Valentine

Today, a stranger locked their bike to mine, looping their cable lock right around my crossbar; the ultimate in thoughtless, inescapable Valentines hugs. It was cold. I was hungry. I called the campus police to come cut their lock. I felt guilty enough about it to hover around the bike for about an hour as my hands and feet began to freeze, blowing into my mittens and hoping that the careless owner of this maroon 70s cruiser would show up already and set me free. They didn't.

When the police officer finally arrived, he asked me to verify that the bike belonged to me. Didn't I have any paperwork, or registration, or other documentation to prove that this bike was mine? I didn't. "I really want to help you," he said, "but you have to show me some proof that this is your bike. Maybe a photo?"

What followed was the two of us, huddled together against the wind as I thumbed through my Instagram account. Here was my beautiful teal Bianchi with the lavender handlebars, lying on its side in front of the Jefferson memorial after a dawn bikeride with Grace and friends to see the cherry blossoms. Here was a photo of Grace's and my wrists sporting matching besties temporary tattoos, my bike locked to a rack in the background. That was the night she was helping me take apart my bed to leave DC for good, but we left the job unfinished because Ginuwine came on the radio and we made a split-second decision to race our bikes downtown to see Magic Mike XXL with Abby, instead. Here, my Bianchi locked to the railing of my new apartment in Ann Arbor, and a few days later leaning against a tree at West Park with the caption, "YES OF COURSE I HAVE FRIENDS."

I didn't.

Here, my bike a few months ago, the last time someone locked their bike to mine. I didn't call the police that time, and instead left a friendly note explaining how to properly lock a bike and asking them to be more careful in the future. My bianchi is the star of these photos; I'm not actually in any of them.

My hands were starting to go numb from the wind, and the officer invited me to come sit in the car so we could keep looking. I think he was enjoying the walk down memory lane.

We turned to Facebook, and I remembered the alley cat race where LeeAnn, Carol, Grace and I raced around DC together; I remembered nighttime bikerides through empty streets and around the monuments with Chris and Charlie and Grace and James and Peter and Brendan and Kai and so many others; I remembered all the Saturday mornings spent fixing bikes at Annie's Hardware, and Saturday afternoons spent eating fries with greasy fingers surrounded by friends. I remembered pumping up tires in Dupont Circle and then sprinting away to avoid the slow, painful crawl of the DC bike party. I especially remembered a 50-mile ride through the Appalachian foothills with Peter; somewhere around mile 40, I got off my bike, curled into the fetal position on the side of the road, and burst into tears. I remembered biking up 11th street and clipping the back of a taxi that had stopped abruptly in the bike lane, flipping over my handlebars, and landing on my back. A group of guys running a promotion outside of Boost Mobile came and helped me up as we watched the taxi drive away. I remembered bringing my bike with me to New York this summer to save money, riding across the Williamsburg Bridge, sprinting around Manhattan, and moseying with Spencer through downpours and thunderstorms in Prospect Park. I remembered packing it up, he and I placing it piece by bubble-wrapped piece in a bicycle box that we then dragged 20 blocks through Brooklyn in the sweltering heat. I remembered greeting it in Ann Arbor and putting it back together, relieved that nothing was bent, nothing was broken.

So many stories, but still no pictures of me riding the bike. As a last-ditch, I went into my photos, thumbing fast through old albums, when BAM. There: a photo of me with my bike, standing in a DC cemetery many, many years ago. I told the officer the story behind the photo, and he smiled and cut the lock.

This bike, which first belonged to Carol and then to Caroline and maybe to other members of The Bike House before them, has so many stories. I know I probably should have passed my beautiful bicycle down to the next generation of Bike Housers, but I couldn't bear to be parted from it. It has made the past few summers— this last one, in particular— so memorable and magical, and reliving those feelings and thinking of my friends tonight was one of the best ways I can think of to spend Valentines Day.

Happy Valentine's Day, Bianchi. Tomorrow, I'll register you with the police.

 

 

 

Note: If this was your bike, I'm really sorry— we all have long, tired days but I didn't want to risk getting my bike stolen or damaged by leaving it there (locking one bike to another is a common tactic of bike thieves.) The officer took it back with him to the station to prevent someone stealing it, so you just need to call the UofM Campus Police to get it back.

WIAD 2016: Ann Arbor

Wayyy back in February, I gave a lightning talk at World Information Architecture Day (WIAD) in Ann Arbor. The theme this year was "Information Everywhere, Architecture Everywhere," and I spoke about the beauty of non-expertise when approaching challenges through the lens of my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua.

It was terrifying. One of my personal goals this past year has been to push myself to do things that scare me (ahem, public speaking), so standing in front of a room full of people I admire and letting words come out of my mouth was incredibly tough. I'm so, so, so glad I did it.

Anyway, apparently the video is online! Who knew? In the spirit of pushing through discomfort, I wanted to share it. You can watch the video, along with the subsequent Q&A, here.

My patronus is the pizza rat: A love story about content strategy

Here’s a hypothetical situation: you’re in graduate school for oh, let’s say human-computer interaction. You took the long way there, but the moment you set foot in your design classes and met your classmates you knew you were in the right place. You spent your first year reading and pushing yourself and talking to people and finding out just how big this world of user experience design truly is, and now you’re entering your second year wondering what’s next and how to get there. Who are you, and what is your place within the design community? What do you do with the fact that you love to write? Does that just sit on a shelf, waiting for the moment you finally feel ready to put pen to paper? Or can you figure out a way to pull that into your UX work? 

Totally hypothetical.

But then, a very wise person sends you a link to a blog about a thing called “content strategy” and you’re intrigued. You have a pretty good idea of what content is, and what strategy is, but these two words together are a novelty, like a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. You wonder if you’ll like them when they combine.

You don’t know it yet, but you’re about to fall in love.

Read More

Weed-out courses scared me away from science, and i'm not the only one.

I’ve been thinking about transcripts a lot lately. It’s internship application season for grad students in the UX field, and I have proudly sent my unofficial University of Michigan transcript to anyone that asked. This bizarrely-formatted document represents years of effort and hustle and hard work. It’s a PDF that lives on my desktop and reminds me that I’m exactly where I should be.

My undergrad transcript tells a very different story, however, one that I’m only now beginning to really wrap my head around. It’s a story that makes me mad. It’s also a story that I am learning is incredibly common, and, this being International Women’s Day, I wanted to share it.

I graduated from Boston University in 2009 with a BA in English literature and a minor in Art History, two subjects that forged a path that led to where I am now. I had amazing professors; I learned to write; I read (and loved)Moby Dick. I don’t regret it one bit, because I found out about UX and realized that human-centered design was my true calling. But did you know that I actually went to school to become a doctor?

Read More

FOMO and the art of surviving your first semester of grad school

I'll be the first to admit it: going back to school is tough. Last summer, I left a job that I loved and moved to Ann Arbor to pursue a master’s in human-computer interaction at the University of Michigan’s School of Information (UMSI). My first week on campus was surreal, and I was instantly barraged by so much new information that I found myself questioning whether I could hack it in this new, unfamiliar environment. (Spoiler alert: I survived) 

What made things so tough was FOMO, or the fear of missing out. My undergraduate degree is in English and art history, and my primary work experience is in communications, community organizing, and agriculture. I came to Michigan excited to learn everything I could about UX and interaction design, but feeling like I had to play catch-up to get on the same level as my peers with backgrounds in computer science.

Read More