Life: the Ultimate User Experience

The seasoning on the chips is slightly spicy. We each go in turn sharing the chips and salsa. Her piercing blue eyes stare into my brown ones, directly, genuinely. “You’re worth it.”

Our conversation bounces around as we share the veggie nachos. We excitedly chit chat about the success of the weekend, the ideas and thrill of new opportunities to come, and occasionally make our way off into la la land; always returning to the ever present realization that things are happening, we are growing something, and each of us is flourishing in our own personal dreams and goals.

The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.
— John Burroughs

New energy

Deciding to head to Norfolk was a challenging decision for me. So many options pulled me in so many directions when I transitioned from Charlottesville, but the excitement of being part of an energy, purpose, and vision I’d not experienced before was overwhelming yet intimidating. Would I be useful? Would I be efficient and able to serve a purpose?

I’ve since realized that anytime I dedicate myself to something, I am helpful to those who need and want help. I can serve a purpose. I’m worth it.

It was the most fun time I’ve had in a long while, a genuinely good time. Our goofy pictures and silly jokes made me nostalgic for middle school. Seeing some of my best friends, born out of my time in Ghent, is always a rewarding experience. It’s nice to come back to a place where you know people and will randomly run into someone or can be assured there’s someone around who’ll grab dinner and a beer.

The essence of Intention

As I practice being a bit more conscious of my mental attitude and internal monologe, I notice that life becomes a much more pleasant experience. I truly believe, but am not perfect at practicing, that fully experiencing life requires one to be conscious. How can I really be living if my mental mantra has me traveling by time machine to a non-existent point in the distant future or alternate what-if-reality that I’ve fabricated in my mind? The great opportunity is here and now, and life just keeps unfolding my dreams in front of me when I remember to give myself direction, but detach from the destination. That is the essence of Intention.

Of course, life constantly shows me that I’m not perfect at this, and that I will never be perfect at this because I am human. Slowly, I am learning to accept this, and forgive myself when I get wrapped up in some big production idea or negative neuroticism.

Knowledge is power

It’s difficult for me to even express in words the immense knowledge I gained from my experiences in Norfolk. It was truly that; an experience. I studied user experience in college, and still provide that design service on special projects. Why does someone enjoy a particular app or website? What compels him or her to return? Life is the ultimate user experience if you stop and smell the roses. It is so easy to get swept away in the could be's and shoulda-coulda-woulda's. What-ifs are the seeds of inspiration, and are necessary in order to build dreams. The challenge is having the desire and passion to achieve my goals, and understand those goals while being detached from any specific result or outcome. I try to take it one day at a time and appreciate the beauty and opportunity right in front of my face. Not all things can be. What’s meant to be will be. That’s my philosophy anyway.


After all the laughs, jokes, thoughts, ideas, rambling sessions, coffees, beers, tacos, quesadillas, coffee shop squatting, plants, terrarium kits, side-walk-chalking-the-city, photographing, brainstorming, Autism Awareness Concerts, hanging stuff from the ceiling, talking with random people, decorating, treating a good friend to birthday coffee, Cogan's Classic, and Clean the Bay litter pickups, the essence of it boils down to the impromptu decision to attend Norfolk’s Downtown 100 Annual Event and Social.

After one beer, awards, progress updates, and lots of clapping, Drew Ungvarsky took the stage. I was shocked at how young he is. I guess there’s no age restriction on being a successful visionary. Despite building a booming Interactive Media Advertising company, Grow Interactive, Drew said, he needed to be involved in something more. He wants to grow Norfolk to be a place people want to live. He wants to get involved in his community and make a difference. He has done just that. He has led or provided input or direction on various initiatives around Norfolk, one of which is the Free Home to Good Ideas space, 433 Granby St., where #teamGlassGardens had the pleasure to popup for the weekend. A result of involvement in these initiatives, and building Grow, was a very inspiring message about what it takes to get a project that you’re passionate about off the ground and ensure that it succeeds.

To boil it down: Be a champion. Practice small acts. Do it, otherwise you won’t know if it will work. Build a team of people with resources and skills. “Have clear, smart, prioritized requests.”

I was in the right place at the right time, and it was an amazing, and I think rare, experience to hear him speak in this type of setting. I really lucked out. It was exactly what I needed to hear, on top of all the encouragement my other friends and team had given me. It was like the cherry on top.

The Small Act that stood out most among them all on this particular adventure was to appreciate the experience in the moment, to really savor it, to be there, living it and giving love and energy. That is where the opportunity lies. Listening, engaging with others, and being ready to appreciate whatever life throws your way, good or bad. Building on this, when an opportunity knocks I can decide if I want to be a champion for it. I can contribute something toward it, a Small Act. I can try for the sake of curiosity to see if it’s something that can work for my vision. I can find others to help support it in various ways. I can be smart about the way I ask for help. 

Believe in yourself and be there for each other

I still pick up cans and used fast food cups from the side of the street and cart them home in my backpack. These Small Acts become a part of my daily routine and have become second nature. I yearn for even more; so much, do I want to build something that creates good and has a lasting positive impact. After leaving Norfolk, I believe that is possible, and I am well on my way.

Simply believing in yourself is sometimes all you need to take flight and create the life you want to live. Encouragement and support can make all the difference too. Be there for each other. Small Acts Count.