So, stop giving a fuck

Kolb has this learning theory, right, and one of the concepts is the idea of testing your knowledge.

[All text from James E. Zull]

We must do the work of designing actions that will directly and actively test our theories. If testing demonstrates that our theories are flawed, we will create new ones. Active testing gives us insight into our original thoughts and also automatically initiates a new cycle.

Testing out your new theories through an action, through utilization of that new knowledge to see if it stands tall. This is how we develop new ideas, learn from our mistakes, move forward in the world. Seems…simple, right?

No, because, remember, Despite its essential and powerful impact on learning, learners often resist the active-testing phase. Because we love our theories, we may object to anything that questions them or suggests that we should modify them….Even when we know that we should be happy to discover error, our ownership of ideas often prevents us from acknowledging it. We are strongly attached to the ideas and plans that we ourselves invent. Thus, the possibility that they might be mistaken generates tension and conflict in our mind. If we are going to test our theories, we need to overcome those emotional barriers through determination and committed energy.

We need to stop being so afraid. We need to stop giving so many fucks. Because what happens when you finally break that barrier wall and face your fear and test your theory? What if you’re right? It’s the most freeing feeling in human experience–I doubt there is anything comparable. The ownership of that idea, of that knowledge. And I think this is supported by all human successes–love, family, food, jobs. It’s all based in ownership of one of your ideas, of one of your attempts at knowing. As long as we let our emotions of fear lead us around, we’ll never get anywhere.

Friendships

All day I’ve been thinking about the friends I had in college. I kind of ran around through circles, as I tend to do. As I did…Anyway, so I have comparisons to make and delineations.

My first group was a leftover from high school, and we drank and smoked cigarettes and ran through the leftover dramas of our youth. It was okay. I learned my tolerance for alcohol in a safe environment. And then I had the girlfriends. We would drink and then go out to get the attention of boys. It was a lot of…high heels and jewelry. It was exhausting. I loved those girls. I was invited to 2/3 of their weddings, but it wasn’t me. I didn’t care who noticed us when we went out, and I didn’t want to be noticed most of the time. And then I had the hipster group. The people who smoked a lot of pot and crashed house parties and only went to the bar if persuaded. We preferred to drink in our natural habitat. That was fun. And then there was the group I joined late, after study abroad, which was exactly what I needed the whole time. We drank just to drink, as irresponsible as that sounds. We liked to be drunk. But it was more than that. We would get together and it was like…everything was turned into a joke, everything made us laugh, everything became a remember this for next time. Everything was ridiculous. But we could flip that switch and we could be…serious. We knew real things about one another and we could analyze the intelligence or lack thereof around us. It was the first time I could explore all the sides of my femininity. It was looking like a slob at the Chinese buffet and making dirty jokes and dancing to rap music and starting fights with strangers…as a member of a group of girls. It was the first time I realized how powerful young women could be. How empowering it was to have friends like me. It was intoxicating. A weekend with them could sustain me for a month…through all the shit I put up with at school, with my family, with my boyfriend, with his friends. It was the best. It didn’t matter if we were binge watching forensic files hungover af, or watching Jaws, five us in a bed. It didn’t matter if we were at a party where we knew no one. We would commandeer the bathroom and make it our own. But it was every minute…it was when we would go the bar in our flip flops and push everyone out of the dance floor and then go home and make a pizza and wreak havoc in the kitchen… I just miss that feeling of belonging. That feeling of a team, of a makeshift family. Of knowing there was always a space for you waiting…while you went out and did whatever you had to do. That someone would save you a space, and welcome your return. Breakfast would be waiting or your favorite song would be playing or a joke would be replayed. And obviously, as a unit, there’s always one or two that you prefer, that you have your one on one time with, that knows you as you, that you talk to a little more. But that wasn’t…that’s not what I miss. All of us…that was just so worthwhile. You know in Stand by Me, when the main character is like, I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Well, for me, that was 22. I used to bemoan that it was so late in life, but now I realize that it was perfect timing.

“Babooshka”

“We’re always telling stories to ourselves, about the situation that we’re in, about other people, and that story becomes a reality for us, and that’s the problem.” -Invisibilia

Invisibilia is my favorite new podcast. It’s kind of … hopeful and reassuring in a world of unknowns. Which is quite fitting since that’s what the show is focusing on. But I’m also kind of shocked by the show because I realize that the thoughts I have about the world, about how the universe works, aren’t universal. That I am in fact, quite radical and alone in how I think about the world and how I view the world. In hindsight, this shouldn’t be shocking to me, and I don’t know what it says about my development that I expect the rest of the humans to work like I work, but it is a constant struggle, that I must remind myself every day in every situation, they don’t know like you know. they weren’t conditioned to think like you think. they don’t know what you know. you’re not on common ground. you are in fact an island. But I want to live in a world where more people are like me. Is that bratty? No, that is universal, but in the meantime, I resent myself. So if I just keep telling my stories in the way I understand them, then maybe those parts of me that I take for granted will actually make a little more sense, and then I can forgive them.

When I was in high school, I had a friend who called me Babooshka, and I called him Brain. He was angsty in the way I was angsty and acted on it in the way I preferred. He did mischievous things–he made jokes in class, he replied to people in unexpected ways, he broke small rules. We raced through the hallways at lunch; on senior day, we started rumors of a food fight in the cafeteria; we soaped the cars in the parking lot; we walked around the pond during gym; we wrote notes in class; we bragged about dominating the go-kart track on senior trip. We didn’t care together, and he was the first friend I had I could express that with in a way that wasn’t ultimately harmful to our bodies. We didn’t light up during lunch, we didn’t sneak beer on the weekends, we just were. We acted. We spent a lot of time together senior year, so much time that the summer after he started dating my best girl friend, because we were always together. And our friendship waned but carried on into community college where we had Biology together and could carry on some of our high school antics in lab or at the pizza buffet when we went to lunch.

Brain was/probably still is Mormon. His family was totally personable and happy and normal. But they didn’t watch TV on Sundays or drink caffeine. There was a lot of root beer and sprite. We all knew that once he turned 19, he would leave for his 2 year mission, somewhere in the world. In an effort of great support, I became very involved in Brain’s religion, trying to understand what was going to take him away. I started having dinner with his family on a regular basis. They often hosted the 2 Mormon missionaries who were in town for their few month rotation. And I was surprised by the personality, by the youthfulness, by the goofiness of these missionaries. They jumped off roofs and made jokes about the people they met and made eye contact with me when they asked me about my day. And they were tall 19 year old boys. So, maybe now, looking back, I was also indulging my hormones a bit. Boys.

Anyway, I read sections of the Book of Mormon and shook out my skirt from graduation and went to a couple services at The Church of LDS. I quietly sat through lessons and pictures that the missionaries drew for me, illustrating their view of heaven and hell and the umbrella of their faith. I got it. In the way that I get Christianity and Catholicism, in the way that all stories make sense to me on some level. It’s all relative. Ultimately, Mormonism was not the choice for me. But Brain continued on the path. He left for his Mission shortly after his 19th birthday that fell on leap year, eventually ending up in Southern California and later in my Arizona. We wrote letters haphazardly with brief thoughts and drawings and pictures of our lives. He sent me a ring that I don’t wear, but keep in the bottom of my jewelry box. I read his struggle and his loneliness and began to slightly edge away until one day, when I realized I would never mail the recent letter I had written and stuffed in an envelope. After I opened his letter in which he told me that all senior year, when I thought we were bonding in our sameness, in our frustration for the sameness of the world, that he was really just plotting and planning. Hoping I would break up with my boyfriend (which I did), hoping we would stay broken up for a period of time (which we didn’t), hoping I would bounce away from that relationship, happy and open to new experiences (didn’t happen for years), so that he could “move in.” I think the words he used…I wonder if I kept his letters…wow, I don’t think I did…were “snatch you up” or maybe it was “snatch you away.” Either way, I was suddenly disgusted with my best friend. I felt objectified, used, tricked, deceived. And then there was another strange layer of queasiness, when I considered the reality of my best friend, who Brain had started dating the summer after high school, who he eventually married, destroyed, and divorced. Ah, I’m getting ahead of myself, there are two sides to every story. It was hard losing my friend, and even harder, when I realized how many of my memories were tainted. This new dynamic he had added not only to our relationship, but to the already strained relationship with my girl friend.

At the time it was devastating. It was another story of someone I loved hurting me and losing them and losing a piece of myself that had grown and flourished in that relationship with him. And I…that was hard at the time. Being 19 and vulnerable.

Now, it’s just another of my tales, of my anecdotes. I regularly run into missionaries, who I greet, jovially. They are often surprised by my openness, my friendliness. They always give me their name, a card, ask me to call, or call me in hopes of a meeting. I always decline, don’t answer the phone, deny them their moment. I know they need to fill the quota. I have stopped flirting with Mormon missionaries. Brain and I would have gone our separate ways eventually, regardless. And that ending has prepared me for others…for other acts of misogyny…for other boys who think you will bring them to themselves…will close that loop in their lives… despite this, you know, being 17 was pretty fun with that kid, even if we didn’t make it much beyond that.

Profile

The recycle bin closet at work smells like Scott’s house. The recycle bin closet is only home to recycling, but the number of times I walk to the closet to rid my office of trash per week is unacceptable. Scott was one of my best friends growing up. My high school graduating class had 31 people. So you didn’t ever lose touch with someone growing up. We were best friends in kindergarten, friends throughout grade school, middle school, and high school, and then best friends again our sophomore year at community college.

Scott’s family owns hogs. So everything they touch–their cars, their house, their clothes, has a lingering whiff of hog shit. You get to the point where it becomes unnoticeable. It blends. It mixes with the other smells of their lives, like laundry detergent and freshly brewed coffee and the Christmas cookies their mom would make every year in their kitchen, and it becomes just another part of them. To this day, the smell of hog shit still makes me think of my Sundays on Scott’s living room floor, eating pizza and watching movies, or nights in his car with the beer bong we made out of an oil funnel and a pack of cigarettes I bought him from work. Or fishing at their pond in early summer. I don’t know why the smell of the recycling bin closet reminds me of Scott. It must have a note of shit.

Scott’s dad died when we were seniors in high school. It was unexpected, sudden, shocking, heartbreaking. We found out at school, first period, from some teachers. Both he and his sister were absent that morning, conspicuously. You just felt the wave of sorrow pass through the high school. Everyone knows Scott’s family. He was the third kid of his parents’ to come through the school system. His dad had gone to high school with my mom. His uncle had married my aunt. That kinda thing.

They showed up some time either late morning or early afternoon. We were down in the Math classroom…although I didn’t take math senior year, so I can’t remember what class we would have been in. At the end of the hall in the corner. He and his sister showed up outside of the classroom, and we were relieved to see them. Surprised again, but relieved that they could function. Could drive and walk and talk. They were out of sorts, unsure how to hold themselves. We made nervous, awkward chatter and tried to treat them as we would on any other day. We had made chocolate pie in Foods and someone had started a loud argument during P.E. Scott told me later that moment really stood out to him as he navigated the new fields of grief. I felt at the time maybe our ignorance was showing, but maybe that was for the best.

Scott and I have finally lost touch, as the circumstances of our lives have taken us away, and as I have pulled in my feelers, saving my energy for other pursuits. But that smell at the end of the hall pulled him out and for a moment, I paused.

5 senses

It’s winter, so I’m thinking of summer. It’s the weekend, so I prepare for my workweek. It’s slow, so I pretend to be fast. Always where I’m not. Always looking beyond where I am. That’s not the way to live, they say. You forget where you are, you forget what you know. You don’t appreciate the here and now.

In movies set in the midwest, you always see fools in cornfields. Walking, the leaves gently brushing across their shoulders as they stride or run through. This irritates me to no end. Movie magic. Movie lies. Perhaps corn is planted differently outside of Southern Illinois. Maybe I know nothing of nothing. But the sun and the green of the leaves reminds me…of the closeness of the rows. The density of the crop. The itchiness of the residue the stalks leave on your skin. The smell of the green and the dirt and the baby corn. Maybe you can see over the stalks early spring, but come summer the corn engulfs you. You are lost to the world. You don’t enter into a mature cornfield for fun. For a leisurely stroll. I don’t know what happens to those long summers. To the mugginess and the chirping of the cicadas. The scent of honeysuckle reminds me of summer. Being out in the night when I shouldn’t be. Windows open and the smell of the mesh of the screen and sunblock rings around your scalp and eyebrows.

The scent of stale cigarette smoke reminds me of my mother; coffee, my father. Warm concrete–summer. Our first few winters in Illinois were brutal. The bathtub became our catch all. Our dishwasher, our washing machine, our obvious shower. The early mornings in front of the furnace. The squeaks of the mice when we surprised them with the lights at the start of the day. The farmhouse and the story it knew of our family. The things it kept secret from us–the black snakes in the walnut tree, the meteorite in the side yard next to the long driveway. The smell of rotting wood and the dampness of the machine shed. These are the memories that get me out of my warm bed in the morning. When I’m tempted to call in to work for the sleep and quietness of my own home. Then there was my stepdad’s house, with the glaring red carpet completely covering the top floor. The heat that would get trapped there in the hot summer nights. That feeling of being watched from the empty closets. That time the cows across the street escaped their pasture and trampled our yard, but luckily not our dog. The pines in the back I would climb to the very tip top. Where I would sit and sway in the wind and watch the world below me. The sap that would stain my hand and jeans much to my mother’s delight. The terror of having to leave in the middle of the night because of the tornado warnings. The thought I had–the certainty–that we would return in the morning to find our house destroyed from the top down and my stuffed animals strewn about the small yard. The crappy basketball hoop without a net above the garage where I would practice my sick defensive tactics. The bicycle that became whatever I needed that day. A horse, a car.

That time we were on the plane to St. Louis with the college kids. Who sat on each other’s laps and drank booze and tried to talk to us like we were people and not children. That woman who ran the hotel in Texas that I befriended. Who asked me about the postcards I sent and the necklace I wore. Who folded laundry and told me about her small children at home. That boy who worked at the refectory in England and remembered that I liked the porridge and would ask me every morning how my day was. The time my father took me by the shoulders and told me exactly what to do if the police were called. If the lights lit up the parking lot. The unfair characters we assign to people based off our 5 senses.

You know what I want? Good hearts. No alarms and no surprises. Ambiguity. Peach pie. Cold beer. Cicadas at night on the porch. Gravel under my bare feet. Hot concrete in the dark night. Rain in the morning. Juice with my eggs. Tea with my toast. Memories in my mind. Words on my page.

A small price to pay

I give you all these things, but what after all that, what in the end, have I given you? It seems like you know something, but you still know nothing. I tell you and it evaporates. You have what I can afford to give…I can afford to give you this. This does not break me. While these things are things that I like…memories that I treasure, good or bad, like the pictures of my family on my walls…I can show them to you without diminishing them. I can afford to give you everything. –Dave Eggers

Cause it’s not just my family I miss. It’s the whole god damn place. It’s the size and hue of the mountains, the smell after rain, the dry desert dirt. The life that could have been mine…almost was. The life I walked away from over and over again. It’s the wide streets and the fast dense traffic and the green of winter. It’s the accents and the tortillas and the Lucky Wishbone theme song. It’s my life that I don’t have access to. I forgot the password. You shall not pass. The memories I’ve forgotten. The end. The realization that Tucson is just another city despite my notions otherwise. It’s not my fault I’m happy.

Wrestle with me

Snowflakes the size of quarters. White sunshine that floats into my living room, down the hall and about the doorway of my bedroom on the occasional weekend morning. The grinding of tires over old snow at all times of day. Winter is shocking to my senses.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy my life here; I do very much. It’s just that…I want more. I want more experiences, more stories, more interaction. More complexity. And I feel simple here. And I am a simplistic individual, in a sense. I am a minimalist. I just purchased a duplicate pair of running shoes to replace my current worn out pair because I like the style and the fit that much. Also, second season styles are $50 less than “in-season.” Fashion, man.

I’ve mastered this and I’m ready to wrestle with something else. Is that just a branch on the tree of discontent? No, I refuse to think so.