This is a year of first chapters. I started a new book. I have a new job, and my new role at Odyssey, as Director of Operations, involves focusing on more nuts and bolts issues than I have in past years. And turns out--I love it. The opportunity to create and review spreadsheets and think strategically about where an organization is at and where its headed, is a great adventure. I do more details, while bringing my writer's mind, my creative self, to the forefront to problem solve. It's a connecting leap that is new to me, and dovetails perfectly with the Integral Education model that is at the heart of Odyssey--"both/and" thinking.
Design Education marries the science mind and the art mind, creating from start to finish while meticulously testing results. I love it. I'm so excited by it, for the students at Odyssey, and for myself. The process of coming up with an idea or creative vision and testing it out, revising along the way, falls directly in line with my own process. Maybe that's because I have a messy way of making my way toward my goals. Maybe it's just how life works. It is definitely how my life works.
Recently, I picked up a copy of "The Web of Life," by Fritjof Capra somewhat haphazardly, intrigued by the water cooler discussions at work. Systems Thinking is heady stuff, absolutely big picture thinking and involves making connections across vast areas of difference. Bridging gaps and making inferences, while letting large ideas sift down. At the center of Systems Thinking, insomuch as I understand it (probably not much), is a cultural and economic shift from hierarchy to web, dynamic power flowing in a more graduated spiral via the network.
In this new world, collaboration is the way things get done. I am working with that element of collaboration in my own way too. Certainly with my husband, who is a writer himself -- negotiating the daily realities of two creatives in a family is complicated (and absolutely worth it). And also with my Co-Director Megan McCarter at Odyssey. Partnership represents the paradigm shift that is happening all over our country.
The challenge in all of this is how to bridge realities, right? That's a new world challenge. When I look through my mental rolodex of twenty-thirty-forty something-year-old friends, I see a sea of folks building from a series of identities: one a comic/improv/graphic designer who occasionally waits tables, another who manages a film company and is a part-time stay at home mom, a third who owns a restaurant while working on the Board of a major non-profit. We are working hard, people. (Great Job!)
Occasionally, I see articles on Facebook about how idealistic and narcissistic the younger generations are, and of course, there is truth (little t) in that. And the deeper truth is that our American cultural shift, from superpower to dying empire, forces us, as adults, to seek new options and build new opportunities. Hello, Etsy, Ebay, Netflix, AirB&B, countless other, better, new examples. The reality is I haven't had the experience of a single career, and I'm old (Generation X!). I got married in my mid-twenties, had two kids, and have worked through the last baby-making decade, four different jobs, constellated in different ways.
At thirty-five, I'm starting to think more strategically. I'm starting (maybe a bit late, but better late than never) to do some Design Thinking about my life. To empathize, define, ideate and test a way to work this weird, broken system I've inherited, and as an educator, I've realized that virtually every young person I see walking the halls of Odyssey will face these realities and probably harder ones. That reality keeps me awake some nights, feeling both exhilarated and scared for my children and my children's children.
We are writing a new chapter, as a culture. We are designing a new way of life.
P.S. I'd love to hear stories from folks about how they use the Design process in their own creative work, and I'm curious how others see power changing and shifting in their communities. Drop me an email if you feel inspired, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coranna Adams is a writer, filmmaker, and educator from Asheville, North Carolina.