Seth Godin recently published this very short post:
A simple test for brands, organizations and individuals:
When you exaggerate the things that people associate with you, your presence and your contribution, does it make you a better version of yourself?
When Seth gets it right (which is often), he gets it really really right. I’ve been thinking about this question since I saw the post and damn. What *do* people associate with me, my presence, my contribution? I know what I want them to associate with me, and I make an effort to focus on those traits.
But what can I do about those unknown things – the personal quirks and habits and unlikeable bits that I’m unaware of? The things that people who love me don’t care about but could nevertheless impact my ability to accomplish my goals? Self-awareness and reflection get me to a certain point, but how do I get past all the doubt and uncertainty and accept that I’m just a human? A normal human who has normal human-y quirks and habits and oddities?
I thought about doing a self-parody but stopped that idea right in its tracks. I’m not in the best place to parody myself from a helpful, funny perspective and it’s far too easy to think of myself as a ridiculous monster. Untrue, of course, but that’s what too much navel-gazing gets me.
So…going out on a limb, I’m going to answer Seth’s question with a “yes.” People tell me that I’m creative, engaged, warm, attentive, and kind, and those are traits that only make me better 🙂
Recently, I’ve spoken with a couple of former colleagues about our experiences at CCCF and have found those conversations a mixed blessing. As time goes by, it is harder to remember how crazy I felt, how unwell and frenzied. It also becomes easier to doubt my experience, to think that maybe I was being hypersensitive and over-reactive, that it wasn’t that bad. But typing the sentence “maybe prisons aren’t that bad after all” feels like a joke.
Prisons are terrible places.
But maybe they were less bad than I made them out to be? It all seems so fuzzy now, so distant and small. I’m starting to question why I ever thought it was bad enough that I needed to write about it – why I ever thought this story would capture people’s attention. Maybe if it were more horrific, if I had witnessed all kinds of horrible violence and aggression, maybe if I’d been more scarred and torn up – maybe then it would be worth telling. But it’s not about any of those things – it’s about watching my students struggle against their internal odds, battle their demons and self-doubt, and win – time and time again, they won. They succeeded in ways they’d never imagined – big and small – and experienced themselves as confident, competent, and valued people.
Trying to write the section about DOC has shaken my confidence tremendously. Writing only about my experience is proving much more difficult than I realized it would be. When I went back over the material I’d already written, it sounded like the rantings and complaints of a disgruntled person, an unhappy and bitter person. But how to write about a system that’s so awful when the immediacy of the emotion is gone? I’m not subject to that toxic environment every day now, and it’s hard to summon the motivation to be thoughtful in my observations. I wonder if the rest will be this hard. I wonder if the rest is worth writing at all.
blocked blocks, round round, all rounded
puzzle pieces filling
fitting, seamless and tight and smooth
lost last spaces further
optional is no longer an option
liberation is now less than a k
it’s not ok. I can’t move.
grasping grunting gobbling grabbing
high higher highest; close closer closest
tinned, salted, oiled, canned; metal keys roll us back
we’re beginning to smell
three fish or three days; reeking of never-ending visitors
olfactory assault | auditory hallucination | kinetic disarray
visual opulence and luxurious cultural overload
words of hipster wisdom “you’re so Erin Brokovich”
I’m sitting in a bubble tea shop in the Pacific Northwest and watching a woman and her two daughters. They all have the same dark blonde hair, the youngest has lighter, cornsilky streaks. Mom seems distracted and remote, checking her phone and not interacting much. The girls speak to each other, quietly. The older girl and the mother are quite serious, but the younger one looks like she’s not loving the “how to be serious” lessons the older two are laying down. I’m guessing she’s a much more playful child, but mom and older sis aren’t having it. I’ve been casually watching them for probably 20 minutes, and I’m not sure they’ve smiled once.
My interest in people-watching is moderate, but I know some people truly love it. There are times when it’s interesting, and the part I enjoy is imagining some type of interaction, their response to interruption. This trio caught my eye because of their hair, and their collective demeanor. I wanted to take a picture of them, capture their gravity and likeness, but it was too much of an intrusion into their unknown world.