I’m fresh off Design & Content Conference in Vancouver. As far as conferences go, it’s unparalleled—a wonderful, warm place, where I’m lucky enough to be welcomed as family. It’s a place where pronouns are prominent on name badges, and organizers take their Code of Conduct seriously. It’s a place where women outnumber men on stage, and heteronormativity is far from the default. It’s a place where whiteness is—at least—self-aware.
I’m sitting in the airport at an ungodly hour (or I was when I wrote the majority of this), unpacking lessons from several days of earnest talks about how we can be better professionals and humans. Here are some of my takeaways:
Everyone worth a damn is trying to do something or fix something. I saw so many people so deeply committed to making the world better. At the core, I think that’s all we all want. Maybe we’re all Ozymandias building our empires, or maybe we’re all waking up and seeing the same broken hellscape, each tackling the little problems we can, with the tools we have, in the ways we know. That’s not nothing.
We all fuck up. A lot. We hurt people. We let people down. We break things. We bumble around like confused little animals because we are. We bump into each other because we’re all going different directions and carrying different ideas and trying to accomplish different things. We’re bound to disappoint.
Fuckups aren’t nearly as important as what you do about them. Some people deny and blame and hide from the responsibility of their actions. Others own their mistakes, mend what they can, and commit to doing better. I really only bother with the latter.
Pasts are painful. Almost universally, it seems, trips into memory come with the knife’s edge of loss or regret. That which we loved cannot be retrieved. That which caused pain cannot be changed. Our memories, in that way, have the potential to slice us, yet they fascinate us. We’re compelled to hold and explore them, to show them to others, to seek something in them we can’t find in the world before us.
You can’t wish people into being who you want them to be. Whether they’re using our websites or turning their backs on our friendship, people are going to behave in exactly the ways that make sense to them. No amount of hoping they’ll see the world—or you—differently can change their minds.
Warmth is the most important thing we can give each other. I’m not sure it even mattered what people were saying on stage (it did) as much as it mattered how they approached their topics. The speakers who brought warmth to the stage brought the most to the room. And throughout the event, people approached me with an openness and acceptance unmatched in most professional spaces. Those moments were gifts.
People who love you find ways to show it. Not everyone has good intentions. Sometimes people claim to love you while treating you as a prop or a toy or a pest. Those people don’t love you. They love something they get from you. People who really love you find ways to show up. They’re kind and consistent and go out of their way to care for you. It’s like Capital Cities says: you know it when you see it, you know it when it’s there.
Music is magic. I didn’t need the conference to tell me this, but in the few short days I spend in Vancouver, I saw music uplift audiences, change the mood of rooms, and connect people on intimate emotional levels. I’ve spent years saying, “I can’t sing,” and, “I don’t dance.” But this week I sang. I danced. I was off key and off beat and didn’t care. I let go of ego, and I was rewarded with beautiful moments that will live in my memory for years to come.
I could go on, but I’ll leave it here. I’m floored and grateful to have a place in such a kind and lovely community, and I’m energized to tackle what’s next.
Thank you, DCC.