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Did I write that?

I could write a beautiful, poignant 1,000-word version of this post that’d keep me from my kids for a couple hours. Alternatively, I could write a more succinct, less illuminating version that takes me only ten minutes. I’m opting for the latter.

My sister Rache and I are very similar in some ways. She’s an ASNAC nerd who took me to the Jorvik Viking Center on my one trip to England, so we definitely diverge in some ways, but … in many ones where it counts, we’re clearly cut from the same cloth. Read more…

The world is not atomized

To be clear, I DID IT, TOO

Several years ago, I briefly joined a Facebook group for administrators of inspirational pages. I was deeply discomfited by the group, members of which spent much more time talking about how to get more page and post likes than how to inspire people. The proper formula at that time was just the right quote pasted on just the right pretty picture; many admins were perturbed when sharing algorithms changed so that Facebook began sharing fewer pictures.

Troubled, I wrote that I didn’t feel inspiration resided in the number of people able to see a post. Maybe one person who really needed to see a post would see it, and than an “unsuccessful” post would’ve made a world of difference to that one person. The good it worked on them would ripple outward in lovely ways, so that a post’s reach would go far beyond what some statistic on Facebook revealed.

Each post I read there left me more unnerved. I couldn’t articulate the feeling then, but it was a sensation like: We’re putting numbers over people. This technology is turning us into marketers and targets, not humans engaging with other humans.

I left the group. I eventually left Facebook, too, and found myself better able to see human beings in all their splendor after doing so.

I was on and off Twitter. I even ended up deleting my Instagram account last November, after realizing that, too, was somehow messing up how I perceived real people. In December, I wrote in “Sunlight & friends“:

Something delightful happened after I deleted my Instagram account last month: I stopped thinking of my friends as the two-dimensional representations they share there, and started remembering them as who my heart knows them to be.

I hadn’t even realized I’d been boiling them down to their most superficial selves until I was no longer doing it.

Reading a copy of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business last week, I was floored to find old concerns addressed with such deference to history, present, and future. That’s to say, in 1985, a scholar I’d never heard of was publishing a book that’d help 2017 me begin to find words for things I felt silly for finding disturbing. Read more…

Fortunate

I graduated from law school in 2004. I had no interest in practicing law, so I moved to Japan and taught English there instead. Though I was supposedly the teacher, I learned a lot and had a blast.

I moved back to my hometown for family reasons and took a job temping in a small HR office. Job opportunities did not abound, so I was simply glad I could pay my bills. I felt the same when I took on a temporary administrative role at a larger company before long. I sucked at it, but did my best to find silver linings, of which there were many.

As my temporary admin gig neared its conclusion, a woman I’d met exactly once offered to take me onto her team as an admin. I sent her a copy of my resume; once she saw I’d gone to law school, she became determined to get me negotiating software contracts on her team. I rejected at first, saying I’d have taken the Bar if I wanted to do anything law-related.

She persisted, thank God. I soon began negotiating contracts, and felt (happily) challenged for the first time in years. I loved learning about hardware and software, which I had to do to be effective at negotiating. I enjoyed negotiating and was grateful to have an encouraging, supportive manager nudging me outside my comfort zone.

I worked on software contracts for a decade. Then, two years ago tomorrow, I began working as a software licensing contractor. My commute to a full-time job with great benefits was just too long. I accepted job uncertainty as a small cost compared to the benefit of not spending four hours in my car daily.

My first few months as a contractor were deeply uncomfortable. There was a lot of ambiguity, which frustrated me until I took it upon myself to lessen the ambiguity. If anyone didn’t like how I was doing that, I figured, they’d be sure to tell me. 

Taking risks, I found myself growing. I found joy in that growing, though I’d started out discombobulated.

As that contract wound down, an opening came up for a software asset management position. I seized the opportunity. Sure, I’d never done it before and didn’t know a thing about helping ensure neither too many nor too few licenses were procured, but I knew I’d grow. I knew that any frustration I felt at being a noob the first few months would be counterbalanced by the ultimate joy of learning.

I “knew,” but I didn’t really know. ‘Cause, see, I had no idea how much I’d learn, nor how much I’d be encouraged to learn. I couldn’t have fathomed how much support I’d have, nor how mistakes would be treated as just a part of the journey of learning. I had no idea what it’d be like to feel genuine psychological safety for the first time in my life, among a team that makes me laugh while pushing me to do better every day.

I took a risk two years ago tomorrow, and another one fifteen months ago. Because of those risks, my whole life feels so much richer than it did two years ago. For how rough my life began, it’s pretty rad now.

This is all a necessary background for another story to come. For now, though, I want to say that I am more fortunate than I sometimes remember.

I’m thankful to be challenged to remember this.

Where software and clothing converge

For many months, I lost touch with the physical world while immersing myself in a virtual political one. To sustain that, I had too much coffee and too much beer; coupled with the fact I was no longer getting outside to move, I gained a lot of weight. 

I’m not too concerned with my weight as an isolated factor. I see it as a symptom, not itself a problem. Happily, after almost four years of figuring out which foods hurt my body and which ones heal it, I know exactly how to tackle the root causes of my feeling-crappy-ness. Doing so, I’ll feel much, much better … and my weight will change as a result.

What had bugged me, then? My clothing! I got to the point where I had four skirts and zero pairs of pants that fit me. I didn’t want to invest a bunch of money in clothing I’d only wear once or twice, so I spent a month wearing my least favorite clothing before deciding I had to change something.

How, I wondered, could I spend only a few dollars to cover a transition period? The answer came to me by virtue of my work in software licensing.

For ages, most companies bought their own hardware to run their software. Maintaining hardware was expensive and time-consuming, so that cloud computing was pretty exciting: all the software benefits, none of the hardware costs!*

Using software in the cloud, someone else has to maintain the hardware. With that “someone else” investing in all that infrastructure, the client company can use a little or a lot of hardware capacity … without having to constantly worry about hardware itself.

In a word, cloud computing offers easy scalability.

I needed that, but in clothing–something that would easily scale up and down with its hardware (me).

You know what provides scalability? Maternity clothes!

I bought a few pairs of pants and a few pairs of shorts. For the first time in a month or so, I actually felt good in what I was wearing.

It cost me all of $40, and will keep me covered across many sizes.

So, hey! Here’s to scalability, and making small investments to feel a little better now!

* There are plenty of other costs, by the way. Just don’t expect techies to care too much while oohing and aahing over new technologies!

Categories: Health, Learning Tags: ,

It’s not a priority.

About twenty years ago, I took Econ my first term at university. Since it was online, I could fit it in whenever I wanted from week to week.

I don’t remember much of what I studied in that University of Oregon basement Social Studies computer lab. My brain’s been filled with law, contracts, and IT knowledge that’s displaced much of what came before. And yet, reading a political text a couple of weeks ago, I rediscovered an economic concept that matters very much to my life right now: opportunity cost.

From Chalmers Johnson’s Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope

 

Before I read that, I’d understood I haven’t been using my time well recently. I just didn’t have a way to explain it clearly, not even to myself … until I saw the words “opportunity costs.”

When I spend hours on Twitter, when I have arguments not worth having, when I type long essays in states of dismay, I’ve wasted precious minutes much better spent elsewhere. In doing one thing impulsively (or compulsively), I’ve lost an opportunity to do something else that I genuinely wanted to do. Something that might power me through fights worth taking on.

I decided I need to be more conscientious about how I spend my time. I’m making better-for-me choices (virtually!) every day.

Today, home sick with an adverse reaction to something or other, I cheered at this post … and an exchange of comments below it. Athena’s words spoke to thoughts already on my mind, reminding me to actively choose my priorities.

Rather than regret opportunities squandered, I’m going to start saying, “It’s not a priority.” No one else gets to define mine or dictate them to me, though my husband, kids, and manager have some say!

Today, my priority is resting, followed by snuggling, reading, and reflecting. These things refuel me in ways that no amount of caffeine or sugar can.

I need the real stuff. The good fuel.

What about you? Are you getting enough good fuel?

On building racial stamina

Good Enough Action

Over and over since I began caring about politics, people have informed me it’s my responsibility to persuade them individually how I’m right.

Yesterday, I got a few comments reflecting this same peculiar idea. Those comments–combined with the many like them I’ve heard recently–highlighted an opportunity for me to be very, very clear about (1) where I’m at and (2) what I hope to achieve. (Hint: It’s not making you agree with me!)

I wrote a little about these things last week:

To borrow my sister’s words, I am interested in doing right overall, not being right in any particular conversation.

If you’re mostly interested in being right, I hope you’ll reconsider. You could save lives.

If you’re interested in doing right, let’s talk. Between us, I know we can do not only right but good.

My point? Action, not belief, will change the external world we share. Doing, not grading how others choose to do or merely believing something, will change the world for the better.

Of course, many important acts will spring from a core belief that something is very wrong in a way that’s hurting lots and lots of people. We don’t have to agree about the scope of what’s wrong, or why it’s wrong, as long as we take action to mitigate what’s wrong.

I expanded upon this last night.

 

I don’t know much.

I don’t have the practical political answers I desperately seek.

I don’t even know how to find those practical answers, but goodness knows I’m trying. That’s the whole point of my having a blog called “Learning to Speak Politics.” I don’t know, and I’m trying.

I don’t care to argue with you with my limited time.

I don’t have enough time to seek perfection, so I’m aiming for “hopefully good enough.”  We don’t have enough time, as a species, to sit and fastidiously devise some perfect master plan to save the planet and each other. We’ve got to take what steps we can now, and then take better ones as they reveal themselves in the new knowledge we’ve amassed by acting.

I don’t care if you believe me. I will tell you what I believe. You can decide for yourself what to do with that. I spend most my limited free time right now reading, listening, and updating my (mis)understanding as I learn new things. I own that, not responsibility for what you believe or when you believe it.

I don’t control when you listen or if you ever care to hear me.

I don’t care to tailor what I’m doing to please you specifically. If you want to see something different and more persuasive-to-you put into the world than what you’re seeing so far, please go create it. That’s up to you. In the meantime, I’ll use my knowledge, my experience, my passion, and my skills to try many different things I think might reach even one person. Nothing will reach everyone, and some people don’t even want to be reached.

What do I care about, then?

I care about people who are dying needlessly–as I type this–due to powerful lack of concern for their well being by powerful politicians and their funders.

I care about the now-children who will die if adults don’t band together pronto to protect the earth. There’s still hope, if we take decisive action immediately. If not? It’s over.

So if you want to join me and others seeking solutions, great! Let’s ask questions, listen, and hear each other–on the big stuff, themes and patterns, not the nits that are equally easy and unproductive to pick.

I’ve found many good action-oriented resources, which I’d be happy to share; my favorites so far are Brand New CongressDemocratic Socialists of America, and MPACTUS. Still, there’s no guidebook here. I’m doing what I can with what I have.

Don’t like what I’m doing? I enthusiastically urge you to go do better with what you have.

Please! Go! Do it! I’m not about to stop you.

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