Dying well, a design tenet
Five years ago, the idea of life design hit me strongly. At that time I was 38 and I was already dreading my 40th birthday.
If someone tells you a cliche statement, age is just a number, you should punch them in their face 😅 Age is (not just) a number and it does hit you hard. Well rounded numbers like 40 hit you very hard. Little did I know I was entering into mid-life 🤨
In my own style I went into the rabbit hole of evolutionary psychology, ageing, mid-life, human performance and more. I conducted detailed qualitative studies with people in their 50s and 60s to understand if this mid-life phenomenon is true 🤔
I got mixed answers. Some devastated their lives in their mid-life. Some got awakened in their mid-life. On average, more people were wasted by mid-life than otherwise. This was a scary statistic to begin with.
All I took with me is, there is a possibility of something extraordinary given the heightened pain and buzzing questions inside me in this period. The search started there....
In my professional life, I thrive in ambiguity and chaos. That is a designer's life. I took so much pride in my passion for solving problems. Life was the most messiest thing I ever saw so I was super excited to solve this problem. The designer's pride took over and the arrogance set in. I should be able to solve any problem in any context for any customer. Come'on this should be easy peesy 🤷🏽♀️
The truth is, it wasn't eeasy-peesy as I imagined. The big blow with life design is, my usual tricks of research, insighting, ideation, conceptualization and design did not work. Everything I know as a designer failed in this domain. The only way I could get hang of life was to live it and connect the dots backwards by reflection. Prototyping in its truest sense. Everything else blew up on my face.
I understood my inability to solve life as a problem (may be it is not a problem to solve in the first place says my current self 🤓). The designer ego in me was hurt badly. I had to surrender to life to solve it. I was so rigid. I was high on pride. As long as I was stiff, nothing happened. So I was forced to give-in. I reluctantly started my journey. It took me 3 years just to unlearn all the design tips, tricks and techniques I know. It made me humble, grounded and curious.
This time I approached life the other way around. I started my work at my grave. I gave a lot of thought about my eulogy (if i wrote it for myself). My eulogy was my press release for life design (Amazonians you get the pun here right 😜).
I didn't like what I said about me. I asked my friends, what would they say. They got scared by my question and thought if i was depressed, suicidal etc. They didn't know i was just a crazy designer. This process took me couple of months. Working backwards at its best happened from the grave.
Slowly a child-like enthusiam set in. My smile changed. It was hearty and I could see duchenne markers in it.
My friends told me I am looking much younger than before. I started feeling better and lighter. I approached every day as a possibility. I celebrated every win. I loved every ✅ I put in my daily journal. Life was getting lighter and lighter inside me. Extrenally it was the same old mess. But inside there was space to breathe and smile.
Everyday I tell myself, this is it. We have arrived at a healthy and happy life. The next day I will discover something newly and yesterday's clarity was today's haze. The clarity was never clear and it is still not clear. Only today, you can look into yesterday's haziness. Yesterday the haze was clear 🤯 Damn! this was so hard for a rational analytical mind of mine. I struggled with the clarity not being clear for almost 2 years. The seeking continues. This writing is dedicated to all my friends who are struggling with the haziness of life.
Looking back, the 5 years was the best. It was the most intense. There was no single dull moment. Everyday was a different day. Everyday I learnt something new.
In other words, everyday I realised how idiotic and stupid I am. On the other hand, I also realised the beauty in the being. It took me 5 long years to smile at my human bull-shit and go beyond and keep the path of ultimate. Unlike other paths there is no destination to this. It is a bottomless pit.
If you happily fall into this pit, the happiness continues.
If you are shit scared to fall into this pit, the fear continues.
If you are skeptical about this pit, the cynicism and skepticism continues.
If you are empty inside you, the emptiness continues.
Pro-tip: If you are X then X continues. Choose your X wisely 😇
This being is so beautiful. It took me so long to understand the human in me. It took me so much time to embarce the perfect imperfections I have. It took me lots to smile at my own bullshit and move beyond.
This birthday (today), I am relishing the path of ultimate and cheering myself for the amazing time I get to spend on this planet. All I have is only gratitude for everything in and around me. Happy Birthday to self 🎉
But hey, I still have a ton of bullshit in me. To go beyond it may take the rest of the life. Remember clarity is not so clear. You will know it when you arrive. So keep going my friends 🙌 You're not alone. The human struggle is real. We'll together learn how to rest on this moving boat 🍺
🥂 to life!