Slow Down, and Other Life Advice From Liz Danzico to Herself as a Young Designer
I think a lot about what I would say to the younger version of myself if I met her again, if I met her through the still moments of all the motion of youth—when she was sitting at the piano, or if I saw her alone on the playground, or if I watched her read, voice quivering, her short stories in front of the class.
If I met the younger version of myself, we’d take a walk—the same walk I take every day—so I could explain to young me that routine and tradition are paramount. You have to choose a category header, but it’s only as permanent as you need it to be. You have to choose a theme song and stay with it. Decide. If only for an hour or a day or a week.
If I met me, but younger, we’d talk about the value of one thing. You have to choose one thing to do for yourself every day. No matter what practice you choose—how fulfilling or meaningful—it will sometimes overwhelm you. Choose something for yourself every day. Do it repeatedly and without fail. If you do something for yourself every day, no matter how many standoffs or negotiations or letdowns you face throughout the day, no one can take that away from you.
If I met younger me, we would sit quietly and listen to music. We might put instruments we did not know how to play in our laps. “Play,” I would say. Younger me would stare straight ahead, uncomfortably. “No one knows what they’re doing,” I would continue. “Being expert means starting. Knowing is playing your first note.” And we would scratch out notes on new instruments together.
If I met me, but many years before, we’d talk about love and time. Love will not be polite. It does not wait for opportune moments to approach. It knows not your life plans or schedule or current or future intentions. It will not wait for you to be ready. There is, in this way, no time for it. If you wait for it, then it will not come. As love—for a person, a professional, a practice, a city—comes to you, it crosses your path and is only yours to accept. It is up to you to open your hands and heart.
I used to think life was an intricate series of spreadsheets and grids, weights and balances, promotions and boardroom standoffs. As grew older I realized life is less a grid and more raw data, less stop sign and more yield, less urban and more sprawl. Life passes by in seasons, not days, and the best we can do is choose our category headers, theme songs, and instruments to make the most of every day. With that, we can see the world as we move through it. There is stillness in motion.
About the Author:
Liz is chair and co-founder of the MFA in Interaction Design program at the School of Visual Arts She is creative director for NPR in digital media, overseeing and guiding both the visual and user experience across NPR-branded digital platforms and content. She is advisor to startups, nonprofits, global companies, and lecturer. She has written for design-minded publications and writes part of her time at bobulate.com.
Previously, Liz was an independent consultant, working with businesses on design, planning, and execution of short- and long-term digital programs for global companies and nonprofit organizations. Liz is proud to be on the advisory boards for NEA Studio, Thiel Fellowship, and the Austin Center for Design.