Fall 2016: Salon Schedule

I’ve been running a salon for women interested in reflecting together for the last four years. We hoped this experiment could lead to a cool network of women interested in answering difficult questions, continuing with their research after college, and supporting each other through life transitions. It has been all of that for me for years, I am very grateful for this community we’ve built together.

To make this easier for new salon leaders, I am posting our fall/winter schedule and topics, maybe to inspire some of their own discussions. I will update it with our readings in case you want to follow along on your own.

SEPTEMBER:
Sunday Sept 25: Family and Community

Questions we’ve been playing with:
– if we’re moving past the mom+dad+2 kids+dog in a white picket fence home, how has the definition of “family” shifted for you? Who do you consider to be your “family?”
– can your community become part of your “family?”
– who do you seek out when you need support?
Some thoughts on community:
Courtney Martin’s the New American Dream
And a really honest essay about one writer’s anxiety and the support system she built with her friends

OCTOBER

Sunday Oct. 9: Death

Kaela’s Intro Email: I had originally been inspired to add this as a salon topic because of IDEO’s event series about death back in May. I realized that I had never really had any long conversation about death with anyone in my life.
There are many ways we could go on this, but we thought we could spring board off of with the idea of ‘what does it mean to be alive versus dead?’ and ‘how do the dead in our lives “live” on once they’ve passed?’
A few things to get your brain moving:
From Diana herself (On Day of the Dead, Memory, and living profiles)
A TED talk about how other communities engage with the dead/death
This group and this other group who are also trying to open conversations on death
And a great insta post shared to use by Connie (who also gave us a few of the links above!)

Sunday Oct 23: Grief

Our questions (brought together by Kaela and Connie)
Thinking about before and after — how do you change before and after you grieve? What does grief bring and how do you build through it?
And how do we deal with the timeline of grief? We have heard of all the stages – but what about the days you feel like you “should feel better” but don’t?
A few readings: 

NOVEMBER

Sunday Nov 6th: Transformation

“Human beings,” Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert observed…, “are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”
Let’s talk about Transformation. There are two questions that we’ve been playing with her that we’d love to hear your reactions to:
1) How do we know when we’ve “transformed” from someone we were or thought we were into a different version of ourselves?
2) And is this transformation really just a chance in perspective? Or is it like shedding a layer of armor and taking up something different?
Some Media:
Maybe change is like the Tower in Tarot (it’s meant to show the destruction at the end before a significant change. You can see it as “doom” and “disaster” like this image depicts, or it can be an opportunity for something new and exciting)
If it is about our perspective, maybe we can rewire towards optimism… I always seems to come back to Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” too
And finally, sometimes relationships transform when we are able to ask questions. In light of this election, I related to this and it helped me feel better, like we can heal after Tuesday.

Sunday Nov 20th: Gratitude (Family style thanksgiving) Dinner

DECEMBER

Sunday December 4th: This Is Water: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Book Discussion
Dec 18th: Holiday Party

JANUARY

Sunday January 8th: Men Explain Things to Me
Sunday January 22nd: Anger

More to come! Please send me questions/readings/thoughts, as they occur to you.

Header photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2d9A8QQ

What is the Extended Eulogy?

For me, growing up in a Mexican family meant that death was about curation.

See, in Mexico, we remember the dead regularly – to us, the line between living and dead is not so thick. In those moments, we are expected to interact directly with the person we are remembering.

Our communities created profiles of our loved ones … in their own words. On the Day of the Dead, We reread letters they wrote, quote them, relived our interactions and favorite meals… and because these people do not exist as a static, as they might in a formalize biography, they live on as a multi-faceted memory.

But I wondered, how did other people design these profiles? How often are we able to remember those that we love through their words?

I started a research project for my Learning Wednesday – I call it, The Extended Eulogy.

It started because I had a mentor figure from college who died in April after a long battle with cancer. We knew him as the Master of Saybrook College, my program at Yale. We remembered him through the events he hosted and the comforting words he offered when we needed them.

But to the rest of the world, Master Hudak as a super hacker. For the months that he was in the hospital, receiving treatment until the end of his life, he was as the subject of discussion within the top 10 hits on major hacker chat boards around the world.

I started thinking about the profiles that each of Master Hudak’s communities would build around his memory – how would they curate his profile?

To date, I have interviewed several curators for Extended Eulogies. The first was a friend who was a major curatorial voice behind the NYTimes Best Seller “The Opposite of Loneliness,” which is a collection of essays written by my former classmate Marina Keegan. Marina passed away tragically in a car crash in 2012. This book lives on as her legacy.

The second is an artist who was asked to grant three wishes by a friend of hers as he died of complications from AIDS in 90s. His Extended Eulogy was an exhibition of his photographs that she curated. As you walked through the collection, you walked through a timeline of his creative mind.

Both of these curators told me that when they reviewed the work by their friends… they could hear their voices in it.

I narrowed the scope of my research to three framing questions. Each time I asked them:

How did you remember this person?

How did the world know this person?

What questions did this person spend their life trying to answer?

Just a week or two after Master Hudak’s death, I learned that my grandfather had been diagnosed with cancer.

The Extended Eulogies research project started to morph… into a living profile.

I am on a mission to collect all of the memories for his profile that I can… but most importantly, I need to capture his memories in his own words.

What you need to know about my grandfather is I grew up allowed to believe in legends and heroes, because my grandfather was one of these heroes.

Orphaned twice by 19, he received a partial scholarship to play football for the University of Nebraska and put himself through college while supporting his young family by working nightshifts on the Lincoln, Nebraska Railroad. He was the designer and implementer for the first computer system in Kellogg’s supply chain.

My grandfather created everything he became.

I took a Monday off work to spend the day interviewing him with the StoryCorps app. For four hours, we talked about the future of work, family, and life’s questions big questions… adding dimensions to the man who lived in my memory as a series of family legends and humorous stories.

The difference now between this profile and a biography is that my grandfather has a hand in it.

He is not a writer or an artist, but I want to tell his story and remember him through his voice. His words.

This living profile and the Extended Eulogy is about breathing life into our memories. It is about giving the people we remember enough layers of complexity to remember and celebrate that they were human – that they struggled with questions, and saw themselves one way while the rest of the world may have seen them another way.

The richer the profile, the richer the memory that can live on with us, to interact with us on the Day of the Dead each year. I am grateful for this opportunity to build something full of life with my grandfather.

This is a talk I will give tomorrow at the TED Staff Retreat about my Wednesday Research work. This is a new experiment for me, and it exists largely as a conceptual art piece until I find the right ways to work with my research. 

Heartbreak in a single line.

From this week’s StoryCorps Interview with my grandfather:

Me: Have you ever felt helpless, Grampy?

Jay Schneider: Only in the last 10 minutes of your grandmother’s life. She was hemorrhaging and there was nothing any of us could do to stop it, we saw that it was the end. So I held her hand and said, I’m sorry, my love, I can’t help you.

[[I am trying to capture the beauty of his heart in something I need to write this week… and this line has been bouncing through my head and heart since Monday]]

Dear Master Hudak

I learned a few weeks ago that the Master of Saybrook College at Yale (my residential college when I was a student) died on a Wednesday night. The news was passed along through a support group that my class in Saybrook had formed to coordinate sending him a gift from all of us while he was in his final days in the hospital.

The rumors on the internet had declared him “dead” as early as last week. We knew from his family that he was still hanging on until this week, but it was really interesting to see the communities that loved him outside of Yale (the Hacker community, programmers, computer science majors, etc.) talk about him.

He was so amazing that is was celebrated through the words of talented writers and students in the pages of the newspaper from the university that he loved dearly… and was one of the top 5 hits on a major hacker discussion board, because he played a major role in developing Haskell.

To me, Master Hudak was Saybrook’s father figure. For as long as I had known him, he was fighting cancer. When I would see him in the evenings he hosted Master’s teas or events for Seniors, like my Mellon Forum on Colombia Cartels, he always had a tired, but very warm smile.

I remember talking to him years earlier when I felt really lost in the economics department. My view of the world was so far from the discussion topics and theories we discussed in my econ classes… and they showed very very little interest in the markets and worlds I wanted to explore. He told me to follow my dreams and pointed me towards funding that allowed me to do my field work and research for all four years of college.

Later, he sat in the front row during my talk at the senior Mellon Forums and took it all in stride, knowing how much it had taken me to get to this point with my research. And that meant a lot.

He was clearly very proud of the community that he had built and supported within Saybrook — and rightly so, he was very much loved by all of us.

It takes me time to process this type of information. Usually, I hear it and feel nothing. And then, it seeps into me slowly and I feel it. While I was walking home yesterday, I felt it as a series of memories slowly replaying in my head. Snapshots of my freshman year through the senior dinner, when he came to support me when I was nominated for the Nakanishi Prize, and later when he handed me my diploma. By the time the cycle of images was done moving through my imagination… I felt it in a wave of overwhelming sadness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the voice we leave behind when we write or produce art (or in Master Hudak’s case, an original coding language). One of my next longer entries will be about managing memories… and the filters our loved ones use to explain the person they loved and knew us to be (sometimes, these views of a person might be in conflict). I’ve been exploring this theme deeply in my own work and memories. Looking forward to sharing it with you. But for now, Rest in Peace, Master Hudak.