Archive for the ‘lessons’ Category

I went to 3 different grad schools (two for Comm. Sciences & Disorders programs, and one for Secondary Ed).  Only finished the 3rd one.  I’d explain, but it’s a long story plus I have sold the rights to the Lifetime channel, who will be making a t.v. movie of it starring Meredith Baxter-Birney, costarring Danielle Brisbois as the sassy neighbor.

But I digress.

One summer evening in 1997, I was glaring at application forms.  I was in the middle of round 2 of applying for grad school.  I’d done everything but the essays.  Oh lordy, the essays.  You’d think since I like to write I wouldn’t mind doing essays, but for academic purposes I very much do.  Mind it.  With multiple choice tests, you circle answers and, right or wrong, you’re done.  With an essay, when are you done?  Some might say you are never truly done with a piece of writing.  Yes, well, for something that will be assessed, I find that fact unsettling and unsatisfying.

So, glaring at the applications.  Deeply wishing that some deus ex machina would sweep in and write them, or at least provide a legitimate reason to procrastinate, when the phone rang.  Normally one to ignore a phone, I leapt for it.

The young man on the line said that he was with a marketing research firm conducting a survey about the upcoming feature film “Beautician and the Beast”, starring “The Nanny’s” Fran Drescher.  He said it would take about 20 minutes of my time.  I was needed, people.

I practically shouted, “I’d love to take your survey!”.  He’d obviously had no takers that day because he was very surprised, kept thanking me, and had to rummage around to locate the survey questions.

The takeaway here?  I think your average person is not motivated to take surveys by the chance to win a prize or help a cause.  The big motivator is an opportunity to avoid something worse than your survey.  These are the people to locate, Mr. and Ms. Survey Launcher.  The downside is, your population will be 100% procrastinators.  This would typically not be an issue, however, unless you are looking to gauge interest in, say, a book called, “Get Off Yer Duff and Take Care of That Thing Already.”

Oh, and – you may have trouble getting these folks off the line.  Me, after being barraged by questions about Fran Drescher, beauticians, movie ads, beasts, and who knows what else, had feelings of genuine disappointment when the surveyor was wrapping up.

“So . . . that’s all the questions, huh?” I asked, trying to sound casual.  “You folks researching any other films?”  I could practically hear his finger hovering above the disconnect button.

Fine, I thought.  Just you wait until you decide to apply for school, mister.

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Dear unsated self,

I’d like to introduce you to Some. Some is better than None. Some is even sometimes better than All, because it may mean moderation. It may mean not exhausted, not tapped out, not 0 to 60, not over-caffeinated, not unrealistic, frustrated & whining.

Some is your friend. Some is the real world. Some can be cause for celebration in some contexts. Some is the down-to-earth, working class, worn but comfy couch of the sanctuaried mind. Some laughs with you.

Embrace the Some. Invite Some in, try it on like a new-to-you fleece vest. Close your eyes. There. Some wants you to remember the journey. Memento vivere. Some is the truest legacy.

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Lost Souls

I remember a phrase often used in my family when I was growing up: Lost Soul.   There were times I might ask why so-and-so acts like that, and would be told, usually with a shaking of the head, that they’re just a Lost Soul.  Softly.  Wistfully.

It sounded so . . . final.  And overly tidy – lumping together the various folks who have fallen off the map of sensibility.  This notion seemed to remove responsibility from the Lost Soul and the speaker.  No responsibility usually means no control over the situation – and no hope for things to improve.  I remember thinking – if they’ve lost their way, why doesn’t somebody rescue them?  And, further, why aren’t you trying to rescue them?  I, however, did not say so to the bigpeople.

I still feel this way sometimes.  When I see folks who may be in what would have been considered the Lost soul category, I wonder, how can this be.  In a country developed and filled with people, why should anyone be lost?

As a grown up I do realize you cannot save other people.  I learned this a hard way, caring about people who made unwise choices, surrounded themselves with horrible people, and came to harm, sometimes death.  I could not have saved them, these people who didn’t want saving; at least not on my own.  I only can try my hardest to help them try to find a better path.

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The story

I’ve decided it’s time to dump all of my self-help and life advice-type books.  I realized this morning that trying to apply principles to yourself about living that another person came up with is like expecting Cliff Notes about  “Great Expectations” to apply to “Bleak House” – every(one’s) story is different.

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“Done Did”

Like most folks, I have a crapload of stuff to get done each week.  My todo list resides in Excel, is coded by priority and date due, and is freaking ridiculous.  Unless they announce an extra 2 days are added to the week, likely my todo list will be handed over to my heirs upon my demise.

It can get to be a downer – looking at that long list, hearing the voice in my head who so often sounds like a cranky basic training sargeant.   So, to quell Sarge, last week I created a new tab: a “Done Did” tab.  When I do stuff, instead of deleting the line off my todo tab, I move it to the Done Did tab.  To try to prove to Sarge that I’m doing what I can, for crying out loud.

Hopefully it won’t have the opposite effect, a la –
“You call that a week’s worth of TASKS?  You make me sick!  Drop and give me 20 . . . um . . . errands . . .” or some such.

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When I worked at an investments firm in Boston about 15 years ago, I was scolded for eating a banana at my desk.  Apparently I had violated a “no strongly scented foods in the work area” stipulation in some document of employee conduct that, curiously, I had not committed to memory.

“Hah, strongly scented foods, that’s a good one,” I had said and waited for the admonisher to laugh too.  But it was no joke; I really was being told not to eat healthy fruit at my desk.  They preferred instead that we buy rich muffins or bags of chips from the cafeteria.  No distracting “real food” scent.

I mention this by way of contrast.  Though it took me longer than it should have to realize I’m a poor fit for the Finance industry (Pantyhose and heels?  Fascist food rules?), I did find my way to a better fit.  Higher ed is no paradise but there is an awful lot to love, including the array of personalities that surround me.

When I look around the cubes here, I see a colleague who has built a shrine to her horse.  Another colleague who eats spicy curries for lunch.  A row that has facetiously named themselves “The One %” and given themselves imaginative wealthy fatcat nicknames.  One Halloween we toilet papered each other’s cubes.

I cautiously starting bringing bananas in a few years ago.  I unpeel and eat them in my cube.  And I haven’t looked back.

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One of the kindest, wisest things you can do for others to keep quiet when you notice them contradicting themselves, or being hypocritical.

Then, hopefully they will do the same for you when the time comes.

humans fluctuate. it's what we do.

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