netpositive: (firehand)
[personal profile] netpositive
We, so tired of all the darkness in our lives...
    Some years ago, I realized that the concept of
    “noblesse oblige” was strongly ingrained in me
    almost to the point of deformation of character,
    traits and abilities. That in some way one (I)
    is always required to do the “highest” duty one can –
    that one must devote oneself to the most complicated,
    abstract, mentally-intensive work one is capable of
    performing – because there are many people who can't
    do that kind of thing, and it's unfair of one to not
    live up to one's potential when others can't do it.

    So I felt like I was not supposed to – or more like,
    allowed – to do things that “just anyone could do”.
    Or anything that might be the only thing someone
    else could do – that I couldn't take anyone else's
    job away from them.

    Of course, there's a lot of definitional questions of
    what that would involve (or exclude). Mostly it seems
    to involve concrete thinking (anyone can read or write
    simple things, add numbers together...) or practical/
    household skills (anyone can clean a room or polish
    furniture or dig a hole...) or physical techniques
    (anyone can do rudimentary sewing to repair clothes,
    or paint a wall, or drive a car, etc.).

    So there are many things I'm not supposed to waste my
    time learning, much less doing, because I am “too smart”
    for that.


We are young but getting old before our time...
    I was pondering this because my dad, specifically, is a
    very “handy” type of person (he worked as a machinist
    mate in the Navy, and then was a mechanic in the Martin
    airplane factory before he went into teaching). Yet
    while I helped him with several home and/or car repair
    projects, I don't feel like I ever learned much in the
    way of actual, systematic repair skills or techniques
    from him – i.e. how to analyze a concrete problem and
    then either troubleshoot or resolve it.

    Did I ask my dad to teach me? No, but I'm wondering if
    that was a subtler version of my “don't bother someone
    if they are busy” fear. Could he have taught me that way,
    those things? I have no idea, though the times I watched
    him as a teacher or heard him tell stories, I know he's
    very emphatic and intent on teaching people things that
    are applicable to their lives.

    Either it just didn't dawn on him that he could (or should)
    teach me those type of things (but certainly he did share
    other things with me) – or maybe he tried to and I didn't
    have the capacity to learn that kind of thing (though I
    do like to solve things systematically) – or maybe, as I
    perceive it right now, the expectation was that I should
    be learning the highest-level abstract things I possibly
    could so that I could aspire to bigger and better things
    than being a janitor or repairman or farmer or factory worker.

    Similarly, my mother went to college and became a teacher
    because she was intelligent, and that was an intellectual job
    that was acceptable for women back in the 50s, not to mention
    the fact that my father was doing the same thing and she wanted
    to be with him.... but she didn't like teaching, it wasn't a
    good fit for her personality. The rest of her jobs went
    “backwards” from that – from basic office/clerical tasks in
    my grade school, to being a meat cutter/cashier at the local
    grocery store, to her last attempt to work as an expert/
    salesperson in a craft store... where my own perception is
    that she panicked at the added responsibility, began to feel
    like she had failed/was about to fail, and got sick in order
    to quit.

    Which goes back to, I'm not supposed to take someone else's job.
    I'm not allowed to do simple work or tasks. I feel like I have
    to do what other people expect me to do, or need me to do because
    they can't. That I am trapped into doing intellectual work, or
    thinking academic thoughts, all the time, and forever.

    I fear that if I take any time off – or if I stop doing this
    type of work for any reason – I'll be perceived as quitting,
    or irresponsible, or failing my potential and not fulfilling
    (others') expectations. (Also that if I then try to go back
    to doing it, I will have lost all ability for it. I already
    have a lot of that fear just in the fact that I've done little
    explicit user-centered design or testing in the last year.)

    I don't know that I would want to stop doing it completely and
    permanently – I am good at it and there is some value in it –
    but I've been in some version of the “information sciences”
    field for over 25 years (if you count my library assistant/
    grad school years, it's been 26 years where this has been my
    career path) and am now feeling quite a bit exhausted by both
    the constant change, challenge and pressure of having to learn
    new things to “keep up with the field”, and the parallel feeling
    that actually both the problems and solutions just keep getting
    recycled rather than actually resolved.

We'll leave the TV and the radio behind...
    At this point in the formal essay-writing process, the
    expectation is: having discussed the fundamental issue,
    one should now propose realistic ideas or suggestions
    to resolve the problem and not play “yes, but...” with
    the reading audience. However, I don't feel able to
    find solutions or possibilities that aren't radically
    drastic and thus perceived to be unrealistic since people
    don't dramatically change all at once – if they think
    they do, it tends to be a “Flitcraft moment” where they
    move out of their pattern briefly but eventually lapse
    back into the same type of existence they ran away from
    previously. Because as Buckaroo Banzai and all the Buddhas
    say, “Wherever you go in life, there you are.”

Don't you wonder what we'll find
Stepping out tonight--

    I don't feel like I can stay the same.

    But I don't feel like I'm allowed to change, either.

    And there's damn little fruit juice in this bottle....

We'll be there in just a while...
If you follow me
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February 2013

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