What A Cross-Country Flight Taught Me About Painting The World

I spent this past weekend with one of my best friends. We haven’t lived in the same city in eleven years, but we communicate in a multitude of ways and talk on the phone at least once a week. Through our conversations, I’ve become intimately aware of her new routines, adventures, friends, and work. I’ve heard about her life in broad strokes and detailed marks. Knowing her, and using some general context, I painted a picture of her life in my mind, and applied each new story within its context. When I…

How Books Form The Spine of Human Connection

“The most beautiful thing about a book is that you bring it to life — the characters, the emotions, the arc, the resolution — every single time you open it.” Though it was nineteen years ago, I still remember the exact moment I heard this romantic notion. I was in my seventh grade classroom, second row from the front, and my English teacher, Mr. Gelineau, was lecturing from the left corner of the room. The same way we can relive any book by turning its cover, I can relive this…

What Abraham Lincoln Can Teach Us About Choosing (And Keeping) Our Words

There is an adorable elderly man with an ice cream parlor in San Francisco’s Western Addition. His eyes sparkle with authenticity; his smile glows with friendliness. He is the kind of the ice cream server you stop to see, even when your lactose intolerance says you shouldn’t. He is the kind of man who, when he meets your parents, will tell them that he enjoys your visits, but that you don’t visit too often. No matter how my life changes, this man and his ice cream parlor have been my constant. His eyes and…

What Product Design Can Teach Us About Designing Ourselves

When Rihanna released an award-winning song whose catchiest word was “umbrella,” I was perplexed. Not only is the word ugly, but it also refers to a boring utilitarian item that is associated with bad weather. Living in Philadelphia at the time, I had a miserable relationship with umbrellas. They literally turned on me when I needed them most. During the wet seasons, I resolved myself to a monthly cycle of disposing and purchasing umbrellas. I never spent more than twenty dollars on an umbrella and never expected it to last longer than a few windy rainstorms.…

What’s In A Friend? The Search For A Definition Of Close Friendship

The summer after third grade, I got a two-pendant necklace set. Each pendant was half-heart-shaped, one engraved with the word “Friends” and the other with “Forever.” I spent months strategically determining who would receive my half-heart. I decided on a girl at school who I liked better than anyone else I knew. I wanted to be her best friend. The problem? The role of her best friend was taken. “But it says ‘Friends Forever,’ not ‘Best Friends,’” I told myself every time I got cold feet. I still remember the moment I presented…