I want to make impact, but not be known for it

Once a long time ago, I awkwardly answered the question of what I wanted to do in my life to a coworker as we walked across the street in San Francisco.

I felt embarrassed sharing it, because it felt so unrefined and unachievable. Worst of it all, it sounded so egotistical, because I don’t know if I had the ability to even do it.

What I said was some version of the following:

To change the world. To get people to think, “You know, I thought about that before.” Not to be in the spotlight of that. It can’t just be product design, but to create something that changes someone’s perspective of the world. Maybe it’s through stories or essays. Maybe it’s visual arts. Something like that. But I don’t want my name attached. I want to be behind the scenes, noticing the change. The grand change.

And I often followed up with how the work of user experience won’t be able to quite achieve that. Because people will never notice that their lives have changed with user experience. It’s just simply better and folds into all the consumer technology. There’s no gratitude. There’s just this slow burn across years of convenience.

So now days after the election, what do I do now? Have I made the right choice? Have I?

The day after

I would like to say: I bleed only blue.

What will I say about this election a decade later? That we all survived? That we are better now. That it bought some important topics and groups to the surface? That it changed American politics? That’s the optimistic view.

But then there’s the cynical view. Will I be thinking of the terrorist attacks that happened? The recession that may fall? That the Obama legacy has been all but erased? That Roe vs. Wade is overturned? That we are left in shambles and that America lost its true greatness?

What will happen now? What will we do now?

I took the adventure and ended up where I began

It could have been worse. Like stranded.

I had decided a long time ago that the worst thing to happen is not have tried at all. So when there’s an opportunity, when the alternative is inaction (due to laziness), the right answer is always to exert all the energy to the time-consuming choice.

So that’s how I ended up waiting for the bus at 6 pm on Broadway in Rochester. Almost 90 minutes earlier, I ran into a nearby credit union, grasping a five-dollar bill. I looked hopefully to the teller, a middle-aged woman that had just spent time chatting with a customer. Thoughts around how I wasn’t a credit union member and how I didn’t want to cause trouble circled around my head. “Can I get singles with the five?” I said with a hopeful smile.

“Of course!” she said and counted out five one-dollar bills.

I grasped it and jubilantly went back to my hotel to drop off my stuff and catch a rest. Then shortly before 6 pm, I waited at the bus stop. The clearly marked one. When the bus arrived, just one minute behind schedule, I pushed the dollar bills into the machine and said thank you to the driver. I had done it. I messaged Chris and told him about my success—I figured out the bus system! And the bus was on its way.

I watched as fellow customers, likely people who missed the official company shuttle traveled to the far off parking lot. They stumbled out to their car in the darkened parking lot. Then the bus went. I studied all the suburban sprawl—parking lots surrounding chain stores. Everything was out here.

And then I saw my destination approach on the map. About 2 minutes, 1 minute. So I pulled the stop signal. “There’s no place to stop!” the bus driver said. “I am going to St. Mary’s!”

I was about to speak, “Just drop me off anywhere.”

Another woman spoke up first, “But that’s where I was supposed to go.”

“Nope, you just have to wait.”

So the bus passed past my destination. A write-up. And I switched gears and started steaming. The bus rolled down the highway at full speed. No stopping here. Soon I realized that I couldn’t get back. There wouldn’t be time. And I was pissed. A taxi was too much. No such thing as uber and lyft here. The bus returned close to where I had started. I couldn’t mumble a sign of thanks as I stumbled into the night.