It took a pandemic
For the masses to stop driving
For the unhoused to be offered homes
For support workers to be seen as heroes
For the gig economy to be considered essential
For technology to innovate for schools in poor neighborhoods
For mass incarceration to be challenged beyond dominant narratives
For light pollution to make way for starry city nights
For neighbors to frequent local businesses
For individuals to listen for themselves
For families to process together
What are new planners supposed to do with that? Let’s go with the dominant narrative that we’re the newest wave of experts worthy of influencing these systems. Here’s what I hope you do:
It’s a tragic and transformative time for humanity that’ll impact each of us differently. Professionally, what we’ve explored, discussed, and challenged while earning this degree can help frame and guide a powerful shift. Start by embracing that we have the knowledge and global network to address anything that comes our way, that we’re not alone, and that we were already enough when we started. Embrace real self-care (Google it – not just niceties and indulgences) and get ready to work. Let’s prepare to utilize this Cal alumni status effectively.
Get familiar with the vision you have for your own future if you’re not already, and the vision you have for the improved transportation, administration, infrastructure, workforce, housing, education, technology, and flow in cities. Visit places and collect reminders like drawings and trinkets to register the vision with all of your senses. Talk or write about them when you can to allow yourself to process the information. Try rapping about it in the mirror like Issa Rae’s character on Insecure to hear yourself have fun with it! Trust me.
If you’ll be rapping your city vision in the mirror, like Issa, you’re already on to the next step. Proactively invite evolution by doing things differently. Try for yourself, for the cities you intend to impact, and for the world. A surge of collective creativity right now could help break some of the holding patterns society’s been stuck in for decades – in some cases, generations. Starting in fun ways with yourself is an easy way to practice, but do not underestimate how powerful it is.
You’re in the perfect position to reach your next level and to influence the new norm at the same time! As a recent graduate in an unprecedented situation, shake the expectations of others off, listen for what resonates with you, and think about how the world shutting down at this level might give you the space to set in motion those ideas that would have almost certainly been gobbled up and spit out by the machine, pre-pandemic. Connect with classmates & faculty who were like-minded, a formidable challenge, or stood out to you, and let them know you’d like to keep in touch and bounce ideas off of each other sometimes. Utilize this deconstructed phase as a launchpad for what moves you.