The Next Five Years
At the Information Architecture Summit this March, I was struck by the fact that it’d been five years since my first IA Summit. It wasn’t merely a milestone with a conference but with a community and a career. In 2013, I didn’t know what UX or IA were. In 2018, I am a practicing information architect and UX designer who has himself organized and led the very conferences and events that offered me a foot in the door. I couldn’t have imagined the past five years … and I don’t mean that as a flip idiom. Frequently when we say “I can’t imagine,” it’s shorthand for something we actually could imagine but don’t wish to. In 2013, I was incapable of imagining the turns my life would soon take.
After five years, I feel like I now know things I didn’t realize I didn’t know before. At least enough to look ahead and wonder, “What’s next?”
But if I so thoroughly failed to imagine 2013-2018, why should I expect to be any better at imagining 2018-2023?
How do you plan for a future you cannot predict? How do you make choices, knowing their consequences are guaranteed to twist and turn in ways you can’t control? Does the uncertainty mean that any path is as good as the next, that you might as well toss a coin and call it midair? Can you design a life?
If there’s any wisdom to be had from my 2013 self, then it might be that stepping into such unpredictability begins with following your heart. By which I don’t mean sentimentality or instinct. I mean being present, doing the work of really listening, and cultivating curiosity for what’s felt, thought, seen, and heard when you pay attention. Follow that, and let’s find each other in five years.