A Time Capsule

For my next birthday, I am creating a time capsule. Not a traditional one that I will bury in the ground and dig up in 20 years… more like an internet tattoo to mark where I am right now.

I’ve had a few days to reflect on the StoryCorps interviews with my grandfather this week. He really loved the experience and my relatives have all reached out to me to ask for access to the recordings. They want to hear what he said about his childhood, which we all only knew a handful of stories about, and his first jobs, losing my grandmother, his parents… all of it.

What is cool is that his thoughts and the crossroads he encountered in his life will now be preserved and searchable for our generations of Schneiders well into the future.

I want to add to my internet tattoo so I can remember the friendships that have meant so much to me and have been part of shaping my years here in this chapter of my life. I am asking a handful of my close friends to do a StoryCorps interview with me, where we will talk about how we met, memories we celebrate together, and what the friendship has meant to us. It’s a project about love and celebrating the exploration process of being young and confused, as well as finding our way in new spaces.

I want this to be a time capsule for both of us. I suspect I wont live in the same cities forever, and though some of my friendships defy this, time and space are difficult to overcome for some friendships. At least we can preserve these moments, savor these memories, of when we were young.

Sidenote: I really loved this collection of very real conversations that took place in this project. I hope some of my conversations with my friends will be this honest.

Designing Memories: The Data Collection Stage

Holy Shit, this is hard.

Normally, my research offers me a clinical lens to consider some of the problems that trouble me most deeply. From this angle, the art of the interview is meant to capture memories of someone close to me. It’s about accepting the passage of time and how we age and the weight that our bodies carry… I am asking the questions that I’ve always been afraid to ask.

I’ve had to pace myself on the questions and background write ups for the Extended Eulogies work because every time I let myself delve into the content, to feel the questions and anticipate the answers, to gauge how the interview will likely flow, and where I want to go with it… I cry. Because unlike my usual work with survey design… this is about designing memories around my grandfather.

The categories broke into Memory, Love, Family, Life’s Questions, Work and Creative Outlets. Each one with a its own set of questions and moments I want to uncover and preserve.

I am using the StoryCorps app that is part of the 2015 TED Prize. It makes it easy to build short survey blocks and record the conversation directly into an easy to upload format.

A handful of the interviews and questions I've organized for Monday
A handful of the interviews and questions I’ve organized for Monday

As I modified my notes into a short set of questions for each theme. We’ll get to 7-10 open ended questions in 40 minutes. This is a very new research format for me, since I am usually trying to capture missing information, not the pulse of someone’s thoughts and the ways that they organize and feel through their memories. I think this requires much more open-ended-ness and a willingness to be fully present to encourage the conversation to flow in the directions it can go.

In total, there will be 7 themes that we discuss. I am beginning with more concrete memories: Work & Family… and then moving into the abstract. What does Self Care mean to you? What are some of “Life’s Questions” worth asking?

We will work together for all of Monday August 31, 2015 to produce these interviews. Wish us luck! We’re both excited.

I found this RadioLab episode about memory… what we remember and what we forget. They are joined by the late Oliver Sacks, and it felt like it was an appropriate addition to this conversation. 

Paths Divergent (and the strong ladies who teach us what it means to live)

I stood on the sidewalk outside a cafe this afternoon, East 9th street, just off 2nd Avenue, with tears hidden behind massive sunglasses, croaking goodbyes into my cellphone and a number on the other end that will soon disappear.

I was an activist in college. I was sure of it. It defined me — in the columns I wrote for the Yale Daily News, in hours I spent on Monday evenings moderating debates and drafting policy recommendations, and on the weekends when I left campus to explore other parts of New Haven.

Most importantly, I wrote this to explain some of the reasons I showed up every day. [I also wrote about how I struggle with my name and awkwardly asking people to pronounce it right, d’yah’nah… there were a lot of identity conversations on the MEChA blog.]

Today, I said goodbye, one last time to the woman who raised me and was there while I was burning my fingertips learning to cook properly in our kitchen. She was there when I needed to learn to repair my pants when I fell and tore open the knees. And she was there to listen to my sometimes broken language, when I was struggling between English and Spanish and formats for language that never quite captured what I needed to explain.

Her letters to me some mornings, when I was getting ready to leave for ever lengthening trips away from home, were filled with loopy letters and blessings for my expeditions into uncertainty.

I croaked goodbye into my cellphone, as her voice urged me off the phone so I wouldn’t hear her own voice crack as she cried too.

But we don’t forget these people. These strong women who show us what it means to live and be loved. We hold onto them.

I don’t believe in goodbyes. Maybe because I’m terrible at them. I refuse to accept this as anything other than an “I’ll see you soon. In another place. With other people and other contexts and the same love we both grew around each other.”

But just in case, call your mother.

On Raising Strong Daughters. And Feminist Sons.

I was a very lucky little girl who had a very loving, feminist father who supported people he worked with if he believed in their ideas, regardless of their gender or background. If they had something important to say, he created a space for them to say it. He also told me to never settle for anything less than what I wanted and could work towards.

Which leaves me with an important responsibility: to figure out and be able to explain what I want.

This, ladies [EVERYBODY], comes in a variety of different flavors.

When I first decided I needed to have a cellphone, because coordinating all of my activities with my parents’ schedules from other people’s phones when I was in high school was getting to be too complicated, I wrote a “proposal.” I wrote a 10 page proposal explaining the overall impact my own cell phone would have on all of our lives, measuring impact on time spent traveling, overall frustration/communication levels, and several other metrics that I defined for my purposes. He smiled. [And I was successful.]

When I decided what university I wanted to go to and I defended my reasoning, he smiled. “Go for it,” he said.

When I started seriously dating, I defined what I wanted in my relationships. What was hardline “I cannot exist happily without these things,” what was negotiable, and what were my deal breakers. I am still navigating these things and learning as I go, but my father watched me stand up for myself and negotiate my relationships the same way I negotiated my freelance contracts, and he smiled.

I was taught that making decisions and standing up for them was good and expected from women. That being strong is attractive and important to doing good work.

What I “learned” in college, and find myself in the process of “un-learning” to some degree, is that women are expected to be “chill” and “go with the flow.” Full disclosure: I am not “chill,” I am more like very-carefully-planned-with-some-spontaneous-adventure-thrown-in. I think, for me, trying to be more “chill” lead to toxic relationships. In other cases (meaning, with my friends and peers), I saw scenarios where too often women are afraid to ask for what they want, pursue jobs they are capable of doing better than their peers, and they turn against themselves.

Beyond me, my Dad taught his son to respect women who make decisions and stand up for themselves and aren’t afraid of being the smartest person in the room. For that, Nico will always stick up for them. And for me.

On a different note, this is one of my favorite expressions of love on the internet: “To The Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter.” This describes elements of the relationship I have with my father. We both watched it and cackled to ourselves in unison. The humor and imagery comes from a place meant to communicate ease and confidence in his child… but he also worries. A lot. Which is endearing. He’s going to worry a lot, forever, but he also knows, as the poet warns, that ” if you hurt her, she will not keep your secret. You cannot make fire feel afraid.” Damn right.

It’s pretty awesome that he just gets it. I wish for more feminist Dads and brothers and allies, but ladies, it’s also up to you to define what’s worth chasing.