- 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”
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
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
Originally posted on Dreamwidth as http://netpositive.dreamwidth.org/76641.html . Do comment either hither or yon, as you see fit.