What Matters: Alberto Rigau and the Art of Staying Curious
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: Alberto Rigau, a Puerto Rican educator, practitioner, husband and father of two who processes the world’s experience through design.
What is the thing you like doing most in the world?
Watching my young toddlers interact with the world around them. I find seeing them interact with new experiences to be gratifying and inspiring. As they troubleshoot to decipher their environment, I myself rediscover my context.
What is the first memory you have of being creative?
Through my father I grew up surrounded by architecture, art and design. My elementary school summers are marked by art-related courses in drawing, painting and even ceramics, but it was not until a computer made it into my life that I began exploring/creating on my own. Its arrival had me solving as many problems as I could, and, for an annual family gathering, I made/printed a business card that read something along the lines of: I am one year older than the last time we saw each other. I have grown X inches. I weigh X pounds. I am now in Xth grade. I love eating X and X. I am happy to see you, too! (I really did not like attending those events.) Sadly, no example of the card remains, but its story and the impact it caused is engraved in family lore.
What is your biggest regret?
One summer I was offered an opportunity to teach in a study abroad program but I declined over the prospect of working on a corporate project. Even though I won the bid (and it eventually led to meaningful work), my decision still haunts me because I made it solely for monetary reasons. At the time I was buried in debt and was not able to consider options, and I’ve often wondered how different my life would have been had I taken the other road.
How have you gotten over heartbreak?
My paternal grandfather passed away in 2002. Even though I had the opportunity to spend the first 21 years of my life with him, I have now lived 19 years without him—and I still terribly miss him. Every new experience I have inevitably leads me to think of him, and to wish, for a second, that he could still be here with me. Evidently, I am not over his loss (who really ever is), but as a way forward, I gave my baby boy his name, in hopes that he will somehow become as wonderful as my grandfather was.
What makes you cry?
I am not sure how it exactly got to be this way, but I don’t typically resort to crying as an emotional output, response or decompressive gesture. Emotional processing usually takes place within me, and at a much slower pace. It turns into a sort of weeks’-long conversation with myself and my thoughts. Now it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, but the most recent event took place in 2017 when my first baby was born, and prior to that, 15 years earlier, when my grandfather passed away.
How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?
I don’t have a quantitative response to this, but not long enough. Thinking about it makes me realize that right after “the high,” my modus operandi swallows me back into patterned action and I constantly forget my own accomplishments, but more importantly, what led to them. I don’t know if other people go through this, but when I look back on certain days I feel much prouder than others. I lack consistency.
Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?
I hope for an afterlife where the energy of our consciousness goes back into the energy of the earth and its lifeforce.
What do you hate most about yourself?
My brain doesn’t store long-term memories efficiently and I forget everything from dates, people’s names and texts that I’ve read, to experiences I’ve had. The older the memory the blurrier and blended they get, and it gets frustrating.
What do you love most about yourself?
I have managed to stay curious. I genuinely believe that every situation has something new that I can learn, so I face new experiences with such a mentality. In part this is due to how I was raised, but also to my undergraduate studies in anthropology. Daily life never feels repetitive.
What is your absolute favorite meal?
Mofongo (a smashed plantain dish).