This essay originally appeared in Issue 085 of the UX Writing Events newsletter on May 9, 2022.
Holy fucking shit do I feel old. I’m back in Minneapolis, visiting, after a year away and three-ish years after the pandemic started. That’s around when I got laid off from Brain Traffic, and also stopped being able to live the way I’d been living in Minneapolis, which involved going to rock shows 3 nights a week, playing at open mics, seeing matinees at my favorite old local theatre down the street, and so on. It’s weird and hard and nice to see the old sites again, but yeah, damn man, I feel old. I’m hearing that sentiment from a lot of my people, these days. We all aged a couple decades in a couple of years. I went to an outdoor show Saturday afternoon, hit up the patio of a favorite bar with some friends, and then walked a couple miles back to my accommodations — an extremely normal thing just a few years ago, but, like, every damn part of my lower body hurts now. Still! Two days later! 😂 Embarrassing, to be honest. In hindsight, the Birkenstocks were not the best choice for this particular adventure.
It’s weird to feel old and be going to Confab this week. UX, and content strategy in particular, is a field with a lot of seasoned practitioners, and a lot of my interactions with those folks over the years have often felt vaguely paternalistic, if not fully patronizing. And to be fair, I was an absolute giant idiot baby 10+ years ago when I started talking about this stuff at conferences, but I also was doing some work that not a lot of people were doing at the time, in contexts that relatively few people were designing for, and I’ve also been extremely online since the BBS days (though yes, I was a literal child then). And a lot of those folks are still leading the field, so here I am: feeling both ancient as Egypt and dumb as a baby. It’s uncomfortable, is all I’m saying.
But you know, it’s not so bad feeling old. I can live with this. Ibuprofen, epsom salts, better shoes. All doable. But what I don’t want to do any more is feel tired. Literally tired, yes, as in “I just can’t today”, but also tired as in played out, as in “Does anyone even want to hear about this shit anymore? Do I even want to talk about it anymore?” I’m hoping another week in a city I love, at an event I love, hanging out with people I love, can help shake off some of this tired. The beard’s going gray, but I still want to rock.