This is How It Happens, Or What I Learned from Steve Jobs


When Steve Jobs was seventeen, he dropped out of Reed College after just six months. The tuition was too expensive and he wasn’t sure where it was leading. But he stuck around the campus, sleeping on floors in friends’ dorms and started dropping in on classes that looked interesting. At that time, Reed had amazing calligraphy instruction. Jobs, struck by the beautiful, calligraphed campus posters, decided to take a class. Jobs had no practical application in mind at the time, but as he described it in his 2005 commencement address at Stanford, he was fascinated learning about “serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great.”

It was a full ten years later before any of this knowledge came to practical use. (read more…)

Freedom from Expectation


I consider myself a creative person, but of all of the jobs I’ve had, I was most content working as an artist’s assistant realizing someone else’s vision.

It was the summer of 2001, which fell between my freshman and sophomore year of college, and I was home in New York City and living with my parents. I had largely avoided looking for a job but, through a former colleague, was offered one as a studio assistant to an artist named Miriam. She did Verre Eglomise, which is the process of gilding precious metals like gold and silver on the reverse side of glass, and etching in a design. My job, basically, was to trace Miriam’s designs by erasing the excess gilding until the pattern she had designed emerged. (read more…)

My Natural Voice Didn’t Come Naturally


“How did it sound?” I asked my husband on the way home from church – fishing, as usual, for compliments on the reading I’d given that day from the podium. I have served as a lector at every church I’ve ever belonged to, for as long as I can remember.

“It sounded fine,” came the usual retort. And then, something different: “But….”

“What?” I responded, intrigued. “But what?”

“You… um… ” A considered pause. “You didn’t do your voice.”

He wasn’t talking about my regular conversational speaking voice, the one I would use in an unguarded moment with a friend. He was talking about what I have come to think of as The Voice. The Voice is mellifluous, precise, projected, vaguely British, dark around the edges, with an air of maturity and authority. It is the aural equivalent of a mask, something I can put on regardless of the situation or my own state of mind.

(read more…)

To The Woman Pouring Water In a Homeless Man’s Mouth


To the woman pouring water into the homeless man’s mouth:

Hi, I work two blocks from you on Taylor Street and Golden Gate Avenue. Every morning I bike down Golden Gate to my office job in a co-working space. I ride the elevator seven floors to the “penthouse.” I brew tea, make some oatmeal and bring it all to my desk where I camp out for 8+ hours.

I enter the digital world. I respond to email after email; I blast things out on Mailchimp; I interact with early-stage startup founders and corporate employees that pay my company enough to cut me a paycheck. Usually, I eat my homemade lunch at my desk. (read more…)

The Girl With No Identity


I was lying on my stomach on the small back terrace of my host family’s apartment in Barcelona, using an old coat hanger to try to fish my favorite pair of underwear from the corrugated tin roof one floor below.

After the underwear fell from my hands while I was taking it off the clothesline, I’d debated what to do. I was alone at the house and too mortified to wait and ask for help anyway, but leaving them on the corrugated tin roof forever felt strangely unbearable. I decided I had to get them back, so I looked around the apartment and found a wire coat hanger. I bent it into a hook, which I attached to a piece of cable I scavenged from a closet. Then I got down on my stomach and lowered it down, flinging my arm out awkwardly to try to get it to catch. (read more…)