Posts from the ‘Looking to the Future’ Category

Hats for Women (Or: Why Recognizing Privilege Matters)

This is a story about hats.

But it isn’t.

It’s a story about privilege.

But it isn’t.

It’s really a story about how change happens and how we need to seek change more than we do.

Let me start by saying, I KNOW privilege is one of the most over-used words on the internet.  But there’s a reason it’s over-used: it’s still a problem.  Just like racism and sexism and shaming are over-used because these are still problems.  Is it true that rarely, infrequently, these things are used in wrong and exploitative contexts?  Yes.  But that does not make all uses invalid.  So, please, hang with me while I talk about privilege as best and applicably as I can.

I went to a small, conservative college. The department I was in had a strange mix of liberal and conservative ideals, sometimes within the same professor.  In some classes, I had to be there without fail.  In other classes, as long as I got the work done, they didn’t care.

I had one particular professor who was a walking conflict.  He got so angry at me one day for refusing to watch an R-rated film that had no curricular value to it that he told me to “Go to BYU, then!” and dismissed me with a flick of his hand, as if I were somehow inferior for not wanting to watch gratuitous nudity and language in an academic setting.  As if this one stance of personal morality in the face of a completely non-academic film showing somehow made me unfit to go to a university not run by people who shared that standard.  (By the way – if you didn’t already know – I am excessively liberal in comparison to most of the adherents to the LDS faith and basically loathe Mormon culture (please note the difference between faith and culture).  I would have had ten-fold as many professors telling me not to let the door hit my butt on the way out had I gone to BYU.) This same professor demanded strict attendance, stricter homework procedures, and the most ridiculously stringent note-taking system I have ever seen – all in the fashion of a school that has been proven by academia as out-of-date and inherently broken – but some teachers still adhere to it because it is “traditional.”  I HATED these classes with a passion for a long time and tolerated them with a fatalistic acceptance in my final year at Missouri Valley.

Predictably, this professor also had a fairly conservative dress code: show up to class looking like you give at least a minimal amount of care.  This standard was relaxed in the 8:00am classes (because NO ONE was showing up to a Groobs class that early without the choice of attending in PJ’s), but one thing was strictly maintained: NO HATS.

Except, well, if the girls were wearing them.

YUP – you read that right.  Men weren’t allowed to wear hats to class.  Women were.  The rational was that when a man wore a ball cap, it was laziness or disrespect.  When a woman wore a hat of any kind (ball caps included), it was an accessory.

Ashamed as I am, I admit that this made sense to me for a moment.

I know, I know, stop the truck.  I am white, middle-class, and well-educated, so I grew up with plenty of privilege that I need to (and do my best to) see around.  But, that being said, I am also female, bi/pan-sexual, and non-binary gendered.   I grew up with plenty of lack of privilege, too.  I have been abused. I was culturally conditioned to be so frightened of my own gender/sexuality that I didn’t come out until I was twenty-five. TWENTY-FIVE, people. I have been told I can’t do things /  can’t do them as well because I’m “just a girl.” I know what it is like to be on the unprivileged side.

And yet, my own privilege it made sense to me, if only for a moment.  Now, this is a totally human reaction – there’s some interesting science behind it.  It’s a type of confirmation bias when you start out with advantages and you feel you deserve them because you’ve always had them . . . BAD BAD BAD thinking!  Bad Joie!

Thankfully, in the next moment I realized how wildly unfair this was.  Yes, I use hats to accessorize my outfits (I love hats).  But, the fact of the matter is, I also had an extremely high ratio of hat days to bad hair days.  Wearing hats was, in many cases, laziness on my part because oh-my-gosh-I-hate-my-hair-so-much-just-cover-that-crap-up.  How was that different than the male decision to wear a hat?  Also, what kind of ridiculous assumption was it to think that because men are men that their hats – ball caps or fedoras or top hats – were just functions of laziness?  Why can’t their hats, from simple trucker hats to expensive fedoras, be specifically chosen accessories? I knew, in fact, that they WERE accessories in some cases!  But why does that make those who wear hats out of habit any less worthy of the chance to wear a hat in a classroom?

Some of these arguments occurred at the time, some of them came through later re-examination.  But the fact of the matter is – I did nothing about it.  In fact, I abused my privilege for some time.  I knew I could get away with hats, so get away I did. I never defended the rights of my male counterparts to wear their hats and happily made sure that a ball cap was always available for the worst of hair days.

Now, Groobs was definitely a “pick your battles” sort of teacher.  He tended to be hardest on the best students and to apathetically let the struggling students fail because clearly they weren’t trying hard enough.  I got my butt kicked in those classes trying to keep up with his higher expectations (because I had proven to be successful previously) while I watched other students who needed Groobs’ attention and scrutiny wallow because he had given up on them.   Hats were the least  of any of our worries.

But they were a teaching moment.

Eventually, I stopped wearing hats on days that I had classes with Groobs.  Not always, but mostly.  Eventually, I not only recognized my privilege, but reacted to it in a way I can be proud of.  You see – this was never about wearing hats or privilege.  It was about how I reacted to it, as well as how I didn’t.  It was about  how I decided to take advantage of a status quo, how I decided to stop taking advantage, and how I didn’t speak out against it even once I established a rapport with Groobs.

Because I did.  He’s a cantankerous old coot and I won’t be shy about saying I’m glad he retired (for a myriad of reasons), but he’s also the cantankerous old coot who held my hand through my thesis, who pushed me to think deeper, who took the time to take me aside privately so we could celebrate some serious accomplishments of mine without lording them over others.  He was the cantankerous old coot who both stubbornly clung to his wrong opinions AND noticed that I was struggling with cutting an apologized for being an asshole during one of my fragile times.  He was the cantankerous old coot who learned to listen to me and learn from me, as I learned to listen and learn from him.  I could have said something.   I didn’t. Because, despite being aware of how wildly unfair my privilege was, I didn’t recognize it.

And I didn’t seek to change it.

This is a really small example.  I could talk about recognizing my educated privilege or my middle-class privilege or my white privilege. But there’s something significant about this hat situation: I can no longer do anything about it.  Every day, I seek to change who I am so that I am more understanding and – while still privileged – aware of the struggles of those who don’t have my privileges.  I seek to change the world so that my privilege doesn’t cause others harm. I seek to change a world that shouts “SPECIAL TREATMENT” when someone tries to give privileges to those who otherwise will not have them.

I cannot change the hats, though.  The systemic abuse of privilege marches on because people do not seek to change the hats.  Yes, tackle the big issues.  Save your time and energy for the fights that need them most.  But NEVER EVER be complacent, and most certainly NEVER EVER EVER be complicit.  Even if it is just as simple as saying, “I think this is wrong,” it is important to those who are wronged to hear and see that you don’t wish privilege at their expense.  It is important to me to talk about the hats because I cannot change them. Because I was complacent, perhaps even complicit by the views of some.  It is important to me to say, “I am sorry I did nothing.  I am sorry about the hats.  I was wrong.”

So here goes:

I am sorry I did nothing.

I am sorry about the hats.

I was wrong.

And I seek to never do that again.

You see, change doesn’t happen because we see wrong and don’t participate in it.  Change happens when we seek it.  Change happens when we SEE wrong and DO SOMETHING about it.  Change happens when we recognize wrong in ourselves and seek to never be wrong like that again.

Recognizing privilege is important.  We can’t seek to change anything if we don’t first see it.

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In defense of Disney’s faults:

The other day I got into a convo with a friend of a sibling (my family is very share and share alike with friends, which is awesome) about Disney (follow the link to see some snippets).  It was fun.  I mean, I am absolutely a member of the Disney generation (My first movie memory? Grabbing my dad’s hand at Beauty and the Beast because the Beast frightened me SO MUCH.  My dad’s favorite Disney movie?  The Little Mermaid because it was the first movie his daughters could really sit through and enjoy.), so I kind of love Disney no matter what . . . almost Stockholm-esque love, really.  Because, as you can see, I KNOW they are flawed.  I so know it.  Furthermore, I don’t like it.  I don’t like seeing my friends who bought into that schtick, who are waiting for some Prince Charming or Handsome Stranger or Magical Deus ex Machina to come and save their life from loneliness, boredom, or meaninglessness.  I don’t like that Disney managed to convince practically a whole generation of women that love and life are these kind, sanitized faerie tales that make it all better.  Because we all know faerie tales are creepy and wrong and that’s why we love them.  I don’t like that it took nearly sixty years to have a Princess of Color (and even then, Pocahontas was NOT a thrill).  I don’t like that they sold love as the meaning to life, the universe, and everything (FORTY-TWO!) .  I don’t like a lot about Disney.

But that’s kind of why I love Disney.

Bear with me for a minute.  All will be revealed.

So, as some of you may or may not know, faerie tales and mythology is my chosen field of study.  That’s where I’ve been headed since basically the third or fourth grade.  Seriously, ask my poor beleaguered parents and local library staff.  And, as some of you may or may not have seen my note just above, faerie tales are creepy and wrong.  Sorry, people who bought into the princess hype.  It’s true.  And they’re so much better for it!

So why do I love sanitized Disney?

Because it’s reflective.  Yeah, it’s racist and misogynist and riddled with inaccuracies and pro-colonial and anthropomorphic and pretty much any accusation you want to lay at their feet.  It’s true.  And it’s true of us.  And it’s true of our faerie tales and folklore and mythologies, even if Disney did do it’s best to ruin them.  I apologize if I offended anyone with that last assertion or this coming one, but we are no better than Disney.  We like to think we are, but we aren’t.  We are why Disney is all those things because we are the market they cater, very specifically, to.  We pretend it’s because Disney is run by persons who are a, b, c, or d.  We pretend that Disney is hopelessly backward.  We pretend we are not the reason Disney has been so successful.  But we are just pretending.  The culture Disney serves is as broken as the company.

But you know what’s wonderful about that sad fact?

WE ARE GETTING BETTER.  And so is Disney.

It’s taking more time than it should.  It’s taking decades and generations and major paradigm shifts to something that should have been blatantly obvious in the first place.  But we, as a populace, and they, as a company, are improving.  They are reflecting our improvement.

It gives me hope.  It allows me to see dreams slowly come true.

Isn’t that kind of what Disney was all about in the first place?

So yeah.  I love Disney.  And I think the more of us who are willing to encourage Disney to be better, whether it’s from the advocate or antagonist’s side, the more we’ll see true and reflective improvement.  We’ll see that acceptance and wonder that Disney’s words, if not images, preached.  We’ll be the reason Disney changes, grows, and teaches good things.

Go us.  We’re the ones that make the Magical Kingdom truly magic.

It’s been a really, really messed up week . . .

. . . Seven days of torture, seven days of bitter.

I don’t actually like that song, but it’s accurate.  For the past couple weeks, actually.

Most of this week’s torture and bitter are directly due to this HORRIBLE bronchial, sinus, ear-nose-and-throat NASTY CRAP that’s been going around and in general making everyone miserable.  I still sound sick, but I no longer have sore ears and throat.  This is progress.  Now to get rid of the aches.  And the frog that has taken up residence in my throat.  (Does anyone else thing “throat” is the most annoying and weird looking word ever?  Also, “snooze.”)

I had this habit of getting a cold right on top of winter finals every year.  And by cold I mean bronchial, sinus, bilateral-ear-infection-that-made -flying-home-a-ginormous-hellscape.  I figured it was a stress thing.  And then I graduated.  And every winter the cold still came along (but at least I didn’t have to fly with it).  So maybe the timing was a stress thing.  But I just get these infections.  I almost made it out this year, but no.

Oh.  Well.

This is, of course, why the blog was delayed.  And why today’s is mostly about getting sick.

But here’s the thing – that torture and bitter?  I’ve decided I REALLY don’t care.  I mean, yeah, I could have wished for a better beginning to the year.  I could have wished for a lot of things.  But, in congruence with my New Year’s resolutions, I don’t want to spend time on what could have been.  I want to spend time on today and on my life.    It’s not easy.  The first thing I think about is, “Well, this year kinda sucks so far.”  But it doesn’t have to.  I don’t want it to.  I want it to be amazing.

Which means it’s time for me to make it so.

Also, I found a really awesome quote from author Samuel Beckett that goes along with this and my goals in general.

“Ever tried?  Ever failed?   No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.”

Yeah.  I can do that.

In the mean time, making my life better and all, I have a Pizza Party to go to.  Friends make everything suck less.  (NERDFIGHTERIA FOR THE WIN.)

What will my books be?

When in college, I was introduced to the concept of the Bible being “God’s second book.”  It’s an older concept.  The theory is that the world is God’s first and greatest creation–His first book–and that the Bible was the second great book.  I’ll admit, being an English major and aspiring author, I loved the concept that authorship was akin to creation (which, by the way, is a scriptural concept, too–Hebrews 12:2).  The concept also intimidated me, because I started thinking about whether I was being spiritually responsible with my creations.  God’s creative power is infinite and incomparable, I would never presume to say I was on the same footing as He, but He did give me these creative gifts and talents.  He intended for me to develop and use them.  He also gave me the power to, with the right partner in a sacred union, create life.

Was I being responsible with my creative powers?  Was I doing what I should to create positive, uplifting things?  Was I setting a pattern of respect and gratitude in my creations that would carry over into motherhood?  Was I authoring good books?

The answer was, I wasn’t thinking about it.  So, not always.  This is not to say I always have to create things that are Christ or religion centered, but that I need to create things that do not drive Christ out of my life, things that invite Him in. Setting the pattern of Christ in my life is one of the most important things I can do now for the future of my as yet non-existent children.  I’m still learning to do this.

But I have learned about the light of creation.  The joy of seeing something in my head and having it come out better than I expected.  The feeling that comes when a project is complete.  Making something I can love and cherish, or give to someone I love and cherish.  Understanding what it is to create.

Someday, I’ll understand it more intimately.  I’ll feel life inside me, and then work about creating a home to receive that life.  I hope, by then, to have learned the patterns of positive, loving, God-centered creation so that my children will come into the world knowing that they are loved both here on earth and by their Heavenly Father.  I hope, by then, to be ready to create my greatest book: a child who chooses to grow into a positive and kind and merciful human being.  I hope, by then, to be a teacher as well as a learner so that MY child(ren) will know what it is to TRULY create.  So that they will know that light and joy that I have been blessed to feel throughout my life, the light and joy that makes it possible for me to understand my Heavenly Father just a little bit better.

Rooted up–a promise to my mother.

My mother and I had a tumultuous relationship.

It is better.

It’s still not perfect.

We’ve learned about each other.  We’ve learned to see past our similarities to see our differences.  We’ve learned to forgive those differences so that we can embrace the similarities.  We’ve learned to see past our tumultuous past and look to the future.  We’ve learned to communicate.

We’ve learned to forgive.  We’re both learning how to forget.

Because we are still learning, sometimes, that hurt still crops up.  Sometimes we say something.  Sometimes we do something.  Sometimes circumstances remind us of something.  Sometimes, we just hurt.

And then I read this verse:

But [Jesus] answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

Then, I remember.

God planted me in my mother’s  life.  He planted love and a desire so strong it was almost an ache to be a good mother in her heart.  He planted trust and love in mine.  He planted our family, specifically and with purpose.

We are the ones who planted the hurt.  We are the ones who planted the tumult.  We are the ones who planted the distance between us.

He is the one who has helped us start rooting it up.

We are not perfect.  We have not yet learned everything we needed to do to make our relationship smooth.  We still–certainly not nearly as frequently as we used to, but still–plant hurt.  But God will not allow us to grow those plants, not forever.  He will teach us to dig and root them up.  And then, when we have dug out all we can, He will dig out the rest.

Before today, I read that scripture as a threat.  It was said in reference to the Pharisees and their roots of wicked traditions.  Today, someone–a stranger–taught me to see it differently.  They taught me to see it as a promise.

All that has not been planted by my loving, caring, wonderful Heavenly Father, will be rooted up.  My mother and I will have a perfect relationship one day.  God will not allow it to be any other way.

I promise–especially to my mother, but to any who I have planted negativity in–I will dig.  I will learn.  And together, with Heavenly Father as the perfect exemplar and teacher, we will root it up.

My brother’s last night home and God’s grace.

Today is the kind of day that can only be called good.

But first, some context:

The 36 hours from Sunday afternoon to Monday night had crises aplenty.  Sunday afternoon, an acquaintance at church was put in a very distressing situation that she pulled off like a CHAMP.  No one would have known how disconcerted she was if she hadn’t started crying after the meeting block.  I chatted with her, assured her that she reacted to it perfectly (seriously, I could not have pulled it off half so smoothly), and held her hand until the shock wore off.  I’m glad I was there to chat, as I had been in a similar situation in high school (which is how I know she handled it way better than I ever could), and I had the experience that allowed me to tell her that she definitely did the exact right thing, and she did it well.  That night, Mikki (the roommate) got a text from her younger sister, who desperately needed an ear and night with her older sister.  Which meant Mikki ended up sleeping on the couch so that her sister could stay over and get her much needed sister time (and that meant I needed to do a VERY quick clean up so that the crafting war zone was no longer a minefield).  Thankfully, the next afternoon, Mikki’s sister was feeling much better and had had the time  she needed with her sister.  I was not at all put out by these mini-crises, but they did start the week on an interesting foot that would be carried through to the next day.

After work the next day (which was not a smooth Monday, like we all would hope for but never really expect), I went to pick up some jewelry and things I had lent to a friend.  When I got there, something seemed off.  A bit of chat later, my poor friend took me through her very distressing day as well as the week leading up to it.  I was SO glad I forgot to call her about picking up the materials during lunch.  I don’t believe that forgetfulness was without purpose for a second.  I was there when I needed to be there.  After we talked, I was able to call my wonderful father and youngest brother, Moose, to come over to assist in a blessing.  It was an amazing experience, though certainly stressful for my poor friend.

Right as we were wrapping up and it seemed my friend no longer needed an ear, I got a text from another friend.  I knew she had had a few days of emotional upheaval, and it turned out the night had compounded the stress and all the horrible feelings.  Her self esteem was at an all time low.  I had planned on going to a costume party last night, but had ended up staying with friend one.  This opened me up to have the time and–much more importantly–the energy to spend with friend two.  I offered to take her to ice cream and she refused.  I had a feeling her refusal was less about a need for time alone and more about being so miserable.  I told her I respected her need to decompress, but that I was willing to help out.  Very suddenly, as I was hanging up with my father (who I had called for friend one), I felt a DISTINCT impression that I needed to call friend two.  So I did.  Again, I am convinced this was no accident, because my suspicions were confirmed when she called back.  She needed a friend.  Thankfully, I was 15 minutes away as soon as friend one no longer needed me.  About 40 minutes later, I was able to take friend two to Chipotle (we were starving), and we talked until she felt better.

Now, as glad as I am that I was able to open my apartment to Mikki’s sister, be an ear and resource for friend one, and an ear and distraction for friend two, let me tell you how I feel when my friends (peripheral or directly) are in crisis: USELESS.  I am crazy and Bi-Polar.  I have a history a mile long that proves that I MAKE HUGE MISTAKES.  With DISTURBING FREQUENCY.  Why anyone trusts me to be an ear and then give advice is BEYOND me.  I was so freaked out that I texted another friend who I know values my advice FAR MORE than he should, and asked him–just once more–WHY THE HECK HE WAS CRAZY ENOUGH TO WANT MY ADVICE (not to mention the others who did).  He told me it basically came down to my willingness to be honest when not everyone was, as well as perspective (so maybe huge mistakes come in handy . . .).  Okay.  Take his word for it.  I don’t think I’m super exceptional in the honesty category, though I’ll admit that my perspective is different, but I don’t necessarily see that as good or helpful.  Later, when I was talking to friend two, she got a text from another of her friends who wanted to cheer her up that said, “Joie is good people.  She’s a good sort to be around for distraction and cheer.”  Seconds later, he send this addendum: “She’s also not afraid to tell you when you’re being stupid. :D”

WAIT A SECOND!  WHAT?!?!?!  I have been acquainted with this guy since I was eleven, but we haven’t seen each other since I was seventeen or so and we were never that close in the first place.  I mean, since we were teens we’ve passed each other in the halls at church (we’re in two different congregations that share the same building), but THAT’S IT.  Which means that I gained this reputation for being way honest LONG BEFORE I had the experience (and made the huge mistakes) that I would account for my limited ability for advice (which I thought went hand in hand with the honesty).  I wasn’t upset by his observation, but I was CONFUSED.

I know I’m blunt to a fault (I’ve written about it before).  I know that my friends appreciate the transparency that comes with the bluntness.  But this reputation that I seem to have, that I was totally unaware went beyond my immediate circle of friends, really weirds me out.  Because remember, when it comes to giving advice and being the comforting friend, I feel USELESS.  I am genuinely surprised when people tell me that I’ve helped them.  So, last night, I went to bed a bit bewildered, concerned for several parties, and very exhausted from the emotional stress of the past day.

A little more context: Last night was Moose’s last night at home before his mission for the LDS church.  He was dropped off at the airport at 6:30 this morning.  I saw him for the ten minutes we were both at friend one’s house.  I hugged him and kissed his cheek for the last time, told him how proud I was, that I was needed by another friend so would not be at the airport drop off this morning, and left before I got too sloppy.  By the time I got up this morning, he was on his flight.  Moose is now Elder Moose.  The next time I will see him will be sometime in November of 2014.  The next time I’ll hear his voice will be on Mother’s Day of 2013.

So why is today the kind of day that can only be called good?

Well, there are a few reasons.  One is that my little brother, who is one of the most compassionate and solid young men you will ever meet, is finally on his mission.  He had a long wait for visas and such.  He was READY to go.  And now he’s where he’s wanted to be for six months.  I’m so proud of him.  The second is being able to say I’m a missionary sister.  It’s one of the coolest things in the world to have a missionary out there.  The two years Monkey was on his mission were two of the most formative years of both our lives, as well as our relationship with each other.  Also, having a missionary out in the field brings with it an awareness of blessings and peace that I don’t always feel.  It has everything to do with having someone in your life whose perspective is so Christ-focused.

The third reason, and probably the most significant, is that I got to spend 36 glorious hours in the service of my fellow beings.  Was I inadequate?  Probably.  But I did help.  And the fact that it happened on the days and evenings before my brother left for two years dedicated to the service of others has not escaped me.  I could have spent last night with him, hovering while he packed and thinking of all the things I wish I had said to him for the last 19 and a half years.  Instead, the Lord, in His grace and perfect timing, provided me opportunities to serve and love, and the reminder that it is not just my brother who has committed to serve.  I am a Latter-Day Saint. I promise, each and every week, that I will serve others.  That I will “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and … stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9).  And it does not take an invitation or calling from the prophet of the LDS church for me to fulfill that promise.  It takes a feeling or a text or a call for the opportunity to present, and from there all I need to do act.  And in His grace, God allowed me and enabled useless, crazy me to be what my friends and acquaintances needed.

So yes, I missed out on my last night with my little brother.  But I didn’t miss much.  I got to follow his faithful example and start the next two years on exactly the right foot.  While my brother is serving the people of the Brazil, São Paulo Interlagos mission, I will be serving here at home.  And that charity, that pure love for our fellow man, will connect us across the hemisphere far better than one or two or twelve extra hours in each other’s company.

Today can only be called a good day.  My brother is on his mission.  Godspeed, Elder.  I will carry on here at home.

Expectations

Yesterday was not good.  I’m still getting over my cold (although, there is one bonus: tinnitus is WAY down from where it was earlier this week), I was at work, and–once again–one of the higher ups chose to believe that I screwed up, rather than trusting six years of dedicated (and fairly screw up free) work.  This means I took it out on some poor sod on the other end of the phone who made a simple, understandable, yet frustrating mistake.  Thankfully, I managed to conduct myself professionally with the customer.  I was less professional on Facebook (I might have to leave again–the negativity seems to be affecting me).  I regret that.

Sometimes, I’ve realized, I expect too much of the world (and I am included in that expectation).  I expect people to try to be better, stronger, smarter when a lot of the time (and, once again, I am included in this) it’s the best any of them can do to maintain the position they’re in.  I get frustrated when SIMPLE things are ignored, over-looked, or just not learned in the first place.  Then, I remember (sometimes my wonderful and far more patient roommate has to lovingly remind me): there are a lot of things that are SIMPLE for me that, frankly, aren’t for other people.  I’m smart.  Genius level smart.  It’s a fact that isn’t worth hiding, because it comes out on it’s own, even when I try to hold back.  That, combined with an insatiable desire to learn, just for the sake and fun of learning, makes a lot of things simple for me.  Other things, like hand-eye coordination, elude me.  No matter how much I practice.  I do not have a talent for such things and that bothers me, much more than I like to admit.

So I get frustrated.  With the world, with myself, and with anything that I cannot control.  And it’s got nothing to do with smartness and lack thereof.  It does have plenty to do with the second part of what makes me who I am: the recreational learning.  I can accept (now, I didn’t always) that not everyone has the capacity to be SMART.  Everyone has the capacity to be intelligent–and that’s where my frustration comes in.  Some people, because they are not and will never be SMART, refuse to be intelligent.  And when that happens, my teeth grind, I hyperventilate, and–more often than not–I rant.  It kills me to see people WASTE their brains.  It kills me to see myself doing it, and I know I do.  And yet, when I take a step back (more often than not prompted by my roommate), I realize that struggle to maintain the status quo.  It takes effort and work to stay in the same place and sometimes it takes all I’ve got to climb up that one step on the downward escalator so that I can stay in the same stupid place.  I cannot expect any different from anyone else.

That doesn’t mean I like it.  I take lack of ability very seriously–it is my job to improve my abilities and if I refuse to do it, I have no one to blame but myself.  The same goes for others.  The responsibility to be intelligent and able rests on the individual’s shoulder.  But expecting someone to be where I am–or better than I am–is silly and unfair.  Everyone progresses at their own rate.  Is the rate slower than I would hope?  Almost universally (and I am included in that).  But the rate is there.

And that’s what my expectation should be.  What I need to make it.  I need to expect to move marginally forward.  If that’s all I can do, if that’s all anyone can do, so be it.  If I can do better, then I best do better.  But I have no right to judge if someone else CAN do better.  I can hope they WILL, but I have no idea if they CAN.  And I most assuredly need to remember that in my interactions.

So, to that poor customer who has no idea of the ire raised or the judgement passed, I am sorry.  You are trying your best.  I am trying my best.  I fail more often than not, and cannot expect you to live up to a standard that I cannot live up to either.  I can only hope and try to help you do better as time goes by.  And hopefully, you can hold the same hope and help for me.

I know I need it.