hours illustrating, drafting paper patterns and constructing apparel in solitude. I want to be able to feel that same flow at work, or as close as possible. I apply to AC4d, full of wonderment but also doubt- not in the school but in shifting my path again. I want to be grounded in one direction and ask myself over and over if this is the one.

A few months later, all paths converge in one place on the first day at AC4D. I am surrounded by an inquisitive, intuitive and kind cohort- all of us connected by a single thread. The teachers are here to open us up, share process, to shed light on questions previously unanswerable. I was privy to conversations around experience design and design research with the 2013 cohort but I never really understood that we are not expected to have the answers. It begins with talking to people- listening. Through empathy, patterns will reveal themselves and provide a map for work.

Emotions spill over as I realize how lucky I am to be here and also that this will be one of the most challenging undertakings in my life. Every step in the process will be exposed- posted online and critiqued by my peers. My mother is a Montessori teacher and empowers me to explore my environment, to experiment with the unknown and to reflect on my experiences- openly. I approach AC4D with that openness and willingness to unearth my previously built constructs in hopes of breaking them down and building a stronger foundation.

We dove in whole body last week in Design Research & Synthesis as we selected topics for research and began inviting strangers to share their intimate experiences with sexual education. Each conversation exposes the fragile state of our social construct and spurs further conversation. In Design Theory readings, we discuss consumerism and design and it forces me to review my position on product design and consumption. Closing the week is Studio where I feel most relaxed. Visualizing soft ideas is something I’m naturally good at. The challenge comes with the formation of a new idea or personal position then illustrating those points clearly.

And so the journey begins.

 

 

Week 1: Time & Heart

I’ve had the aspiration to go back to school to further my design education for a while, and now that it’s actually happening, I’m so glad I took the leap. I leaped right out of my comfort zone.

I was at a greater point of anxiety before school actually started – anxiety of the unknown. I found myself unique in my cohort having never known anyone who went through the program or sat in on a presentation.

Once orientation week began, even though we were presented with the overview of just how much work was yet to come, I felt my anxiety start to diminish. While there’s a lot of work, at least I know now.

Some lessons and techniques we won’t encounter until later this year, but already in two weeks I have participated in theory class, discussing various perspectives on design in our society, began learning about Contextual Inquiry and how to best gather stories from people in our community and built a research plan that we are currently executing. All of this leading us to participating in the empathetic user experience approach to design.

I thought that the studio class would take me back to my undergrad days, but I’ve never really sketched in this way or participated in exercises quite like these. I’ve realized that even though I come from a design background, everything we’re learning is new to me and will push me to better refine the kind of designer I want to be.

This push will not come solely from readings and learning hard skills, but from having to open my mind to situations and perspectives I never reflected on. I thought I was an open-minded person, but I realize that you have to work incredibly hard to suspend your own judgment of things to better understand people and their environments. I’m eager to continue to discover the unique behaviors that make up others, as well as, my own behaviors I may have overlooked.

I can already see some of my behaviors changing. I find myself interacting with others differently and eager to hear their story. Situations that tend to make me nervous, like chatting with someone I just met, are becoming more comfortable and exciting. I believe this is due to the immersive nature of the program and it’s just the kind of program I was looking for.

One of the first things Jon said during orientation week was, “You can always make more money – you can’t make more time.” Time is incredibly precious and we should be thoughtful with how we spend each minute. I want to spend my time designing something meaningful. I believe a person has two valuable things to give: their time and heart. I will be giving both to AC4D for the next eight months.

Week 1: Finding Time

Just before I started at Austin Center for Design, I spent a week alone in the mountains of West Texas hiking, drawing, and finding comfort again in uncertainty. It’s empowering and terrifying to know you’re probably the only human for miles. I exchanged quick pleasantries with other lone travelers; there’s a reason one goes out to the edges of the world alone, and it’s not usually to tell your story. For me, it was to focus and reframe the next chapter in my life.

My time so far at AC4D has really been pushing the frame I built myself. I’ve been finding intrigue and comfort in places I wouldn’t have guessed two weeks ago. Contextual Inquiry is really exciting me. I’ve used similar methods of questioning in the past, but never thought about the process further than “listen, be kind.” Working in tech support, I’d often have to figure out what a person without technical vocabulary was seeing and doing without being able to see it myself. I found it easiest to calm the person down quickly by reminding them that I was there to help them, matching their patterns of speech, and asking them questions to lead me through what they were seeing in their own words.

It’s been most challenging for me to find the time and space to process all that I’ve learned. I know that it will continue to be a challenge for me. I need to recognize moments of solitude wherever I find them. Saturday night, after a day of class and three hours of rehashing our research project, I found myself downtown in the middle of the Pride Parade. I made a beeline for P. Terry’s and ordered the most food possible. I carved out a quiet spot among the chaos to enjoy my own celebration, eat terribly delicious food, laugh, and find comfort in a good friend.

Reflection – Week One

I had been thinking about applying to AC4D for a few years. Then, through what felt like fate, my spouse got a job in Austin. Once here, we tried to find a place to live. A few places fell through, and we ended up on the east side, about six blocks away from the school. The universe was truly conspiring. That’s why it surprised me when I felt as much doubt as excitement about applying. I suppose it was the time commitment and the fact that I already had a job as an interaction designer. But after talking with a bunch of alumni and sitting in on a couple classes, I decided to go for it.

After a week at AC4D, any feelings of doubt about whether it was the right thing for me have been completely eliminated. I’m equal parts excited and anxious—excited about the work we’ll be doing and anxious about the intensity of it. Reports of past students not infrequently crying during the program are hopefully helping me prepare for it all. We’re only a week in though, so our goodwill is still very much intact.

One of the mantras at the school is “make something, then talk.” Without making something, there’s no reality to your ideas. Wasting no time, we’ve already created a research plan centered around the method of Contextual Inquiry and began executing it in the field. The pace is immersive, the faculty and alumni are all generous and direct with their critique, and the classes are designed to build on each other.

It’s really easy to get caught up in skill building and trying to figure out how to do things effectively while missing out on opportunities for reflection. However, intentional reflection is built into the program in the form of discussion in our theory class as well as more explicit reflections like this one. I’m hoping that will help push us to clarify for ourselves what it is we stand for and what we want out of our careers.

One final thought, given how small the school is, there are only a handful of faculty. While there’s a consistency to the material being taught, there’s a sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle diversity of opinions and approaches among the faculty. That’s not something I had thought about going in, but even after a week, it’s been a refreshing aspect of the program that’s already challenged me to think more about where I stand among it all than I would have if the messages were more unilateral.

Iterations & Ideals

I want to introduce you to a story of the last 24 weeks of my life, introduce you to the individuals that I have met along the way, show you the places I have visited and how I learned the most powerful lesson of the entire year was the power of THE story and the ability and genuine curiosity and bravery to ask each individual tell me their story… to please keep talking. 

My focus was initially on the dealing with the issues surrounding healthcare, but through contextual inquiry found that access and the stigma surrounding mental healthcare was a much bigger problem, as it has been defunded completely by the government and left to individual philanthropist and donors to open facilities to help those who actually need help. 

I found AC4D as my opportunity put something good out into the world. My final product was inspired and dedicate to my father, whom I had barely a relationship with at all really. My father suffered from a depression that I don’t think anyone could understand, was truly stubborn, and never received any help for his condition. 

Looking back and having conversations with my mother I realized as an adult things that I completely did not acknowledge or understand as a child. How does an impoverished family of 5 living in a town of around 1000 people located 60 miles to the nearest hospital where you can birth a child deal with healthcare, let alone mental healthcare? 

That was the question and I went to find the answer. I initially went back to my hometown to do some detective work on the issues surrounding mental health in rural text. The last 24 weeks I’ve been interviewing, researching, building and creating life long friendships all with the purpose to create a “thing” that would help low income or non insured individuals living in extreme rural areas. My product first and foremost had to not rely on any individuals personal access to technology. Then meet the design insights and pillars I had established from my research. 

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When it was time to begin actually producing a thing, I knew it would be a “journey kit’  of sorts that included both stories from individuals dealing with similar situations living with a mental illness, as well as a 2 week starter pill pack or holder. 

In interaction design iteration is the heart of everything you do. You create, test your creation, then iterate on the feedback to make it better. 

Do date my product has gone through I believe 6 iterations now. 4 of which I prototyped out

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Placing all these iterations against my design pillars and user testing responses, I found that the power of the human story plus a plan of attack for medication regimen would be the most effective tool. But something that is very easy to understand, inexpensive to produce, familiar enough to not be foreign or strange but interesting enough to insight curiosity and interaction.

My thoughts went back to one of my home interviews where this woman had 3 separate pill boxes, the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday types, and in a brain storming session one of professors threw out an idea – what if it’s a dip can and eureka. I could craft a round pill box  that includes a small mp3 player in the center with headphones.

Each time the “wheel” is turned exposing the medication, the user can put on the headphones and press play to hear the story that identifies with that days progression in the 2 week cycle.

Click to watch animation and hear sample audio

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I tried to stay true to my design pillars, and to the core values that I tried to keep true to. My idea is that these would be distributed to MHMR centers, the centers that give psychiatric council and prescribe medication to individuals who are on medicare, medicaid or no insurance at all. 

I stayed silent to long in dealing with facing the difficult issues surrounding a low income family members mental health, so hopefully going forward my product may inspire behavior change to even the most stubborn individual. 

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The Final Presentation.

AC4D set up the final presentation as a sort of museum situation where the public was invited and it was an interactive experience where people could see your entire process from start to finish.

My station included my research, my insights, my design pillars, ALL my prototype iterations. And the actual final functioning prototype, as well as a listening station where people could hear various short stories that went along with the program.

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The Months After AC4D

Congratulations, students.

Soon, you’ll be graduating in May. Your hard work this past year will have paid off in respect from your colleagues, your professors, and you’ll feel incredible. You also will wonder “what’s next?” and “how can I process all these feelings without reflecting on a blog?” You’ll figure that part out.

Seeing as I graduated from AC4D around this time last year, I’d like to share my story with you and some thoughts about the upcoming months. My hope is that you may use my experience as a guidance through transitioning to the next stage in your journey. Your experiences will differ from my own, but I’ve always felt like it helps to see how someone overcame a transition period.

To set the scene, here is my emotional journey map from this time in April to about mid-June. As you can see, the month of May was wrought with highs and lows and right about June is when things start to stabilize.

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We’ll talk about each of these points in time and some things I learned from each event.

The Final Presentations and the AC4D Graduation Party

Two words: fucking awesome.

There is nothing more exhilarating for me than graduating from something that pushed me to grow intellectually and emotionally. There’s a period of anxiety that I experienced around my presentation skill and the fidelity of my work. But about an hour before people started coming in for the final presentations, I felt like I had been dunked in a bucket of ice water. I’d done this many times before, and learned. I had this.

Finishing the final presentation felt surreal. I almost couldn’t believe I was done.

Then came the party. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves. For the first time in the program, I let myself feel proud in the work that I had done, and the joy was overwhelming.

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I’m very hesitant to praise myself without joking about it. My graduation from undergrad was less exuberant; I could only think about the uncertainty ahead and criticize myself for not figuring it out sooner. However, here at the graduation party I really celebrated.

I realized that if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t praise yourself, it can be overwhelmingly emotional to let yourself be vulnerable and excitable.

That’s not a bad thing. It’s a great, powerful feeling.

I left AC4D feeling empowered, like I could take on the world.

Coming Down Hard

This one is the hardest to write about. My boyfriend and I had agreed that after AC4D, once we went to Marfa, we’d be getting engaged, and after that, married. When we talked about it the weeks coming up to graduation, he wasn’t sure any more. In our 5+ years together, he hadn’t seen me this intensely passionate about something and worried that the rest of our lives would play out like AC4D.

I got that. We saw each other on Friday and Saturday nights, but mostly I came home after he went to sleep and woke up for work before he got up. It’s hard for AC4D not to permeate every aspect of your relationship. I ate, slept, and breathed it for a year, and in part it was due to the program, but the other part was due to the fact that I was very passionate about the work I was doing. We were helping the queer community, and it felt wonderful.

Marfa was supposed to be the trip where we got engaged, and we’d been planning it for months. I was crushed. I realized that I had taken a lot of relationships that were supporting me for granted, and in my passion to get the things I wanted, I had ignored the most important person to me.

I would say here that the lesson I learned was not to take others for granted, and that’s true. But also I think it’s that I expected others to come out of AC4D as self-congratulatory as I did. I planned the trip around the time when I would be the happiest, not when the both of us would be.

I understand that in the course of a long-term relationship that there will be times when one person takes care of things while the other pursues their dreams. But I took the road that because I was happy, other people around me should be happy for me without me having to give anything in return. I learned my lesson.

Going to Marfa

When we arrived at Marfa, we were both exhausted. He, exhausted from a year of supporting me without an emotional payoff. Me, exhausted from a year of personal growth with the knowledge that if I didn’t do something fast, I could screw up a relationship I really cared about.

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We eyed each other from across a table in Marfa, not really knowing what to say. We had just spent a year dating for Friday and Saturday nights only, and here we were, spending a week together out in the middle of nowhere.

Marfa was a great place to be. Similar to us, it was at times a vibrant city and then others, a ghost town. It wavered between life and death that caused me to think deeply about how to use the time we spent there. We ate good food. We talked about what was going on in our lives. We reconnected and we cried.

Marfa put into perspective the time I had at AC4D. I realized that while the root of my happiness lived in me doing the work I wanted to do, the soil that held the root were my relationships. Both were equally important.

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We made dinner together in the green and white trailer in the above picture. It was made of anything that we could snag from the Get Go and some orange soda.

As we were eating the food we made, we smiled at each other.

“I missed you,” I said.

“Me too,” he said. And we smiled big, genuine smiles.

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The Big Takedown

I got a reminder email from Jon around the time when we were in Marfa to take down our projects for the next class so soon after leaving Marfa with my faith restored, I went back to AC4D with bags to take down the queery project.

When I opened the door to AC4D, I expected the same hustle-and-bustle I was used to. Students working, shouts of “hello!” and groans of frustration. Instead, I got silence. I peeked into everyone’s rooms—their projects still stood like a silent mausoleum to the activity that had been happening in the past year.

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Looking around the room, I remembered the late nights that Alex and I had gone through to get to a working prototype that we tested with the community. It especially stung because Alex and I were no longer working on the project together, and I didn’t know what I wanted to to with queery after we had received feedback.

We had so many interviews, so many people open up their hearts to us to help us achieve something that could benefit the queer community, and as I was packing things into bags, I felt like I was letting everyone down. I didn’t know what I was going to say to folks who reached out to me for help or who asked about the status of the queery project. It was in a form where we could have piloted it, but I was unwilling to do it for the sake of my personal life and the fact that I would have been running solo.

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I left AC4D with my life for the past year in bags and questioning where queery was going to end up. Would it even be an app? How was I going to face the queer community now when I felt like I had failed them?

I now can reflect on this point in my life and realize that in order to really help the queer community in the way I wanted to, I needed to be a more integrated part of it than just a passive observer. I wouldn’t say that for all design projects, but specifically for the depth of what I wanted to do I now know that supporting and generating ideas from within the community has been much more powerful. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past year, and it’s felt great. I never really abandoned queery. Myself and other members have piloted some activities and generated ideas that have been very meaningful to myself and others within the community.

At the time though, I remember feeling a lot of fear in abandoning the project and pursuing my personal interests in design. How was I personally going to help people by being a designer?

ATX Hack for Change

Things generally improved after my last walk through AC4D. I was working as a contract designer and loving my clients and gigs. I think the turning point for me in discovering the power of design was through the ATX Hack for Change.

The ATX Hack for Change is a day where tech folks get together with non-profits in Austin to provide to them a weekend of free work and ideas in exchange for being able to help non-profits, look at the inner-workings of their organization, and eat free food.

My boyfriend and I are hackathon nuts, so we thought it would be fun to work with non-profits over the weekend. I had signed up to work with the Capital Area Food Bank with some other AC4D students.

However, when I got there I saw that the Capital Area Food Bank had tons of folks signed up for their project, and the Girl Scouts of Central Texas were about to go home because no one had signed up for their project. Their project was to make a way for Girl Scouts to communicate with their advisors and track their progress to achieving their Gold Award. The Gold Award is a capstone project in the Girl Scouts, and similar to AC4D, it is done over a year, has the focus of helping others, and as an added bonus, must be sustainable without the founder’s help.

We caught them going out of the door and asked them if they needed help. They offered us cookies. A beautiful friendship was born.

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The first task was to identify issues that needed to be solved in the MVP, and then outline what the MVP was actually supposed to look like. Next, we split into teams of designers and developers with some people floating between the two. My boyfriend taught the girls GitHub and Ember, and I taught them wire framing and systems thinking.

The girls were amazing. I can’t begin to describe how fast they picked up on the ideas that we were throwing at them and just took it and ran. We made icons in Illustrator on our first day and the girls were beaming. We got GitHub set up on our computers and the girls high-fived.

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We reflected during periods of rest on team problems and how to better communicate between the dev and design teams. We lauded our accomplishments, and by the end of the hackathon, we had a functioning prototype of the site we wanted to create with wireframes of all the future states of tool.

The girls were disappointed that they hadn’t built the MVP in full, but we told them about how amazing the things that they did were. They not only made a thing, but mapped out future states of a thing. They essentially completed Q4 of AC4D in three days.

Watching those girls learn and grow ignited an even deeper fire in me to how I could use design to inspire others. I wanted to learn as much as I could so that I could help others. I felt like there was still so much to learn and I’d only just dipped half of myself in with AC4D.

The Engagement

Soon after that, my boyfriend said that he had a surprise for me.

We drove out to Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and poked around the park, looking at the butterflies nestling onto the wildflowers. It was a calm day, and we were both feeling great.

Then, he pulled out a ring.

I can’t even begin to describe to you my emotions at that point. It was joy mixed with fear of disappointing him as I did just less than a month ago. The joy won out. I screamed yes, we held hands, and a crowd of onlookers applauded. It was perfect.

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Reflecting on that point in my life, I think that I have come to realize that in seeking what I thought was an end point such as graduating AC4D or getting engaged, I was completely blind to the fact that I was simultaneously closing a door while opening a new one.

Just as the ATX Hack for Change inspired me to work harder to inspire others to do design, my engagement inspired me to realize that nothing really is an endpoint; it’s just a new door opening to another chapter of my life that has its own unique challenges.

So students, in going into the final weeks of piloting, in prepping for your presentations, in drafting your wireframes, remember to congratulate yourself. Remember to congratulate others for the support they’ve given you throughout your journey. Remember that the passion to do (or not do) design that you’ve gained from AC4D is just as important as the relationships you’ve forged during your time here. Remember that there are many paths to completing your capstone project and they don’t just involve starting a company or completely abandoning it. Remember that you have a lot to teach others and still much more to learn.

And remember that in ending your time here, you are opening up new doors. Which path you take will be entirely up to you.

-C

Creating the right pilot: Trust your gut, focus on the ideal

This week I waited for my recordable greeting card to come in the mail. Anticipating that the idea was to establish a conversation with individuals, via a pen pal type situation, recording reactions and reflections that were then sent back to the first user, then to another individual to reflect or react to by recording a verbal message.  I would then use contextual inquiry to identify if this back and forth conversation (revolving around the stigma of mental illness) was helpful for the initial user in disseminating the stigma that they had to keep their condition a secret, and to be more comfortable speaking out and owning their condition, because they were at least virtually interacting with others that could identify with their emotional state on a personal level.

Unfortunately, the card did not come in, but during this time of waiting for the card to come in the mail, I was challenged with the opportunity to take a step back and ask if this was really the correct way to pilot my ideal final product. Which is a 2 week trial pack of a mood disorder medication, which included recorded stories of others who have similar conditions and how they deal with emotion, medicaiton, and manage self care. As of now I can only equate my final ideal product to the idea to those voice recorded Hallmark story books, where a child can be told a bedtime story by a loved one who may live across the country.

Yet as I was waiting for my order to come in, to pilot my idea, I had in the back of my mind that this is not the correct pilot, I just felt it in my gut. My ideal end product is actually not necessarily a back and forth conversation as the initial pilot would suggest, but a book of real people with real stories about how they felt and dealt with issues surrounding their life before a diagnosis. Then how they felt and managed getting a diagnosis, being prescribed medication, and how they felt with the idea that they may have to maintain a medication regimen perhaps for the rest of their life.

I did not believe in my first pilot idea, so I went with my gut and started gathering stories, from real people in their own words. That is what I wanted in the first place and admittedly should have spent the past week gathering these stories.

The past being the past it, was time to get to work. I created a script of questions and recruited 2 individuals to interview and record in order to deliver these stories to someone who may be hesitant to seek help, whether by stigma or general fear of a diagnosis that required them to potentially take a medication that helped them reach self-care in the long term, possibly for the rest of their lives.

This is what I did today. Surprisingly people who suffer from a mood disorder (bipolar spectrum or depression) understand what the condition is like and are more than willing to share their own stories if it has the potential to help release the stigma of being the odd man out, or the damaged ones, as well as put them at ease about the idea of having to be medicated in the long term in order to reach the goal in life they seek.

I also learned the importance of getting this information out of the computer and on to the “wall”. The wall being a place where you can visualize your journey and ideas, inspirations and wishes that you can physically look at and see on a daily basis. This allows you to be able to see where you have been, where you are going, and where you want to be. To iterate, and I acknowledge I should have done this sooner. I should have trusted my gut.

Out of respect of the two individuals I will not post the recordings until next week when I am able to edit down to the core ideals I am initially going to pilot, to a new “patient” with the same hope that it will aid in creating a virtual bond with my recorded individuals and their experiences in hopes that the stigma of being judged as the damaged one, as well as the realization that it is ok, and rather normal, often rather necessary, to seek aid of a medication regimen is not weird, or uncommon.

My pilot has changed. I now have the necessary stories/tools to relay to someone who may be feeling like they are “not normal”, but being not normal is actually ok with the appropriate treatment. Some of the greatest minds of our time have been “not normal”, and have gone on to make a true effect on changing the world.

I truly was fascinated and inspired by hearing others give their trust and conviction in helping others by revealing their personal information on tape. I appreciate the community that is willing to speak out about 1 in 4 people you may walk past on the streets where you live each day that manage and thrive some sort of mood disorder, but still having a program to not only reflect on their own actions themselves, but also be the crafters of some of the most insightful realizations about the world we live in at the same time.