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Noblesse oblige (3) - My Little Journal of Positivity

About Noblesse oblige (3)

Previous Entry Noblesse oblige (3) Feb. 21st, 2013 @ 07:33 pm
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


Originally posted on Dreamwidth as http://netpositive.dreamwidth.org/76641.html . Do comment either hither or yon, as you see fit.
(seem to be a) verb: too used to starving?
Soundtrack: Joe Jackson - Stepping Out [At the BBC]
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From:starfyrone
Date:February 22nd, 2013 03:49 am (UTC)

“noblesse oblige”

(Link)
Yes, it can be terribly destructive.

It forces you to endure when you know others can't.
It forces you to do when others are content to be idle.
It forces you to excel when 'good enough' would do.
It forces you to be patient with others,
even when they don't deserve it,
because "one must make allowances for lesser beings".

And it forces you to realize that as hard as you try.
As much as you strive.
It could always have been better.
You could have done more.

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From:squishydish
Date:February 22nd, 2013 08:19 am (UTC)
(Link)
A few years and a couple of jobs ago, I was always being the hero, doing massive unpaid overtime to keep the work up to what I considered professional standards, and my health and personal life slide further and further under. It was extremely disheartening to realize that not only was no one else doing the same or willing to substitute for me, but nobody even appreciated what I was doing. I was working flat-out, all the time, and they took that for granted and kept loading *more* stuff on, and told me "work smarter not harder" -- really adding insult to injury, the way they assumed I was being inefficient! All this is to say that although I can't really provide any helpful advice for you, I do sympathize with your situation.
Also, I thought your Joe Jackson framing was really neat.
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From:ladymondegreen
Date:February 22nd, 2013 05:56 pm (UTC)
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This resonates with me on so many levels. I feel like I've been suffering a level of empathy and intellectual burnout mostly caused by being a bad fit for the current description of my job and the expectations that are being heaped on me.

I grew up with a lot of the same expectations and assumptions you outline here, and I've often wondered what it would be like to put down the mountain, so over the last five years, I've been experimenting with staking a claim on my own time, and trying out healthier thinking and positivity where I had previously resorted to upset and resentment. I find it's working better for me, though slowly.

I wish you much good luck and renewed energy.
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From:whuffle
Date:February 22nd, 2013 10:48 pm (UTC)
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A good set of insights, if hard to swallow at a personal level. We're not taught how to just be and find it satisfying. We are taught that we should constantly be striving to be better, do more, earn more, become powerful. What does that power and money get us? I think that's the question at the bottom that we need to answer for ourselves in order to be able to start quieting those voices. Because if we are earning enough and we have a level of power with which we are satisfied, do we truly need to be more? Or is it just going to add an unnecessary weight to our shoulders?
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From:phoenix_glow
Date:February 24th, 2013 03:04 am (UTC)
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Sounds like a lot to ponder. It is possible to change in very small steps. I read a really cool book about that not too long ago
One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer. You might check it out if it strikes your fancy.
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From:vvalkyri
Date:March 2nd, 2013 05:54 am (UTC)
(Link)
I really admire your ability to identify this.
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