Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention. 
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
--Mary Oliver

Ready to spill some dirt.

Let's talk, y'all. Actually, I will do the talking -- all you have to to is listen. Ooh, am I nervous about this. I feel like poor old Jerry Maguire handing around his mission statement.

But, if you've read any of the camp recaps, you know that the first thing I tell my campers is: BE BRAVE. In fact, part of my decision to write this was informed by my experiences at design camp: something happens there in which genuine connection and community is built in a really short amount of time, which phenomenon is truly astonishing to see and be a part of.

I also tell my campers that design can change your life. And, OH HELL YES IT CAN. I believe that with my whole heart. People need a little more pretty in their lives. And a little more pretty helps to burnish those ragged edges of real life.

With that said, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the direction in which I want this site to go, and what I want it to be. I've been writing online for over ten years now, and this blog has gone through so many iterations I can't remember them all. Once upon a time, this was a personal diary, where I talked about my feelings and emotions and what chapter books my first-grader was reading. Then that little girl grew up and this space became a design blog, and I feel like somewhere along the line it lost its voice.

The thing about design blogs is that they often give the illusion of perfection: that every single detail of life is under control; that everything is shiny and beautiful and styled just-so; that there is no dirty laundry shoved behind a closet door. We all do it, of course -- it's human nature to want to present one's best self (or one's best table vignette) to the world. And it is one of my greatest pleasures to present a lovely, aspirational world to you. As I said before, this positive skewing of life is a great counter-balance to the pressures of reality. But this ginned-up perfection also comes with its own set of problems.

Perhaps you are thinking, “What in the damn hell kind of problems might you encounter while taking photos of outfits and jetting off to parts unknown every week or so?” And you'd be right to ask: to the casual observer, my life seems easy, and simple, and my job seems kind of not like a job. But there is a funny kind of pressure that comes with pretending everything is wonderfully perfect all of the time. It's not honest, or brave, or authentic, and frankly, it's kind of exhausting. There are many, many people out there who are great at this kind of job, and I have nothing but the utmost admiration for them. Sometimes I feel like I'm scrambling to keep up. But maybe I don't need to keep up. Maybe I need to bring it down a notch. Maybe I need to bring some of that true, authentic, camp-type connection right here to this blog.

So while is still going to be entertaining and delightful and inspirational -- I'm still going to post pretty things; I'm still going to hold super-fun design camps; and I am certainly not going to stop posting headless photos or painting things white -- I want to reset things a bit. Let's just put it out on front street: this site is no longer about the mere superficial. My grand plan is to co-opt the space where, interspersed with all of the pretty things, I share personal things too. Where I show you more of my real self again. Where I get some dirt on my hands. Where things maybe get a little sloppy, because sometimes, you know, life is fucking messy.

I also want to get back to that place where I write in a meaningful way. Through all of this site's transformations and permutations, I was and always will be a writer first. Mary Karr, memoirist extraordinaire, once said, "I believe a writer makes a contract with the reader to tell the truth." I'm going to try to listen to that voice. Maybe it will invite criticism, or complaints, or comments and suggestions I am afraid to hear. But I've learned recently that if I can't take responsibility for my own words, I'm probably the asshole in the scenario.

So, let's recap: I'm tired of hiding. I'm tired of pretending that everything is perfect when it really ain't. I'm tired of falling back into the same old easy patterns of posting. I'm tired of being a headless cipher with a one-note voice.

I do have a head, y'all. And I aim to use it.

That this new blog philosophy meshes up with the major changes happening in my life is no coincidence. Madeleine's graduation isn't the only thing on our minds, although obviously that has been the main event -- but now it is over. And my beautiful, nearly-grown daughter will soon be off to college, where she will begin forming her own story to tell. But that hasn't been the only thing going down, of course. Life still happens to you while you are busy ordering caps and gowns. The last year, and more specifically the last six months, have unfolded like some ridiculous screwball comedy (of errors). And the next few months are sure to serve up even more challenges as we all settle into our new places in life. I want to tell you those stories, and I will, in time. Don't be thinking I'm vague-blogging here: I am going to get to them all, and I hope you'll be patient as I ease into it.

Now, you know I'm not promising a college-length essay every day, or even every week. Sometimes I might just show you a photograph. Sometimes I'll take you along as I attempt to cross something off that big old life list. Sometimes it will just be a sentence or two. But it will be my sentence, and it will be real, and it is my fervent hope that you will jump in beside me for the ride.

Whew. That was a lot of words. Let's call it a day. Be brave out there.

AuthorAB Chao