I have a small, but definitive list of Things That Fucked Me Up™. In an attempt to shine light into the dark places, I'm bringing them out into the sun and burning them away, like the fucking emotional and spiritual vampires they are.
First up, the conversation I had with Ben Cody back in 2018. We were talking about the ex-Google asshat who said women shouldn't be engineers because they don't have the mental capacity for engineering (no, those were not his exact words, but that's the message he conveyed to pretty much everyone). Ben will argue both sides, and at one point asked me, "But, what if we're wrong?" What if women really aren't as capable as men for maths? (step aside the giant Fuck You that comes with that question aaaaaaaand....) Yes, we want equality (well, those not in power do, the ones IN power want things to stay the same, but that's a different post), but what if we actually can't have equality because we aren't equal?
We cannot separate systemic problems (of bias, of lack of opportunity, etc.) from ability at this point, with our current infrastructures, societies, and biases, so barring a giant, concerted-effort reset, yes, of course, we can be equal. Or, one could argue, women are better, as we are move creative and work better together.
That's not what I said to Ben, though.
Instead, I internalized, "But what if we're wrong?"
The question assaulted me at the same time I was reading Free Will, which already had me questioning pretty much everything. Suddenly, I was able to trust exactly nothing in my world. My thoughts went something like, "Here is this thing I feel strongly about... ... ... ... ... ... ... but what if I'm wrong?"
Doubt is a stunningly crippling feeling. The avalanche of doubt I felt was unbearable. I stopped knowing myself.
And then one morning, I realized, I was asking, "But what if I'm wrong?" about everything good in my life. What if I asked it about the bad things, too? What if I asked it about the assumptions that were causing the doubts? What if I asked it about the crushing thoughts that creeped in when I was trying but didn't believe I could succeed? What if I asked it about the negative emotions that were overwhelming me? What if I'm wrong about all the bad things?
Then maybe I'm not as awful as I was thinking I was.
Maybe I'm okay.
Maybe I'm better than okay.
Maybe I just am, and that's enough.
I've managed to move through whatever manufactured existential crisis I had going on there. I'm still asking myself, "But what if I'm wrong," but not in a soul crushing, fucked up way. Instead, it's a more balanced, scientific approach. I BELIEVE THIS THING. Wait, am I wrong? Don't know, let's find out, examine the assumptions, follow the logic, and sometimes, nope, I'm not wrong, and I CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THIS THING. Sometimes I am, but it isn't always any more.
For reasons I do not understand, a couple months ago I started the experiment of handing conversations back to people when they offered them to me, and waiting to see how long until they handed said conversation back to me again. I would like to say I've been shocked and surprised by the data I've gathered, but I'm really not.
The experiment goes something like this:
Them: "Something really interesting! Let me talk for a bit about this interesting thing. Okay, I've talked about this interesting thing long enough. How are things with you?"
Me: "I'm good. I'm doing this thing. What do you think about this?"
Them: "Why, I think this way about this thing! As a matter of fact, I'm going to talk a long while about this thing that leads into this other thing. I'm going to continue talking for a while."
Okay, okay, the conversations don't really go like that. But they don't really not go like that. And I find the structure of my conversations with friends, strangers, acquaintances, family, coworkers, and adversaries all pretty much go this way, and all of them are fascinating in their consistency.
This isn't to say I'm bored in the conversations. Quite the contrary, I am far, far, far more fascinated and interested in conversations these last few months than I think I have been in a long, long time, possibly ever. I listen to my conversation partner, because I don't need to speak, I don't need to interrupt, I don't need to figure out how to counter an argument or top their story, I don't need to get my point across, because all I need to do is listen and wait for them to hand the conversation back to me.
I started this experiment because I noticed, and immediately hated in myself, that I interrupt. I interrupt a lot. I believe this habit has developed from working in Silicon Valley and in tech, where to be heard, I had to interrupt, because all the guys were interrupting. When the style of speaking is to be an asshole, you're an asshole to fit in. And when you stop, look at what you've become, and decide you don't like it, you change. This experiment was my way of changing, my way of watching (myself and others), my way of becoming who I want to be.
And it has been FASCINATING. I love it. The closest people to me didn't even notice I started doing it. We all like to talk about ourselves, it's hard to see when someone else isn't talking.
What do you think? Is this your experience, too? « I just handed the conversation back to you.
Sometimes a day is a day when you are overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for family or friends who bring food over when you call them to tell them you lost track of time and forgot to make the dinner you invited them over to eat.
Sometimes a day is a day when you are told to be the adult in a relationship, and you're able to answer, I'm ahead of you by a month, I already extended the olive branch, he hasn't taken it, ball's in his court.
Sometimes a day is the eve of a journey that could fulfill a childhood dream, and you are overwhelmed by that realization.
And sometimes, a day is just a day.
But not today. Today, was a day.