I was recently asked what I would do if I didn’t have to earn money.
That was an interesting question, especially given that it’s difficult to say what that actually means. For example: If I don’t have to earn money, does that mean I’m able to do things that are more expensive than everyday things? Can I travel?
I decided to interpret it as if I had enough to be comfortable. For me, that includes at least some travel.
The first thing that came to mind with this was the significant difference in my mental state in winter and summer. I’m functional in winter (seasonal depression and insomnia are treated, but not completely countered). I’m good in summer — even with the insomnia, since it’s better with enough light.
So, ideally, I’d be doing something that feeds my soul (so to speak) in winter, and feeds my curiosity and enthusiasm and need for people in summer.
Having just returned from a week in Florida to visit my parents, I think that I would want to spend at least some of the winter somewhere with sun. I’m so much more… awake. Aware. Happy. Human. It’ll fade, since it still is February in Boston, but it’s such a strong reminder. I think Florida winter light may be better (stronger? More direct?) than Boston summer light.
So maybe in winter , I’d go somewhere bright for a few weeks to a month. And, overlapping or not, something involving animals. Whether it be spending time with lonely shelter animals, or helping out at a zoo or sanctuary, I find that doing something involving animals helps feed me in ways that help counteract the lack of light.
In summer, with better sunlight, I think I’d want to do two main things: Spend time outside in the sun, and teach UX to folks who cannot afford to pay for schooling.
At the moment, I’d need to spend more time learning and practicing UX research and interaction design, and maybe more visual design. I’d want to have years of practice, and maybe do some teaching on the side. Once I feel a bit less like I’m too new to teach (which isn’t actually true; I just would want to know more to feel comfortable), I’d want to pass that knowledge on to those who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to get into UX. I’m already offering info to anyone who I know needs it, even though I am fairly new to UX. The fact that I tend to dive headfirst into anything I’m interested in means that — while I know there are gaps — I’ve learned a lot in the past two years of learning and practicing.
I think I’d want to focus on Women and Racial/Ethnic Minorities in tech (especially black folks and latin@s), as they may well be interested in and skilled at the UX field, but may not have any way to pay for learning. Similarly, I’d bet a fair number of people who would be excellent UX practitioners have no idea that such a thing exists.
Tech needs diversity, badly. Even if I ignore the fact that not having access to tech jobs means that there’s huge swaths of folks who aren’t making as much money as they could or need, diversity in a company means that there will be more people with different backgrounds looking at problems and the proposed solutions. There are far too many stupid mistakes and problems relating to thoughtlessness that would have a much better chance of being spotted if entire teams weren’t made of white, cis, men. It’s not their fault that they don’t spot problems, but different life experiences have a huge effect on how one thinks and the types of solutions one might suggest and implement. Refusing to admit that this is true is both short-sighted and self-centered.
So, I’d want to teach. And since I find UX so fascinating, and that’s my focus and likely to stay that way, that’s what I’d want to teach.
I need people. I need my family, my friends, and to interact with people I don’t already know in low-pressure environments.
So I’d want to build in time to spend with my family and friends, and find ways to meet new people and learn who they are and what they think and what they want. Sure, that last part sounds a bit like User Research, but it’s more than that. People are fascinating. And if it’s low pressure to us both — which user research is not — I get the chance to get to know more people without anyone feeling pushed into it. Some parties are good for this, if there are quieter spaces so that conversation is possible.
I need touch. Both with people I’m comfortable with and with animals who rely on me and who do not. That would need to be part of an ideal life, as well.
I need to move. Walking is great, but often harder in winter due to weather and to seasonal depression making inertia stronger. Kayaking is shockingly fun, although my inflatable kayak is not heavy enough — I always feel like I’m going to fall out. Swimming is good, if I don’t have to deal with chlorine. I’m sure there are other things that easily and comfortable fill my need to move, but those are the first that come to mind.
What would you do?
If you didn’t have to earn money, what would you want to do?