“I think it helps us not to know each other…”

Tl:dr– Please don’t try to read my mind. It isn’t nice, and probably isn’t as interesting a read as you assume it is.

Back in 1993, James Taylor came out with his wonderful Live album, which was recorded during his 1992 East Coast tour. I was in college at the time, and a devoted JT fan, so of course I bought it as soon as I could. Over the past 27 years, I have gotten many hours of enjoyment from that album. I’ve seen James Taylor play live several times. One thing I’ve always noticed about him is that he truly loves to perform, even if he’s probably a more introverted soul when he’s not on the stage. Of course, I don’t know him personally, so I really don’t know how he is off stage. The truth is, even though I’m familiar with almost everything he’s done, we don’t know each other at all. I’m just a fan of his work, like many thousands of other people around the world are. I may feel like his biggest fan, but I’m probably not. There are most likely a whole lot of people who love his music even more than I do.

James made a quick-witted quip on his Live album, when an enthusiastic female audience member shouted out, “Love you!” to him after he sang “Something In The Way She Moves”.

You can hear Taylor’s quip at about 3:30.

His response was a deadpan, “Good.” Then he added, “I think it helps us not to know each other.”

I’m no “James Taylor” by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I make any assumptions that someone is going to declare their “love” for me at a concert, on a video, or in the comment section of a blog post. If someone ever did do that, it would probably really freak me out. I’m not comfortable with people who express that kind of extreme emotion toward me unless they are someone I know personally. And even then, it kind of freaks me out. I’m sure James Taylor has gotten used to those kinds of extreme declarations of love or disgust, though. Lots of people have told him they love him or hate him. That’s what happens when you put yourself out there. People tend to love it or hate it, and many of them have no compunction about telling you what they think.

Taylor’s wry response to his adoring fan on the Live album comes to mind this morning as I reflect on some of the feedback I occasionally get on my writing. Sometimes, I think people who are exposed to other people’s writing, music, art, or whatever else get the idea that they actually know the person who is presenting it. Sometimes they forget that an artist– for lack of a better word– is often a total stranger to them. They wind up projecting things on the person who presents their creative pursuits to the world. They make assumptions about what the artist is thinking or feeling at the time they created their piece.

This phenomenon was one quarrel I had with being an English major. As an English major, I was required to read different works of literature and write an analysis. I don’t think that was necessarily a bad exercise in that it taught me to look beyond the obvious. However, it always bothered me that I was supposed to look for things like symbols and hidden meanings as I tried to analyze a piece of writing, even though I could never really know what the writer was thinking or feeling when he or she wrote it. I got reasonably good at writing analyses of other people’s writing. I had to in order to earn the degree in English. But I was never particularly comfortable with it.

In fact, my discomfort with analyzing other people’s writing was kind of vindicated a few years ago, when I stumbled across an article written about the American author, Flannery O’Connor. The piece was about how, back in 1961, an English lit professor and his students were having trouble analyzing a short story O’Connor had written called “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”. The professor’s interpretation of the story was evidently pretty far off the mark of what O’Connor was trying to convey. He wrote this about O’Connor’s story:

We have debated at length several possible interpretations, none of which fully satisfies us. In general we believe that the appearance of the Misfit is not ‘real’ in the same sense that the incidents of the first half of the story are real. Bailey, we believe, imagines the appearance of the Misfit, whose activities have been called to his attention on the night before the trip and again during the stopover at the roadside restaurant. Bailey, we further believe, identifies himself with the Misfit and so plays two roles in the imaginary last half of the story. But we cannot, after great effort, determine the point at which reality fades into illusion or reverie. Does the accident literally occur, or is it part of Bailey’s dream? Please believe me when I say we are not seeking an easy way out of our difficulty. We admire your story and have examined it with great care, but we are not convinced that we are missing something important which you intended us to grasp. We will all be very grateful if you comment on the interpretation which I have outlined above and if you will give us further comments about your intention in writing ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find.’

Ms. O’Connor, flabbergasted by the professor’s interpretation, wrote back to him. Here’s a quote from her response that kind of speaks to me as I write today’s post:

“The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

As someone who likes to write and used to do a lot of fiction writing back in the day, I never felt all that comfortable with some nameless person reading my words and making assumptions about what I *really* meant.  How can a person really interpret a writer’s true meaning if they don’t know the writer?  Sure, you can learn about history.  You can even learn a writer’s life story. But unless you are inside the author’s head, you can’t really know how he or she meant their work to be “interpreted” or even if such interpretations would even be welcome.  And if the writer was writing many decades before a reviewer’s birth, I would think the lens would be even more skewed.

Sometimes this phenomenon even happens to nobodies like me. Yesterday, I wrote about an experience I had with my aunt’s brother a few years ago. When I wrote that post, I was mainly feeling kind of amused. But I guess amusement is not what came across in my writing, because someone left a comment that indicated they assumed I’m still “mad” about that incident three years later. The fact is, I’m really not “mad”. I wasn’t even that “mad” when it happened. I would say I was frustrated and annoyed, but not necessarily “mad”.

When I think of someone who’s mad, I picture a person who is irate and seething with rage. That’s not an accurate description of how I was feeling then, or now. How I was feeling in 2017 was a combination of irritated, disrespected, and exasperated. But once that incident was over, it was over, and I completely forgot about it until yesterday.

I wasn’t feeling any of those negative emotions in 2020, either, as I recounted the story about my aunt’s brother in yesterday’s post. What I felt yesterday was mostly levity, particularly when I found that picture of the yellow truck with the words “Fuckin’ Hick” on it. If I recall correctly, that picture was taken by a friend of mine who was annoyed that the truck driver had parked his truck in her neighborhood. She was worried about property values going down because of the profanity. I was thinking about Bill driving on the Authobahn, being annoyed by another driver who not only was driving her own car, but apparently wanted to drive Bill’s car, too. 😉

Yesterday, I didn’t feel like writing about COVID-19 or politics or any of the other issues of the day. Sometimes, I feel like writing about something that doesn’t have to do with current events. When I was writing yesterday’s post, I was thinking of people who might read it and get something useful from it– for instance, the part where I wrote that “at some point, it’s got to be okay to be who you are“. That was meant to be a supportive statement for those who have felt that others disapprove of them in some way, and it was more of the main idea I was going for, rather than venting about being disrespected. But obviously, some readers missed the point. Perhaps that is my fault for not being more clear. Yesterday’s post wasn’t necessarily supposed to be a funny story, but I didn’t really mean it as a vent, nor was it an indication of how I feel right now or a sign that I’m still fuming at my aunt’s brother. The fact is, I don’t even think about him very much these days.

I will freely admit that I often hold onto some emotions for longer than perhaps some people think I should. I definitely hold grudges when someone is egregiously shitty to me. I think it’s because I was forced to endure a lot of bad treatment when I was growing up and there was nothing I could do about it at the time. As an adult, I’ve been learning constructive ways of countering that kind of treatment. There are only so many times a person can turn the other cheek before they finally snap back.

I used to be a lot more aggressive when I “snapped back”, but lately I’ve been trying to be more assertive. Assertiveness is not an easy skill to master. If you’re aggressive, you might be able to bully someone into compliance with your wishes. Assertiveness is a better, more respectful, more mature communication skill, but you run the risk that the other person won’t appreciate the respect and will either not respond at all, or will respond with aggression. I had initially tried being assertive with my aunt’s brother by politely asking him not to be a language cop on my page. That didn’t work, so I resorted to what some would consider “aggression”. Dropping f-bombs to someone who clearly hates them is probably considered aggressive by some people. On the other hand, acting like a language cop on a middle aged woman’s Facebook page is disrespectful and patronizing, and yes, that can cause a person to get “mad”.

While a Buddhist would likely tell me I would have more peace if I just said “fuck it” and let it go, that’s just not the type of person I am. I am a deeply flawed human being, just like everyone else is (including James Taylor). But I think it’s important for most readers to realize that they don’t know me personally, and it’s not helpful to project your interpretations of how you think I’m feeling. If you’re really curious about how I feel, you can always ask me and I’ll probably tell you. But please don’t assume you know and assign specific emotions to me. I consider that disrespectful.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t like it when people try to mind read, particularly when they are people I’ve never met. It makes me uncomfortable. Or, if you do want to assign an emotion to me, kindly keep it to yourself. Assuming that I’m “mad” about something when you don’t even know me is more likely to make me mad at you. But then, maybe you don’t care if I get mad. Most people don’t, which is why I ended up in that situation with my aunt’s brother in the first place. 😉


Repost: Artistic personalities… a look back at my first English professor and his ilk

This is a flashback post I wrote on February 23, 2018. I was fondly remembering my very first English professor at what was then known as Longwood College. I think it’s kind of a cool memory, so I’m reposting it as is.

Because I’m tired of writing about politics and mean-spirited people who send me hate mail, I’ve decided this morning’s post will be about one of my old professors at Longwood.  He was an interesting character and I loved his class, although his methods were very unorthodox.  I’m not sure, but I don’t think he got a lot of love from the other English professors.  It’s probably because he was a very eccentric man… or at least that’s how he seemed to me.

Last night, I looked up Otis Douglas III.  There isn’t a whole lot about him online.  I never knew how old he was, but when I knew him, he had a rather rumpled look, with wild white hair and old sweaters.  Some might think of him as an “absent minded professor”, although I never really thought of him in that way.  I figured he was well-seasoned by the time I met him in 1990.  He’d been teaching at Longwood for almost as long as I’d been alive.

The class I took from him was called Rhetoric and Research, otherwise known as English 100.  It was a basic class that almost all freshman took upon arrival at Longwood.  It was supposed to help us learn how to write.

A short blurb about my former English teacher from a 1974 issue of The Rotunda…  If any of my classmates are reading this, I highly recommend checking out the whole paper.  It’s a hoot!  Especially the letters to the editor!

As I was researching Mr. Douglas, I learned that his family was from Reedville, which is a town not too far from where I grew up.  I’ve only been to Reedville once.  It was in 1998, when a friend and I caught a ferry there.  She was working for a bike tour company, scouting out places to do new tours.  Since she was visiting my neck of the woods, she and I got together and spent the day driving around the Northern Neck of Virginia.  We stopped in Urbana and Irvington, then went to Reedville with bikes, which we brought to Tangier Island.  

Tangier Island is a tiny, fascinating place in the Chesapeake Bay.  It’s accessible from Reedville, Virginia, Onancock, Virginia, and Crisfield, Maryland.  Unfortunately, environmental concerns now threaten Tangier Island’s existence.  I’m sure there were concerns in 1998, too.  Beach erosion and serious storms are big problems for the little island.  I’m just glad I got to see it twenty years ago.  It’s a very interesting place populated by just a few families who have been there for generations.

Mr. Douglas’s roots were apparently near the water, not far from Tangier Island.  I found evidence that he has many kinfolk from Reedville and the Northern Neck, and ties to the College of William and Mary.  I also noticed that there was a United States Navy minesweeper known as the U.S.S. Otis W. Douglas.  She was purchased from the Douglas Company of Reedville, Virginia in 1917 for use in World War I.  Sadly, after serving in Brest, France until 1919, she encountered storms on the way back to the United States and sank.  I’m not sure, but it appears that the Douglas family of Reedville might be linked to McDonnell-Douglas, the company that makes airplanes.  At least the Wikipedia article about the ship implies that maybe it does.  Reedville is not a big place, so I can’t imagine there were many other Douglas families there in the early 20th century.

I grew up near the water, in fact in a county not far from the Northern Neck, but my family comes from Virginia’s mountains and valleys.  I found out that Mr. Douglas’s father was kind of a famous man.  Mr. Douglas is the son of Otis Douglas Jr., a very well-regarded football player and coach who once played for the Philadelphia Eagles.  I don’t have to read too much about Mr. Douglas’s father to know who he is.  The photo of Otis Douglas Jr., included in his New York Times obituary, reveals that his son bears a striking resemblance.  In fact, when I looked at Otis Douglas Jr.’s picture, I was momentarily stunned by how much he looked like a cleaner cut version of his son.  

I learned in an obituary about Mr. Douglas’s sister, Eleanor, that their family moved a lot, due to their father’s career in sports.  They lived in twenty-six states and Canada.  Mr. Douglas never mentioned any of this in class.  Much like my former philosophy professor, Dr. John Peale (son of Norman Vincent Peale), he kept it quiet.  Instead, he engaged us with stories about how to publish articles and talked about how difficult writing well is. 

My very first English professor at Longwood was very intent on teaching his students how to gamble.  I remember Douglas telling us that writing well is one of the hardest things a person can do.  He taught us that it takes many drafts to get something just right.  He wanted us to write many drafts of papers about rather mundane subjects.  Our class consisted of nothing but keeping a portfolio with assignments that I recall seemed either bizarre or tedious.

Mr. Douglas didn’t have us write essays.   He’d have us write directions to locations.  We had to pay close attention to specific details as we wrote our directions.  I found the process pretty boring, although I enjoyed Mr. Douglas’s offbeat teaching style.  He wasn’t like any of my other professors.  He would tell us stories sometimes, but mostly, he talking about playing games of chance, like Blackjack. 

He even had us learn the basics of shooting craps.  I had never shot craps before I met Mr. Douglas, and I haven’t in the 27 years since I was a student in his class.  I don’t gamble.  But Mr. Douglas taught us the basics of the game, and as he taught us, he had us write about how to shoot craps.  It was bizarre and I’ll never forget it, because it was so unconventional.

I also remember the one final paper I wrote for that class.  I really don’t know where my wild streak comes when it comes to writing things down, but for some reason I decided to write a paper about sadomasochism.  I titled it “The Chains of Love”.  I think I was inspired because I was reading a lot of Nancy Friday’s books at the time.  

The late Nancy Friday was famous in the 1970s for writing My Secret Garden, which is a book about women’s sexual fantasies.  It was shocking and groundbreaking at the time.  I think it was published in 1972 or thereabouts, right around the time I was born.  In those days, people evidently didn’t talk frankly about sex, but it was obviously a topic of interest.  Nancy Friday went on to write several other very successful books about sexual fantasies, most of which I read when I was in high school and college.  Because there’s a provocative side to my personality, I guess I decided to write about them in Mr. Douglas’s class.  He must have liked my paper, because I got an A in the class.  I had been told by an older hall mate that Mr. Douglas didn’t give out As.  Obviously, she was wrong about that.

Incidentally, I was a piss poor English major.  I mostly got Bs and Cs in my major, except for classes that focused on creative writing.  I also got an A in a non-fiction writing class.  That class was taught by a similarly eccentric professor named Mr. Woods, who would never correct anyone who called him “Dr. Woods” by mistake.  Mr. Woods could be spotted riding his bike around campus.  I had him for two classes.  One class mostly involved him talking about Madonna’s Sex book, which had just been published and was causing a scandal.  He also talked about the Price Club a lot.  I got an A in his class because I wrote about being flashed while riding on a bus on I-95.  I’m sure I’ve written about this incident before, but since I’m in a stream of consciousness mood, I’m going to write about it again.

It was during my junior year spring break at Longwood and I had gone on spring tour with the Camerata Singers, which was the auditioned choir.  We went on a recruiting tour every spring break that generally culminated in New York City.  We’d perform at churches and schools, then take in a Broadway show.  

The choir was usually pretty exhausted by the end of the spring tours.  Such was the case in 1993, as we headed south toward our college.  I was looking out the window, daydreaming.  Some guy in a bright yellow car pulled up alongside the bus.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  I looked away.  He dropped out of sight.  When I turned to look out the window again, there he was.  But he’d pulled out his penis and it was kind of flopping there as he drove alongside the bus, flashing everyone who happened to be looking out the window.

Naturally, I let out a yell of surprise, which woke everyone up.  I think more than a few people were traumatized by that guy, getting his jollies exposing himself while speeding down Interstate 95.

I figured I might as well get some traction from being flashed, so I wrote about it and actually drew a crude picture of what I saw.  Mr. Woods was apparently impressed.  He wrote, “Oh my God!  Is that what I think it is!”  And yes, the paper got an A.

Mr. Woods was often compared to Mr. Douglas.  The two of them were kind of outliers in Longwood’s English department back in the 90s.  They were affectionately regarded by students, especially those who were kind of slack.  I’m not sure they were as well-regarded by other professors.   I remember being at a department social and mentioning to one professor– one I never had, though she had quite a reputation– that I liked Mr. Douglas’s class.  I noticed a flash of kind of a disgusted look on her face.  Then, she diplomatically said, “Well, he has what you’d call an artistic personality.”  

Maybe that’s what’s “wrong” with me, too.  My whole life, I’ve been annoying, bewildering, shocking and offending some people, while apparently delighting others.  My husband seems to adore me, even if my parents never really did.  I never had a lot of really close friends or even too many close family members.  Some people I thought were “close”, actually weren’t.  And yet, here I am, married to the nicest guy ever who loves my inappropriate sense of humor and love of shock value.  On the other hand, maybe my experience is everyone’s experience.  Maybe everyone feels like they’re “weird” and eccentric.  I may have to think some more about that today as I wait for the weekend to begin.  

I am sitting here realizing that I have a lot of time on my hands, time that I’m using to look up people I used to know, learning their histories.  I hadn’t thought of Mr. Douglas in a very long time, but it appears that he has a very interesting story.  I love it when I make these discoveries and uncover cool stories.  It feels kind of like striking gold.

This is the one interesting comment someone left on the original post. S/he also took Mr. Douglas’s class. I want to preserve it, so I’m reposting it here.

Unknown May 1, 2018 at 3:53 PM

Great stuff! I enjoyed reading your article. I was in Dr. Douglas’s class In the Fall of 1990. I vividly remember one afternoon, when Mr. Douglas came in the the classroom, and overheard a female student say, ” Guys suck!”
Otis paused and responded “They’re not supposed to.”

It was classic Mr. Douglas.

You nailed it… we wrote papers on how to play Craps.

Another interesting story that I learened is that he taught two of my friends a system to win at Craps, and had them go to Atlantic City to play for him, as I think he was banned from Casinos because of his system of winning. (Think of the movie 21 with Kevin Spacey.)

Is Mr. Douglas still living?

  1. knotty May 1, 2018 at 4:45 PM Thanks for the comment! I don’t know if he’s still living. I think he moved to Charlottesville. I had him Fall of 1990, too, and I remember he was in Richmond at that time.

Going for it…

Yesterday, I came across a funny comic about English majors. In the interest of not violating copyright laws, I’m linking to the comic rather than sharing it in this post. I’m glad I found it, since it gave me some food for thought.

Ha ha ha… Avenue Q is literally the story of my life.

I shared the comic I linked to in the first paragraph in this post. A friend of mine from Sweden, who now enjoys a good life in the United States, made the comment that people who are considering a degree in English should reconsider. If one wants a “good paying” job, one should major in hard sciences or business. If I had followed that advice I either would have never been accepted to college, or I never would have graduated. Not everyone has the ability to excel in scientific disciplines. Even if I thought I could stand to take a bunch of math and science classes and would have had the ability to pass them, a life in the sciences probably would have made me miserable. I don’t have the temperament for it, nor do I have the aptitude. I was born to create.

I was an English major. If I had to do college over again, I think I would have majored in music, yet another degree that people tend to think is “useless”. Personally, I admire music majors. I knew a lot of them when I was in college, and they were a very hardworking bunch. They were all taking multiple one credit classes that met three times a week! Music is a valuable skill, though. It brings people joy, and it’s not something everyone can do. I majored in English because I love to write. I always have. But I was never interested in reading novels, analyzing poetry, or teaching. I figured I’d major in English because it was more practical than music is, although I’ve since changed my mind about that notion. I now think music is the more “useful” major.

And yet, my English degree was very beneficial when I went to graduate school. I had good writing skills and was often praised for writing coherently and accurately. I was able to get work as a technical writer, which helped pay for my next two degrees in public health and social work. Public health, in particular, is a field staffed with folks from other countries who may be brilliant at math and science, but not so brilliant at expressing themselves on paper in a way that laypeople can understand. That was where I came into the picture. I took their technical data and translated it into something the average person could read. In that sense, majoring in English wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.

A degree in the humanities can be excellent preparation for further formal study. They work especially well in law, business, or human services. Had I not wound up an “overeducated housewife”, I probably would have fallen into grant writing or research. I doubt I would have done direct practice as a social worker, despite having a master’s degree in social work. But that degree, if one thinks big enough, can be used for other things. The trick is to have the courage to think outside of the box and be good at marketing yourself. You have to believe in yourself first, too. It’s hard to convince others that you can do something if you don’t believe it yourself. Actually, in a weird way, my English degree did help me to attain the lifestyle I have. My husband liked me because he thought I was articulate. Later, he became a fan of my fiction. Would he have been as attracted to me if he hadn’t liked my writing? Maybe… but being able to write sure did help a lot.

My science loving friend has multiple degrees in physics. He makes a good living. He confided to me that he would love to study another area of physics, even if he doesn’t actually want to work in the field that interests him. He says his wife supports his idea of retiring early and going back to school. He has the money to do it. His concerns are looking “foolish” to other people for pursuing yet another degree and upsetting his colleagues at work.

As I read my friend’s response, I couldn’t help but remember my beloved Uncle Brownlee. Man… you want to talk about someone who lived life on his own terms? That was Brownlee. He never earned a college degree. Instead, he simply did what he loved, and he excelled. Looking back on it, I think he had a lot of courage. I also think he died having lived an excellent life.

Brownlee was a born musician, but he was also extremely gifted with his hands. He could build anything, and he had a knack for masonry and electrician work. When I was a child, he managed the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center. He had that job for a very long time. I’m sure there were parts of it that he didn’t enjoy, but his gifts for fixing things probably were immensely helpful. Later, when the hotel was sold to a private company, he took a job working at Virginia Military Institute, where he was in charge of the physical plant. I remember in the 1990s, when VMI went co-ed, my uncle was instrumental in altering the facilities to accommodate women.

In 2000, Laura Fairchild Brodie published a book entitled Breaking Out: VMI and the Coming of Women. My uncle is mentioned in that book because it was up to him to build the women’s bathrooms in the barracks. They couldn’t build them as they would for men. Women have periods, so hygiene is an issue. I remember talking to Brownlee about what he had to do to make the facilities work for women in a way that would satisfy the health code, yet be fair to the men at the school. Brownlee didn’t have college degrees, but he was a master of construction. He and his team figured it out. VMI has been co-ed for over twenty years now… and Brownlee helped! Not bad for a guy who didn’t spend a lot of time in school.

Brownlee was also in a band, and he made money with his music. He was mostly self-taught, but he was really good at what he did. He was able to spend his last years on projects that interested him. When it came time to depart his life, he probably had few regrets. He was not one of those people who said, “Man, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time at the office.” My Uncle Brownlee was very fortunate, but I think he was also determined to live his life his own way. He was able to do it, and be a role model to others.

Now… I’m not a dummy. I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to live like my uncle did. In fact, I’d say that life is becoming more and more about staying on the hamster wheel, which I think is very unfortunate. I don’t think life should only be about working. It’s probably like that, though, because people accept it, and because things have gotten so expensive that constant work is a necessity. There are other factors at play, of course. For instance, it’s not lost on me that I’ve been able to live my life the way I have because I’ve been both very lucky and privileged.

Many people lose sight of the fact that their lives are eventually going to end. Sometimes life ends very suddenly. When it comes time for you to die, it’s unlikely anyone is going to care about the extra time you spent at work. But if you don’t spend that time at work, you run the risk of being edged out of your job. I get that, and the anxiety that comes with it. I wish that fact would change, but it’s going to take changing a lot of hearts and minds to make it happen. People are going to have to overcome their fears and think bigger. Most people don’t have the time or the courage, or they have other people who depend on them. I understand, although I also know that major change requires individuals to change their thinking.

If you are in a position to do something that interests you, I think it’s worthwhile to go for it. You never know where those paths will lead. My friend is fortunate enough to have been successful in his career. He has the time and the money. He just has to make the decision to go for it. In that sense, he’s a very lucky man. As we were discussing this, I was reminded of something else… maybe something he hadn’t even thought of as he was pondering whether or not he’d look “foolish” for pursuing another degree.

Here’s this guy with multiple degrees in physics. He’s had a successful career in robotics, but he wants formal study in a different area of physics, even though he doesn’t necessarily want to have a job in that field. What if he went back to college to study another area that interested him and ended up being an inspiration for someone younger? What if he was in a position to help a young student understand a concept in physics that he or she might not otherwise get? I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again. Sometimes life’s experiences are about something far beyond the obvious.

Look at my situation. I went to graduate school thinking I’d launch a career in public health, social work, or both. I wound up getting married and writing this blog. I’d always wanted to be a writer anyway, although I will admit it’s hard on my ego that I didn’t turn into “someone”. Maybe some people think what I do is pointless, stupid, vain, or a waste of time and energy. Some people have expressed as much to me. They don’t see the big picture. They haven’t thought outside of the box. They aren’t “going for it”.

I absolutely do use my education. I don’t use it in the way I thought I would, but I do use it, and other people benefit from it. More than one person has thanked me for writing some of the things I write. I’ve had several people tell me that I’ve gotten them to think more or differently about certain things. More than one person has said they have learned something new from my posts. I’ve also heard from people who don’t like what I do, yet they were affected enough to leave a negative comment. In that sense, what I do matters to someone besides myself. So what if my dad or my ex landlady thinks I’m a slovenly person who is wasting her life? What do they know? Have they taken the time to really think about it? And frankly, why should they care if it’s not their life and I’m not costing them money?

I think we should stop wasting time with people who can’t broaden their perspectives and see the big picture. Life isn’t just about your job. The people you work with, more than likely, aren’t going to make decisions based solely on what works best for you. Why should you make decisions that only benefit your employers or co-workers? It’s your life. You don’t have all the time in the world. If you have the opportunity to “go for it”, you might as well give it a try. But I realize that this “advice”, of which I am loathe to give anyone, anyway, might ring hollow to anyone who is struggling to keep the lights on and the plumbing working. Sometimes life takes you on a journey you think will lead somewhere… and you go somewhere very different. It turns out okay. In fact, sometimes it even turns out better than okay. It might be part of the master plan. Or maybe you just took a road less traveled and it made all the difference.