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Help me find a place to live!

So we’re moving to DC and we need a place to live. Can you help? This is what we are looking for:

  • We’re more inclined to live in DC than surrounding areas (Columbia Heights, U Street, Mount Vernon and Dupont Circle are areas we’re looking at initially), but we would not discard Bethesda, Silver Spring, etc.
  • Virginia is a no. As long as they hate the gays more than the average state we’re not living there.
  • We want to rent not buy. Annual lease sounds good.
  • 1 bedroom with a den would be perfect. 1 bedroom also ok. Studio not so much, we like doors. 2+ bedrooms only if not in the city (as the prices are ridonc)
  • Must accept pets (we have 2 cats)
  • Parking garage highly desirable (Amelia works odd hours so it would make us feel safer)
  • I don’t drive. Walking distance to the metro is important. Red Line is preferable.
  • Amelia works at GW and Prince George’s County so easy access to the roads that lead there is important.
  • Proximity to supermarkets and entertainment is a big plus.

If you have suggestions for neighborhoods or particular places, please leave a note or email me. Thanks!

We made it!

It is with certainty, excitement and the butterflies in my stomach that only this particular transition could afford that I am happy to announce I am moving to Washington, DC to be with my wife permanently!

This is one of the most significant steps in what has been a decade-long quest. My wife and I met in 2001 while we were living in different countries, at different stages in our careers and pursuing other goals. We made a commitment back then to figure out how to be together and we’ve been working towards that ever since.

The hurdles were many and significant, but we successfully managed to move to the same country, then the same state and eventually the same city, up until last year when she took an International Emergency Medicine Fellowship position in DC (she is an EM physician). We’ve been commuting on weekends to be together ever since. It’s not very fun.

In the intervening years, we accumulated a number of degrees, diplomas, jobs, careers, greencards, relatives, wedding vows, real estate, pets and an innumerable amount of possessions and memories which now fill our home and our hearts. That’s a lot of baggage to commute between Philly and DC every weekend so we discussed this long and hard and decided it was just not worthwhile. We are done waiting. This move means we can finally be together for good.

I am leaving my position as Principal, User Experience Design at Comcast, which seems unreal even as I write this considering how meaningful and important this phase of my life was. I could not possibly express what it has meant to me to have done this for the past 6 (six!!!) years in a few short lines but I will talk about it more in the future. Suffice to say I am thankful for the experience, memories and friendships.

I will surely miss all the people I’ve met in Philly though I am glad to know I won’t need to live here to keep those friendships. I am very excited about living in DC too. I love the city and I am fortunate to already have many friends and family there. Not to mention how great the UX community is locally (I often attend the local events even though that means a hike from Philly every time), which means I can continue my UX community shenanigans just as much (if not more than now).

This is not an easy transition and there is so much to do that I can barely look at my to-do list without cringing, but I could not be happier and more delighted to finally come to the end of this long and hard journey feeling a complete sense of joy and accomplishment.

Thank you all who have been there for me and for us along the day. This is possible, in no small part, because of your love, friendship and support.

Just get clear about what you’re about

When I was young, as young as 5, I wanted to be a diplomat. I had an uncle who was (and still is) a diplomat and so I had a model of what that really meant. When people asked me what I wished to be when I grew up, that’s what I’d tell them and when they inquired as to why, I learned early to lie and talk about all the travelling and speaking other languages. It was evident at an early age that what I found really interesting about diplomacy — helping people with differences get along to create something together — sounded stuffy and beyond a child’s understanding or grasp.

I regret immensely that I was so good at conforming. I think it’s because of this “skill”, my ease to quickly adapt and fit others’ expectations, that I ultimately did not pursue a career in diplomacy. Interestingly, I think this same characteristic would have produced a really valuable diplomat.

Over the past months I’ve been reflecting on my life and what I’ve done with it so far. It started from a professional standpoint, as I was trying to articulate what my job should be in the year ahead, and it extended to what I have accomplished as a person in this trajectory. It seemed like an inescapable analysis as I have worked over 50% of my life (I am 31 and I have worked continuously since I was 15).

I couldn’t tell you precisely why I became a user experience designer. I think now that it was an accident due to two factors: First, I came across the tools of design and was blown away by what they had to offer me – both intellectually and as practical approaches to do whatever it is I was doing. Second, I let my infatuation with the practice go as far as it would take me, rather than think of what it was that I wanted for myself out of this practice.

When I speak to other practitioners (and I have spoken to many over the last few months) about how they see me and what I have accomplished, I am humbled by kind words and appreciation. Those who worked directly with me tell me about what impact I had on their own work and how impressed they have been with certain abilities, such as making really complicated stuff digestible, managing difficult people and helping them turn around to a productive path, and being very organized (this last one being the most mystifying to me as I do not see myself this way at all).

Those with whom I interacted with in the design community at large tell me they appreciate certain perspectives I bring to discussions (even the define-the-damn-thing kind), specific advice I have given them through coaching or presentations, and have thanked me for my time above all (I’ve spent a significant amount of time over the past 8 years regularly volunteering on organizations and projects that are about advancing the practice of user experience design).

While it is truly nice to receive this feedback (Notice how all of this was affirming feedback. Believe me, the adjusting feedback comes immediately as things happen, with urgency and fervor, but never when you ask for feedback), I find myself incredibly dissatisfied with what I am doing.

I am proud of what I have accomplished so far and I feel confident about my abilities, but as I look back I believe I have forgotten what it is that I wanted to do. So much so I am uncertain if I knew that in the first place. Maybe I just need reminding, but I’m trying to resolve this now and I am finding it difficult. I’ve received really great advice from very smart people I am lucky to know and before I sat down to write this I decided to re-listen to a recording of Harry Max’s IA Summit talk in 2010. He talks about developing strategies and how designers already possess the tools needed for that job. In the last minute of the talk, Harry shares this:

If you know where you’re going, amazing things can happen. AMAZING things can happen.

And so, it’s profoundly useful not just to recognize that you have these cool tools at your disposal, and not that you can do strategy and you can do design and you can do this and you can do that. None of that on some level really matters. What matters is that if you have a sense of where you want to go, and you hold a crystal-clear vision of it (not in that “The Secret” kind of way, but more in that kind of “just get clear about what you’re about” and get clear about what success is for you, and get clear about what successes is for your organization), you have the tools that you need, the gaps are relatively small.

If you can identify what those gaps are, go close them. Learn the tools, read the books, it doesn’t really matter. You’re way ahead of where you think you are right now. Way ahead.

And, what matters is asking good questions, showing up in a non-judgmental way with an open heart and recognizing that you are now a participant in the process of creating the kind of world you want to live in.

I rewound that minute and listened to it 8 times. And another two times so I could transcribe it here (I HIGHLY recommend you listen to this talk. The transcribed part starts at 1:28:41).

I feel like it speaks to my frustration so clearly I could not find better words; I feel as well equipped do get stuff done as I could possibly be and yet, the “just get clear about what you’re about” seems very fuzzy. I feel no joy or enthusiasm in being this “ready to attack”.

So, that’s what I have been working on.

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