Once upon a time, we were curious and everything we encountered was new. We were excited about discovering new things and the world offered unlimited possibilities.
Then we went to school and were taught to color inside the lines, that everything had its place and the world was ordered. But, outside of school, there was still the chaos of life to revel in, the unexplored woods at the end of the street where nothing was ordered and we could be cowboys or astronauts or presidents. We learned to balance the structure of school with the infinite possibilities of playtime.
Now we are grown and the ordered world of work weighs us down. The deadlines line up one after the other, and everything is and must be in its place. We create order and structure so others can find their way in the chaos. And we wonder if we are really, truly, happy.
A bit melodramatic, I admit, but I’m sure this resonates with some. I bring this up because, I, like many folks out there, have become weighed down with the stresses of work, with the narrowness of the discussions about what we are doing, and what sometimes looks like limited options for solutions.
Recently, at the IA Summit, Christina Wodtke issued a reminder to everyone to remember the things that make us who we are. To be curious and to experience everything life has to offer. She reminded us that we can learn from poetry, from cooking, from travel—from our own curiosity about things outside of what we do for a living. This really resonated with me.
I recently made a commitment to myself to spend more time with friends and to rediscover what I need to stay creative. I spent five days in Death Valley taking photographs—away from computers, away from phones. Just me, a few other folks in a class and my camera, experiencing the landscape, becoming part of the landscape. These few days brought me back refreshed and rejuvenated. They reminded me that I need to immerse myself in non-work creative endeavors and to satisfy my curiosity about the world in order to be a whole person. I garden for the same reason; it teaches me I can’t control everything and that serendipity is a good thing.
Understanding what else makes you tick and makes you happy and then spending time doing those things will make you a better designer and craftsperson. Experiencing new things outside of work will open your mind to alternative solutions and ways of thinking while you’re at work. Being curious, reading anything and everything, traveling to other places and meeting new people will give you insight in your work that you may not have had otherwise.
Learning how to balance the things that make us who we are with the work that pays for everything is as important a skill as figuring out the shortcuts in Visio. I often repeat this same mantra to my coworkers and staff to show them that I care about the whole person, the fully creative person. Many of us have forgotten how to work to live and instead live for work.
So, go—play in the woods, color outside the lines. If you let the passion you have for your work seep back into the rest of your life, the rewards will come full circle.