Why digital experience design at 35: The personal story behind my career decision

Hyper Island. Manchester, 2016

What may seem as a gap in my CV for some, or a bold move for others, was the outcome of a well-thought process which started a couple of years ago. This piece is an opportunity to talk about the number of steps that led me here.

Processing stuff after feeling pain

Making a life in a place takes time. From finding a job, or getting enough clients, to having a strong network of friends and a support system, a home, and the comfort that comes with settling in. It took me a while to achieve what I wanted to in what became my second home: South Africa. It wasn’t always easy to do it either. It was lonely some times because of different reasons, not only because when I chose the life I had for 12 years I also left the people I loved the most somewhere else, but because finding those who deserve one’s love is rare. While I was focused on doing something that I was proud of, and building a career in a different country in another continent, I sometimes forgot why I was doing it all.

I eventually reached the milestones I figured would make my life easier such as owning a house, and the friends and people I loved were there to hold me at my hardest. When I thought things were stable and life finally resembled what I had envisaged, I had to deal with challenges that made me question the achievements. I revised the things, the security, and even myself. Up until that point I had been going for years in automatic pilot because it was necessary in order to survive but I didn’t stop to think about what I dreamt about, and review if it was still worth pursuing. I felt devastated, hopeless, as if a part of me where trust in others resides was never going to be the same again. I also felt that I owed it to myself to pursue at least one of the dreams I had.

All the roads that led me here became one

In my experience every time I have tried to control something external to me, the more pressure I put the more life unfolds however it wants to, as if it did it on purpose, just so that I see that clinging does not mean closeness, but mere attachment. So even with me wanting to disappear from Johannesburg when everything collapsed, I could only do so when I allowed life show me the right time, but also when I felt ready.

I always wanted to live somewhere new, start from scratch and prove to myself one more time that I could make it, and be a good experience anthropologist regardless of the context. The opportunity was never clear and other than regular visits to a very close friend in Europe, the possibility of doing that was just a vision, but nothing concrete.

I looked for work but quickly realised the move had to be more evident and bold. I had a few conversations, asked some questions, and had some ideas in my head of furthering my knowledge. It was then when I heard of HyperIsland, the school I currently go to. It seemed to me that studying was an opportunity to set the change I was yearning for in motion, while also opening myself up to new learnings in my discipline. I will be writing about that soon, on a less personal note.

Changing the course of things is not easy but necessary

I am into my third week of the studies. I switched my course as well, a decision that was founded in what I want to do with my career, the range of experience I have, and the things that align the most with my interests. I am not sure where I’ll be in 6 months time. I sold my car, I rented out my flat, I don’t have a job, or a significant other to go back to. I can write my story from scratch if so I want to, or return to the life I had, perhaps to improve it or change it significantly. I can choose to continue learning, and I must know that regardless of my choices I don’t control life and what happens in it, except for my ability to make some decisions.

I give up clinging onto the past. I am here because of it, it set change in motion, it made me pursue dreams again and aspire to be a better me. It may not be the easiest choice, but it’s liberating and I trust the most rewarding one too.