My last note of my 30s

Left, age 29. Right, age 39.

Today, I am 39. Tomorrow, I will be 40. 

A decade ago, I was miserable. I had just met people who would become dear friends (Louisa, Tom) in Chicago and who I still adore, but didn’t know them well yet. I’d been laid off twice in a year. My boyfriend and I had an acrimonious breakup. I’d just bought a condo and it was beautiful but I couldn’t unpack. By July 2002, I gave up and moved back to San Francisco. I thought I’d return to the dotcom and web world of my 20s and my old friends.

But that’s where everything began to change. Three days after arriving in SF, Judy Wert and Nathan Shedroff started recruiting me for a professorship at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy, and right after I turned 31, I found out I got the job.

In my 30s, I…

spent most of my 30s in and around design and architecture schools. I was a professor at Ivrea, a master’s student at Yale and a PhD student at Princeton. Ten years ago, I never would have imagined that I would have gone back to school, let alone at an Ivy League institution. I probably wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be a design professor. I really probably wouldn’t have imagined I’d become an architectural historian or an historian of cybernetics and artificial intelligence.

started teaching. I love teaching and even more than that, I love advising students on their projects.

lived in Chicago, Italy, San Francisco, New Haven, Princeton and Los Angeles. I have lived for a month or more in Copenhagen, Bangalore, Berlin, Montreal and now, Umeå, Sweden.

loved a lot.

met wonderful people, stayed in touch with old friends, found my way back to people who mattered dearly, and yet still miss people I’ve lost so much.

ended up in places I never would have guessed.

Tomorrow, I will be 40. I…

don’t own a home, I’m not married, I don’t have children, I don’t have a dog. Thinking that all of those things will change in the next few years.

have friends as young as 20 and as old as their 70s. I love navigating the things we have in common across our ages. I’m friends with people I loved more than I can possibly explain. I’m friends with generous people and new people and people I do projects with and people who visit and people who invite me to wonderful places and people I admire. Lots of people I admire.

will finish a dissertation and then I’ll become a professor, if things go the way I hope they will.

still love music and am better clued in thanks to my hipper friends.

don’t plan to go skydiving because I prefer the view from the plane and scuba diving to the thought of hurtling through the air.

don’t have a bucket list and don’t know that I want one. Life’s good enough, the way it’s unfolding.

 

I’ll report back from 40 but in the meantime: thank you, 30s, for being so weird and surprising. Nothing went the way I would have expected when I was 29, but it’s so much better than what I could have imagined. I’m thankful, I’m amused, I’m happy.

Sweden!

Hello again, Girlwonder! This missive reaches you from Sweden, where I’m on my way to Umeå. I’ll be spending a month here doing a fellowship with the HUMLab at the University of Umeå. Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking at the Umeå Institute of Design fall conference organized by Matt Cottam, along with Russell Davies, Dave Vondle and Matt Ward, and next month at the Critically Making the Internet of Things conference. It’s a delight to be back, to come a little bit earlier in the winter this time around… I came last year to Umeå to speak at the Media Places conference, which kicked off a friendship with Patrik Svensson, the head of the lab, and fomented the idea of delving into some digital humanities research here. Also, my family background is largely Scandinavian, with the Swedish branch of the family originating not far from Umeå: where no one will ever mistake me for Italian, everybody looks like me in Sweden.

There’s lots to catch you up on, much of which I’ll write about in the next few weeks. I spent the summer in San Francisco, writing my dissertation from a desk kindly provided by Adaptive Path, with a few intermittent weeks in Princeton for dissertation boot camp and summer barbecuing. We had a reunion for the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy in September, which I followed with a visit to Milan and London. The school year is rolling again at Art Center College of Design, and I’m teaching writing and advising thesis year students in the Graduate Media Design Program. And I turn 40 in 15 days, a milestone birthday that portends to be the start of an amazing decade. I will be in Sweden, maybe at the Treehotel, maybe in Berlin. And amidst the writing and movement, I’m applying for academic jobs.