Design, for Life

Recently, I’ve been considering the careers I didn’t try; that is, it didn’t occur to me to try.

Fashion designer
Early music
% musical theater (well, this did occur to me…)
fashion historian

In my freshly discovered life, less constrained by the shadows of fears of what life will ask of me, I begin to wonder more about possibilities.

It began last summer (the previous one), with an exercise in “finding your core values”. The setting was a boot camp designed to turn mathematicians into mathematical-reasoners in fancy industry research jobs. There was a two page list of suggestions for “values”. I came up with:

Peace, Joy, Friendship, Accuracy.

To which I said, “This is supposed to translate into a career of some kind?!”

Currently, I live a semi-dreamy existence as a visiting professor at a small liberal arts college in the foothills of the Appalachians. The setting is idyllic, the students are open and un-jaded, the people are lovely. I am managing not to do a terrible job. But in a year, I have to do something else.

I often had the feeling, in graduate school, that I was only utilizing parts of myself. Though this improved, over time, as I was pushed to be more relational. Here, as I had hoped, it has improved a good deal. There is more room for my soul in a liberal arts world. However, day to day: I teach math, chat with math professors, and come home and recover. I’m still missing something.

Get married, start a family
or at least, get a relationship
Get a dog
Get “a life” (do things with people? for fun?)
Get a job that lets you feel you are changing the world
Get a prayer rule

{I looked into a dog. I kind of lost my heart to this one ->
But it turns out my landlord’s pet policy is more serious than I had understood. Can’t see any way to a dog. :\ }

Spend more time alone, come to know your inner self, and what you really want.


I want to live near my close friends. Or, make that level of excellent friends where I am. Lakes, books, walks, family meals. Peace, Joy, Friendship… Accuracy?

Looking back at my writing from the spring, as I was attempting to separate the wheat from the malignancy in my history of figure skating, a few things kept coming up. Performing. Music. Costumes.

A friend asked me, “Why costumes? Do you feel the need to cover up?” I said, “No, almost the reverse. I would love to dress more flamboyantly (beautifully?) all the time. But I generally have tried to keep a low profile in dress, for fear of bad reactions.” What I loved to do as a child: play dress up. What I love to watch on Youtube: design. Houses, and people who live in them/love them. The clothing that works for individuals, as opposed to the heaps that don’t. The relationship between the space in which you live and your life. People, and their relationship to design. People, and the ability of design to bring them peace, or joy.

As a young teen, I rewatched, endlessly, a video called “Remembering Chicago”. It arrived as a free gift for supporting the local PBS. It was a documentary, in which the Chicago of the 1920’2-40’s was brought to life. Street cars. Neighborhoods. Jobs. Jazz. the Depression. Change. Bathing suits. Dining. Photos, interviews, music, costumes. I can still hear the dance music. The setting of Chicago, and what it made of life for all the thousands of different people who lived there.
I loved it.

I’ve been watching… a certain television show with excellent costumes, set in the 1920’s. In connection with this, I came across a clip of a black and white photo: a sea of hats and backs, crowding around a train compartment. In that brief clip, my heart leapt, with the same joy as for Remembering Chicago.

(These are not it, but have something of the same spirit.)

Hats? Do I love hats?? Well designed hats? In the rush and urgency of life; alongside the means of traveling, news, and the larger world. Dignity, in the cut of a coat. Design, for everyday. The cares and concerns of every individual living that moment.

Is design about accuracy, in service of life? I rather like that. I love accuracy, in many guises. The right word choice. A well thought-out gadget. The minimal solution to a problem, with no unnecessary effort. A well proportioned room. A statement that weights the pros and cons justly, without exaggeration. A Paul-handshake cake. Knowing the puzzle piece will fit, before you try.

Good design, in service of life. I like that, a lot. Accuracy for peace, and (flamboyant?) joy.

So, again, how does this translate into a career??
Is math an effort to teach Design, for the interior of one’s head?


This entry was posted in Life in Indiana, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Design, for Life

  1. Anita says:

    I loved learning this side of you. I was surprised!

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