Three ways to zone out (remotely)

It’s Tuesday.


I wake up at a reasonable time, shower, and make a quick cup of coffee on my way out the door.

I walk a few blocks to BART and then hop off at the Embarcadero station.

I make my way up to the office, directly to a second cup of coffee. While it’s brewing, I stare out the window watching people find their way through their day.

Meetings and emails pass and I head to a bar to meet a friend for a drink. I’m early, but don’t mind finding a spot to sit and wait.


What do I mean when I say “queer”?

Queer: shorthand for some subset of LGBTQIA+ or to describe someone who isn’t cisgender (cis) or heterosexual (het). Also a 16th century way of saying ‘odd’.

And, in some cases, a slur.

In the early 1990s, a leaflet, QUEERS READ THIS, offered one of the earliest justifications for the reclamation of ‘queer’ in the contemporary sense, as a term of power, rather than a tool for homophobes. It reads:

Well, yes, “gay “ is great. It has its place. But when a lot of lesbians and gay men wake up in the morning we feel angry and disgusted, not gay…

A simple, non-shitty guide to finding mental health support

It’s 2016, and I’ve literally googled “gay therapist 94102', hoping the qualified, gay, handsome-but-not-too-attractive therapist of my dreams would manifest on my screen.

google search for ‘gay therapist 94102’

Instead, I find myself clicking through a handful of local therapy centers and support groups, eventually landing on Psychology Today.

A long search and a few emails later, I had my first therapy appointment scheduled.

Seven ways I’m trying

No matter where you’re reading this from, your life has almost certainly changed in some unexpected ways in the last several weeks.

Social distancing means fewer hugs and high fives, and more waves from a safe distance. Sheltering in places means limiting visits to new spaces or friends’ homes, and more anxiety-inducing visits to the grocery store. Covering our faces with masks means fewer smiles and less conversation.

The world seems to be both falling apart and healing itself. We’re slowing down, yet also moving quickly to help others.

All of this is to say, there is a lot of…

Why we’re designing towards happier, healthier lives for young LGBTQIA+ people (and how you can help)

Open your favorite search engine and type in ‘LGBTQ Youth’.

gif of searching for these terms using the google search engine
gif of searching for these terms using the google search engine

One of the first things you’ll likely see, featured in a small box on the right, reads: Research has found that attempted suicide rates and suicidal ideation among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc youth is significantly higher than among the general population.

Scroll down a bit and you’ll see countless articles, support services, and research studies with headlines like:

  • Acceptance among young LGBTQ Americans has decreased from 2017 to 2019 ¹
  • Despite decades of research on treatment for adolescent depression, LGBTQ youths remain a particularly at-risk group ²
  • 2 in…

We can learn a lot from the next generation

Photos: SecondMuse | Location: Artists for Humanity

Recently, while digging a bit deeper into my own connection to human-centered design and inclusivity, I came across a simple yet powerful mantra:

Nothing about us, without us.

This phrase, with origins in Central European politics, came into use through disability activism during the 1990s. The idea is simple: Never create something for a group of people, without that same group of people being involved in the creation.

It sounds simple, yet it’s often overlooked or replaced with customer personas and unchecked assumptions about a specific community. …

Anyone who has gone through the process of coming out knows (or soon finds out) that you never do it just once.

When I came out to my family, I had just ended my first relationship with a man — a feeling that was both terrifying and exciting. While I had come out to most of my friends in San Francisco, I had decided it was unfair to be with another person who was hidden from my family.

So, I booked a flight home with the intent of saying two words: I’m gay.

There are few moments in my life…

I am obsessed with questions.

Particularly, questions that come from a place of curiosity and sincerity; the ones that are not this:

Hi, how are you?

Great!* And you?


When we put effort into the questions we ask and answers we share, we gain the power to form connections and build understanding. To challenge our unconscious biases and make us fall in love.

My obsession with asking questions has, over time, morphed into collecting them.

From the rhetorical:

What if I’m right?

To ones that surface internal dilemmas:

If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly…

Happiness is like an orgasm: if you think about it too much, it goes away.
– Tim Minchin, Occasional Address

There’s a lot of truth in this quip. Spending your time obsessing over happiness is a sure way to never find it.

Happiness, for me, shows up when I’m out in nature, connecting with someone new, sharing a few beers with friends, meditating, etc.

Happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue.
– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

If happiness is the result of the things we do, how can we ensure it ensues without being pursued?

One possible answer…

Your date goes to the bathroom. You’re waiting in line to order coffee. You’ve just finished a meeting.

What’s the first thing you do?

For me, it’s checking my phone.

On average, we’re checking our phones 50 times a day.

I took a guess at how many times I was checking my phone daily, and settled on 35 — about twice an hour while I’m awake.

My actual number?


Turns out, unsurprisingly so, that most people underestimate the amount of time they’re checking their phones. In fact, people are using their phones twice as much as they self-report.


Joshua Lavra

focused on human ways to support the health and happiness of young queer people @Hopelab. formerly @IDEO @EY_Doberman @AirLiquideGroup

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