As I look back through my life, work inclusive, I see a very clear pattern. From early on, I became a rather independent person who preferred to be alone. It came out through things I did, and the ways I acted, and I didn't realize it.
I touched on this briefly last year:
Some of my choices [in life and work] gave me this opportunity to be invisible. Photography, as I discussed with my friend Paul this weekend, let me hide behind a camera. Doing work in computers let me hide behind a screen. Hiding. Not showing myself.
That's not a coincidence; it's how I operated. I did things on my own so that I could get all of the credit, all of the attention, all of the joy - and I ignored the "all of the blame" part.
The other day I had the good fortune to participate in a friend's design class; she invited me to critique her students' final presentations. We got to talking over lunch and learned we both love photography. She asked what kind of photography I liked - I answered architectural. When it came to explaining why, though, a light bulb went off in my head: there are no people in those pictures. None.
Buildings aren't people. They don't move spontaneously (usually). They don't show emotion as people do. They are not alive. They are objects ultimately. Those facets coupled with my overwhelming comfort to do things solo, preferably behind a screen, was showing up in my art.
And the attempts to include people were very slow and cautious... experiments. I recall an assignment from my high school photo class in which we needed to photograph strangers. And wow, for an introvert like me? That was terrifying. But I did it, and some of the photos were quite nice. Years and years later, I dabbled in anonymous street photography (still hidden). And I did end up doing portraits of friends, some with constructed scenarios and some for more formal holiday cards.
UX Without People
There's a direct comparison to my day job and my work. I started programming, solo. I slowly reached out to BBSes, GEnie, and user groups and later thrived in a US mail-based user group. Eventually I became fascinated by the ways software and hardware interacted with people, and so I moved over to UI - still not working directly with users, but closer. My first gigs in UX didn't involve research nor talking with users, so I had to be a magical idea person. Finally, now I'm in UX and life work where I must work with people in order to help them.
(As an aside, this also shows up here: you're reading this, but it's not a conversation and I'm not getting any feedback in the moment. That's actually easier for me to handle, otherwise we might be talking about it. At one point I conflated blogs and journals and even Twitter with directness. But there's a layer between us, a technology and societal messiness that is in our way. I love that we can still connect about this topic, or something else, even though this is not a conversation.)
So I understand that whole "magical UX/Creative genius" thing because I really loved being that person, and early in my career I really couldn't see myself as not being that person. It is an amazing feeling to be the one who comes up with all of these ideas out of thin air and all of them are loved. (Or most of them.) That's exciting. That's fun. But it's not enough. It doesn't work without people because life doesn't work without people.
Observation, understanding, action
In and of itself, noticing this pattern isn't action. It doesn't change anything in and of itself. But being highly observant of my behaviors and my patterns, both in the present and in the past, helps me be far more mindful and present now.