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.


  1. congratulations, molly! it’s been a decade full of surprises, hasn’t it? i suppose a decade should seem long but i almost don’t recognise the us we were then. i’m thankful we’re the us we are now.

    also: get yr ass to berlin.

  2. A beautiful summary. You did good 🙂 So sad to miss you when you are in my parts of the world but considering your continuous traveling I hope to catch you somewhere in the world. Soon!

    Good look at the conference it seems really cool!

  3. Welcome to 40’s (a little late). I’m 43 and just bought a home, scary. Sometimes, we fill our lives with things that keep us so busy that we can’t live.

  4. what a beautiful description…………started with one, and ended up reading all most all of your posts……admire u a lot…..!

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