Just for a moment, I stood still among the falling snow, listening to the flakes free themselves from the white sky above, parachuting like confetti on New Year’s Eve. The world was throwing me a party just for showing up. It had been months since I’d been there on the beaten path behind the home of my childhood, dog in tow. Even he seemed like a puppy again, harboring a youthful spirit inside a fur coat of sage wisdom. But my heart ached with the reality of his fragility, and I wondered if he, too, could sense my own brokenness. We mirrored each other in this way as we retraced our paces from years past, him stopping to pick up sticks and me listening to the sound of snow falling. Everything in the world was quiet save these patterns, invisible swishes so alive on arrival.
Prior to my own, I had been traveling across territories charted only on maps as journeys by other people. I didn’t plan for any of these destinations, yet here I was with only my instincts and the kindness of strangers to guide me. The learning curve had been steep, yet scalable, and there were plenty of times I wondered if “How High?” was an acceptable question to directions I never asked for — just a blind willingness to do things differently, knowing full well it would expose my limitations. So I surrendered myself to the unknown and put my faith on the line, not at all concerned for what I was learning and instead far more curious for how it was changing me. I already understood that the reason I chose to have these experiences was to play my weaknesses. If I were a cartographer, I’d be measuring the z-axis, known for illustrating depth.
It is perhaps the only variable that no one considers when designing experiences. And when I first started this journey, I was convinced that you could design wonderful life events for yourself, those you care about and especially for those you should learn to care about more. But the reality is, you cannot design experiences, the same way you cannot preserve perfectly patterned ice crystals. They are impossible to hold, disappearing upon human touch. What magic! Experiences are similar. The minute you try to design for a desired outcome, try to put perfection in a box, or capture a selfish want, our human need to learn evaporates like a puff of air, stale of any inspiration. Because experiences are co-produced, with multiple dimensions and layers that exponentially change the combination of variables that could occur anytime, anywhere, with anyone. The designer then, is not someone who throws down a pencil in defiant completion of the perfect plan, framework or strategy. No, that is not a designer. The designer is an active storyteller willing to break narrative form in real time to create an experience they could have never imagined until just then, right there, with those people. Experiences, like snowflakes, are alive. And when we arrive, we improv. We play in the snow, and melt upon human touch.
It sounds like time flying.