I just got back from the Innovation and Design Expo I helped host with the IDM League and I’m feeling.. insecure. It seems the more I learn about creative industries and the widely variable opportunities within them, the less focused my goals get. For a long time I’ve been aware that students feel pressure while transitioning out of school but now I’m actually living it. And it’s one of those things that hits just as hard whether you saw it coming or not.
There were so many great things about today. I shook many hands, made several contacts and felt viscerally inspired at several points during the conference. Alina Kulesh was even more welcoming than I expected and I was able to network with her a little bit from the outset. She gave a short but punchy presentation about new-age storytelling and how the production industry uses it as a vehicle for its marketing. At one point she talked about needing to know what 11 year olds are up to in order to help Coke increase their sales in younger demographics. When I lead her out to catch her cab she encouraged me to e-mail her. I’m debating setting up an information interview but I’m a little conflicted. At any rate, there’s a whole culture around professional networking and it was cool to navigate that for a day.
Shane Saunderson gave the final keynote address. He’s a farm boy from Manitoba who’s now head of health devices at Idea Couture. He’s highly educated, a compelling public speaker and an all around professional. Young too. And he talked about design thinking. About how you cultivate creativity and in turn, innovation. He talked about fully immersing yourself in other situations and social contexts as a means to deeper understand the human experience, leveraging that knowledge to create new design. He talked about taking several streams of information, be it market research, anthropological research, professional interviews, combining these streams of information to complement each other, and then designing using this as a precedent. He mentioned how he develops board games for his clients to play because they seem to shed their preconceived notions and social anxiety while playing. Apparently this leads to creative discourse and fresh ideas with considerable corporate carry-over. CEO’s solve their corporate troubles by rolling the dice. Seems almost poetic.
But upon reflection I feel vulnerable. The more I open my mind to possibility the muddier my foresight gets. It’s not that I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I have ideas. I have lot’s of them. But what I don’t have is the adhesive to bind them. I’m trying to assemble my life but I just keep obtaining huge pieces when what I really need are nuts and bolts. I need the brackets to fasten these lofty ideas together. My mind is chaos, And it’s exhausting.
Overwhelming is probably a better word. It’s that feeling of getting bombarded with information at a speed too fast to integrate. I’m trying to steer this thing in a good direction but life’s yelling directions in my ear too fast to comprehend. I navigate with a painful vigilance for error. But that error might not be so easy to see.
And all the while I can’t help but feel this theme of divergence emerging in my life. I no longer relate. No aunty Patti, I do not want to watch Suits. It just doesn’t appeal to me anymore and no I don’t know why. I feel alienated by my own evolution of thinking and evaporation of beliefs. I’m a stranger to my own mind.
Sometimes I like to equate my thinking to a camera lens. Mostly I walk around with a wide angle lens, completely zoomed out. I’m thinking about the future of religion, war, technology, happiness, all as it relates to the human race. I swim in an ocean of lofty ideals, of which I never seem to integrate on a personal level. And upon realizing I’m failing to do so, I pin that zoom toggle to the max. Then I’m thinking about the nature of every passing thought, de-constructing them, hyper-vigilant for insight. Why do I think this way? I ask. Do others think like me? I wonder. Can I hush the thoughts for a moment and wallow in stillness? And then before I know it I’m zoomed all the way out again.
I don’t want a “job”, I want a life. I want a vehicle to follow the muse wherever she decides to go. I want the courage to step beyond the invisible lines in the sand and dig my toes into new earth. Saunderson talked about having too deflective of a mind to stay in one place, to lock down a job in an old school consulting agency. He wanted to follow his interest. And now he uses design thinking as his means to do so. He gets paid to share the creative insights he gathers through an intelligent and worldly perspective. A worldly perspective perpetuated by the company’s dime. That’s the life.
It just seems ridiculous to try and forge a career when the idea of who I am becomes more and more obscured. The truth is, I don’t know why I think the way I think, I don’t know if there’s any objective value in the way I think, I don’t know the factors mediating changes in my thoughts and I don’t know if I can think my way into a more secure operative. Maybe thinking is the problem and I should meditate more. Or maybe I should stop wasting time and simply “get after it”. Or maybe I should just stop writing and go to bed.
This post began as a reflection on IDEx and ended as a plea for understanding. My whole life teeters on this plea and only I can answer to it.