What Matters: Bryony Gomez-Palacio on Rallying Reactions

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Debbie Millman has started a new project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an ongoing effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer 10 identical questions, and submit a decidedly nonprofessional photograph.

Up next: Bryony Gomez-Palacio. Born and raised in Mexico City, Gomez-Palacio is the co-founder of UnderConsideration and has spent the last two decades writing books, launching blogs and starting projects like the Brand New Conference and First Round. When not obsessing about all things design or hand-making materials for the conferences, she serves her current town of Bloomington, IN, as chair to the Bloomington Arts Commission and board member to the Dimension Mill, a startup incubator. In her spare time she parents two humans and four dogs with her partner in all things worthwhile, Armin Vit.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Enabling a reaction in others; one that enables growth, introspection or a glimpse of joy is preferable, but a reaction of any kind will often do. Ideally one that causes a chain reaction of events or relationships, one that has the potential of becoming a “before and/or after” moment for someone that might be minuscule in the grand scheme of things, or life-changing. The beauty lies in the not knowing, but allowing the opportunity for something to take place.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

Oh my. My mother is a fine artist who homeschooled me and my four brothers in a remote farm in the mountains of Mexico without electricity when I was in pre-school/kindergarten. I’d be hard-pressed to find a noncreative moment … so for chuckles I’ll share the moment when I realized my upbringing was uniquely unusual. Second semester of college, and my classmates are nervously giggling as we enter Day 1 of Life Drawing class—I finally understood why my mother needed to know if I was bringing a friend over after school when she was teaching a drawing class. Guess most people didn’t have naked people posing for hours on end in their home several times a week!

What is your biggest regret?

I keep skipping this question. It has been three days now, and I can’t think of one. I know I have made bad choices and mistakes galore in my life, but I am OK with them—they have taken me to where I am now, and I relish my today. So, no regrets for me.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

By pushing myself into something so hard I distract myself from what was. Keeping my mind busy, my hands busy and my body tired.

What makes you cry?

Thinking of my brother Carlos (1972–1994). Thinking, watching, witnessing anything ballet related—my first love that I had to leave behind when my body could not take it anymore. Books …

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

Never. My growth does not spoil the pride and joy of the accomplishment that matched my then-abilities in a particular moment of my life. I recall those moments with great fondness not only for the pride and joy they provided then, but for the foundation they created for further successes.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I don’t. I believe in the today-life where our focus should reside, not in the yearning of something else, or a promise of better.

What do you hate most about yourself?

In all things, I am way too serious. I really need to learn how to lighten up.

What do you love most about yourself?

I follow my gut, and my gut is resilient and loves challenge and adventure. Not in the “go skydiving at midnight” kind of way, more in the “take the path less traveled with only a toothbrush” kind of way. It rarely leads me to the status-quo solution or to do the sane/expected thing. This in turn creates a ripple of cause and effect on those around me, thus bringing me full circle to that which gives me most pleasure—questions, reactions, change.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

Mango and avocado. Together, or not. Can’t choose just the one.