Tuesday, January 31, 2006
How I Found My Purpose: Chapter 6
A temp firm got me a job at a Place I cannot mention for various legal reasons. It rapidly evolved into a full-time job, and the writing dried up. As soon as I could, I took my first paid vacation to attend a week-long career counselling workshop. That was when I discovered my unreasonable IQ, and the pointlessness of standard career counselling under those circumstances. It was devastating (again!) I began an aggressive program of personal research on giftedness and a desperate search for a good therapist who knew about my "condition". Luckily, I found one.
I stayed at the Place during this process because I appreciated the stability and the good pay with benefits. I loved some of the people I worked with and I loved being able to buy a brand new car. I wanted to really see if I could make a go of a less-than-ideal job. It's a common strategy among gifted people, like Einstein, who do one thing for money and then live their real life after work. I distracted myself with falling in love, painting classes, improv classes, yoga classes, classes, classes; but I regularly got depressed and angry from fighting the system and losing. I knew that eventually I would have to leave, as the Place and its stagnant organizational culture had nowhere for me to grow.
Under fraught circumstances, I did eventually leave. It took me at least a month to get over the psychological damage and to rebuild my self-confidence - but I was in love again, with an incredibly supportive and strong man. With his help, I decided that this was it. I was not going to disappear into another job that was wrong for me for another 4 years (I'd recognized the cycle!) I looked for a job, took a few MORE classes, did some volunteer work, and did a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then my case manager referred me to a program called "Determining Self-Employment Readiness".
Technorati tags: career gifted writing love
Monday, January 30, 2006
How I Found My Purpose: Chapter 5
So I get to Canada, party party with my cousin, fall in love, get married, and then start trying to figure out what to do next. Having no clue how to look for a job in the Canadian market, I had assumed that there would be hundreds of employers just waiting for me to submit myself to their management training programs. In Britain, one generally gets a degree, then goes to work in totally unrelated fields. In North America they seem to have this tiresome requirement that your degree is at least tangentially applicable to the job you want.
Suffering from immigrant syndrome (I can't find a nice explanatory link, but it's basically culture shock plus identity crisis) I dropped off resumes at everywhere from the Geological Survey of Canada to MacDonald's. Friends helped out by offering me childcare work, but this was not what I wanted at all. Eventually my wonderful friend Lesley offered to lend me the cash to go to secretarial school.
The course pulled me out of a serious depression and got me a Canadian qualification. At this point I just needed a job, any job, to get me on my feet, and I found an assistant position at a small contracting firm. Not long after, I had a cancer scare. Luckily, it was caught early and treated completely successfully, but it was a big wake-up call.
I only get one life. One. The cancer made me realize that it was very precious to me, and got me thinking about the big questions. My personal life was getting really hairy, and seperation and divorce were in full swing. If I was going to live, I wanted to really live, without regretting that I never tried something or became someone I could be proud of. Anyone could be their office manager. No-one else could be 100% me. So I upped and quit, and decided to write for a living. I'd read a lot, and a lot of what I'd read had been very bad. I was sure I could do better. How hard could it be?!
Technorati tags: career cancer writing hubris
Sunday, January 29, 2006
I saw part of her original interview with Frey and her gushing over the gory details of his story. It struck me as a bit strange and immature, but then lots of things that are designed to please Oprah's core demographic make no sense to me.
As I watched part of Oprah's Embarrassment Show yesterday, I was struck by her position on the whole affair. She did seem wedded to the idea that there is one truth and that is the only thing she is interested in. Does anyone else think this is a strange reaction for a talk-show host? Her show is often about varying opinions and beliefs. In another show, she interviewed a family about their decision to hire a stripper to perform at their son's 16th birthday party. She even seems comfortable showing different sides of the story and not wrapping everything up in a nice cosy resolution.
I think Oprah is missing the lesson here, the one that is challenging her to develop. It is instructive to watch her struggle with this issue; her discomfort with what she says on screen is clear, and the drive to growth is evident. I think she has the potential and the ability to expand her concept of truth and start approaching her show at a deeper level. I would love to see it happen.
It is incredibly scary for anyone to step forward into a new worldview, casting off old beliefs and growing into something larger. For someone as successful and public as Oprah, the pressure to remain as she is must be enormous. If I could talk to Oprah today, I would call her forth into the next phase of her life, to the place where the line between truth and lies melts away. She could take it.
Technorati tags: Oprah James Frey advanced development growth
Friday, January 27, 2006
How I Found My Purpose: Chapter 4
"But I'm just not HAPPY!"
So said my 19-year-old self to the doctor across the desk, who looked scarcely older than I was. "I'm not happy either," he said, "that's just the way it is."
BOOM. Another misconception crushed. I thought that a doctor might have an answer or at least an idea where to look. I was sure that anyone who had invested the vast amount of time and energy it takes to get qualified as a doctor must have this question figured out. But, he wasn't happy either. And he seemed to have accepted it as normal.
University was a rude awakening for me. I had visions of long days drinking coffee and learning deeply about fascinating things, and long nights drinking red wine and arguing passionately with other students about esoteric ideas. When I got to Manchester I found insipid first-year lectures with 400 people in them, and students who only argued passionately about whose turn it was to clean up between drink-fests. It took at least a year to find my feet, and when I did I wasn't thrilled about what I was standing on.
I was lucky in that I incurred very little student debt and was fully supported by my family - and I thank my mother for convincing me not to drop out after a family crisis and five home robberies in a year. I got the important piece of paper, but I was sure I didn't want to become a scientist. I couldn't relate to my professors; they were all much older, lived in tiny paper-strewn offices, and seemed perpetually distracted. We met the grad students our professors were supervising, and they did not seem to be alight with the love of learning and discovery. They were slogging it out for the piece of paper, too.
By now, I was getting really depressed. Is that all there is? If the smart, fun, passionate, life-long learners weren't at university, then where on earth were they? Perhaps the doctor was right. Maybe my expectations of life were too high. When everyone else was applying for jobs, I was applying for a work visa to go to Canada for the summer before taking up an excellent opportunity created for me by regular my summer employer. It was a good job, even if it was in something I wasn't terribly interested in. If this was as good as it gets, I would have one last fling before settling down to reality.
Technorati tags: college university career choice expectations
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
How I Found My Purpose: Chapter 3
Choosing a university was considered the next logical step for everyone at my school. There was not really any question. You might take a year off, but you were assumed to be going on to college. I remember balking at this, for the not insignificant reason that I had no idea what to take at college and still no idea of a career. If by now you are picturing me wandering around England wide-eyed and clueless, just add the school uniform and you're bang on.
Eventually I got with their program and started searching for degrees. What did I want to do? I was really digging the whole evolution/genetics/behavioural science deal, but I couldn't find a degree program matching that description. Palaeontology sounded like fun. No degrees in that, either - the closest I could find was Biology and Geology at Manchester University. Close enough!
Did it occur to me to look outside the UK? Wait a few years? Get some help with this major life decision? Not a chance. I sent off an application, plus a couple more to various lucky faculties of Geography around the country. I received offers from all over, and accepted Manchester. DONE! Back to partying and attending balls with my awesomely cool friends.
Oh well. Applicable quotes:
For of those to whom much is given, much is required.
Once I knew better, I did better.
I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day.
Technorati tags: college career counselling
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
By George, I've got it!
I really, really hate to tidy and sort things. I'm always experimenting with ways to get myself to like it and value it more. Obviously, all previous experiments have not been able to get me to eat that frog consistently.
So today, I hit on a most excellent strategy! I did the great cleanup whilst improving my mind by listening to a teleclass on coaching. I couldn't participate, but it didn't matter because it was prerecorded. That way, I felt like the time wasn't completely wasted on something I loathe. Yay! Cue the brass band!
When I finally managed to quit smoking, it was a similar process - I experimented, and failed, about 12 times before it stuck. When you really want something, don't give up. Use that wonderful creative brain to find a way to make it happen.
Technorati tags: procrastination finding a solution
Sunday, January 22, 2006
How I Found My Purpose: Chapter 2
Soon it came time to decide on A-levels. One chooses three subjects and studies them intensly for two years; it's supposed to provide a thorough grounding. This early specialization is the reason a college degree is only three years in the UK. More advice was available this time, and the emphasis was placed on having some idea of a career goal and matching your A-levels to its requirements. The Careers Library was opened up to us and everyone got a personal career counselling session.
I bounded eagerly up the stairs to my appointment. I laid out my latest report card and waited as the counsellor reviewed my file. Finally she looked up and smiled. "You're really bright," she said. "You can do whatever you want!"
Time seemed to stop. I had no idea what career I wanted or was even suited for. Poor woman, I had come to her with the expectation that she would be able to instantly assess my potential and spit out my ideal life path. Totally unreasonable, but still devastating when it didn't happen.
I spent several fruitless hours in the Career Library. Every job requirement listing sounded so dry and uninspiring, or called for skills I knew I didn't have any interest in acquiring. I found nothing. The situation was further complicated because I was changing schools so I couldn't just go with my favourite teachers.
In the end, I decided to take things I liked, and worry about college later. I chose Geography (my strongest subject), Social Biology (no chemistry required, interesting topics) and Economics (brand new to me so lots of brain candy). Once again I suggested taking more, as I knew some people took four A Levels, but the new school made it harder to navigate and I didn't really pursue it. At least I would be having fun as I careened blindly into the future!
Technorati tags: education career counselling gifted
Friday, January 20, 2006
How I Found My Purpose: Chapter 1
I've been concerned with this question since I was about 12. Apologies if the following information is now out of date; this is how it was for me. In England, 12/13 is the age when one first starts making choices about which subjects to drop. At 16 you take your first real national exams, the GCSEs. Which GCSEs you take determine which A-Levels you are allowed (by a school) to take, which determines what university programs you can apply to successfully. In England, one applies to a subject-specific undergraduate program - you cannot just show up and declare your major later.
So as you can see this was a big decision, very early. I didn't really want to drop anything, except History and English Literature. We were required to take English Language, English Literature, Maths, French, one other language, one science and either History or Geography. We had 9 examinable spots to fill in total.
Advice on making these choices was minimal, a group lecture on not shutting doors to our possibilities. I remember agonizing for days, deeply resentful that I couldn't do more of the options, but the school wouldn't let me. Biology and Geography were my favourite subjects, so that was easy. The language choice seemed obvious. I could see Latin used in the subjects I loved most, and the teacher was an amazingly smart, dedicated, and passionate woman. I couldn't have articulated it, but I was drawn to her for those reasons. Plus after the misery of French lessons since I was 10, I wasn't willing to chance it that German might be more of the same.
I decided not to take Chemistry and Physics seperately, because that was two spots used up. Instead I chose Physical Science which was a mix of both, primarily designed for people who hated science but had to take one. This would allow me to take science A-levels and still give me an extra spot to do somehing I loved now. Art, or Music? How could I choose? I loved them both!
I was deeply involved in my school's excellent music program by this time, and I was also participating in county orchestras as a violist. It seemed like the obvious choice. But when I went to tell my Art teacher than I wouldn't be studying with him any more, he was terribly frustrated. I remember him saying it was a waste, and he was sorry he wouldn't get to see my work develop. I remember being very surprised and rather sad, hearing that. Still, I went ahead and chose to take Music.
Why am I telling this part of the story in such excrutiating detail? Two reasons:
1. It was not fair of the school to deny me the opportunity to take more subjects. Acknowledging timetabling issues, they could have relaxed their "required" subjects, and should have pointed out other options - correspondence courses or community college. I was 12 and my world was small, unimaginably so for today's teens - this was pre-internet. I sorely needed advice and counsel.
I think one of the most important things to teach gifted kids is self-advocacy. If I had felt more comfortable challenging authority, perhaps I could have got what I needed. As it was, I accepted their restrictions as "the way it is".
2. My Art teacher's comments stayed buried in my memory until 2001 when I took a watercolour class. This was the first visual art I had done since I was 14, and I found out that I actually did have an "eye". After a couple of classes I remembered what he said so long ago. I was overjoyed to find out that I could develop that latent talent now.
So if you remember enjoying something in school, but didn't pursue it, it's never too late to try your hand at it as an adult. Like me, you may find a source of enormous personal satisfaction is just sitting there, waiting for you to call it forth.
Technorati tags: education self-advocacy gifted
Thursday, January 19, 2006
You wrote "Humble aim: stop annoying family and friends."
Is that YOUR humble aim, or the aim of channeling gifted people?
It's all MINE! I wouldn't presume to direct others to do the same, or use the same method - if that's what you meant by "channeling". I find that I'm often the only person interested in my exciting discoveries. There's tons of ideas I think are marvellous, and make me happy to be alive. For example, I'm completely fascinated by gifted people; their lives, their brains, their relationships. When I go on about it too much, people usually tune out or remember they left something in the oven and leave. It's one consequence of devoting my time to thinking about a very specialized subject, and helps me understand why small talk was invented.
It can be depressing, though. It's difficult to feel heard if the person you are pouring out your heart to can't relate to your experience, even when they are doing their best. Part of the pleasure of finding a great new theory, author, poet, play, or movie, is sharing it with the people you love. Knowing that it won't appeal them means the only outlet for my enthusiasm is likely to be....the blog! There's usually at least one other human out there who feels the same way. Sometimes, someone might even identify with the joy - or angst - and experience universality* for the first time. Blogosphere as group therapy? Why not?
*A common feeling among group therapy members, especially when a group is just starting, is that of being isolated, unique, and apart from others.....Enormous relief often accompanies the recognition that they are not alone; this is a special benefit of group therapy. full text
Technorati tags: annoyance blog gifted
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
The game universe is small, with only a few problems to solve. There is a finite set of options or plays, and one can form a cohesive, defensible strategy that will increase chances of winning, no matter what one's opponent does. It is something that can be conquered if approached in a logical manner. This makes playing very satisfying, giving players a sense of increasing competence and mastery.
Improv games are all about learning how to fail, take crazy risks, and adapt your strategy to help your fellow players look good. The improv universe is as big as your collective imaginations. There are some rules, but breaking them is essential at all but the most basic levels. Good-humoured misbehaviour is actively encouraged.
So the two types are really very different. Yet they attract the same kinds of people. Why? Rather than occupy itself with a game problem, my gifted brain usually prefers to work on these real-life scenarios, which may have many solutions, or none. An ambiguous problem, a big data set, and potential to create change with the answers.....yummy!
Technorati tags: gifted improv Puerto Rico game
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
There's SO MUCH to say
Getting my audience to participate in a demonstration of what I do is a much more effective way to communicate. That is because I am able to provide a single experience that will be deeply meaningful to each individual at their own level of interest and development. For example, the simple game of Word At a Time teaches a host of skills. A storyteller will notice the narrative development, listening skills, and eye contact. A teacher will probably notice teamwork, use of grammar, and sparking of imagination. A counsellor might focus on the group energy, archetypal story forms, and low-risk group participation opportunities. A coach - the possibility of bypassing a mental censor to get to the heart of a problem, or a new brainstorming tool. A gifted person could be drawn to the freedom, hilarity, and speed of the game.
So if there are more things to say than I have the patience to find words for, I go with showing. Richer, more personal, and much more fun!
Technorati tags: gifted improv communication
Monday, January 16, 2006
The Art of Business
In the art world, romantic myths abound of the artist starving in a garrett just for the opportunity to work. Artists can resist business types because they think businesspeople are all about numbers, and reports, and suits, and sales, and what can they possibily have in common.
Conversely, business types stereotype artists as flighty, illogical, unpredictable, and bad with money. Their culture is about doing whatever it takes to improve the bottom line, and aesthetics rarely find their way into it.
But both entrepreneurs and artist are engaged in the business of creating something that has never existed in the world before. They are both interested in communicating and expanding the audience for their product, but the traditional sales tactics of business are simply not artist-friendly. They both want to become mature brands with a stable market, but businesses can't always see the immense value of change and experimentation when they are ground down by day-to-day operations.
Being a good artist and finding a way to make money at it is extremely subversive in the art "establishment", as Robert Bateman has found out. Similarly, businesses rarely respect innovators until they have a proven track record according to business standards. Laying aside stereotypes and mixing the two groups could have an enormous hybrid vigour effect!
Technorati tags: entrepreneurship artist creativity
Tag I'm It
Four jobs you have had:
1) barmaid - for extra Christmas cheer
2) technical writer
3) hospital kitchen worker - sandwich specialist
4) executive assistant
Four movies you could watch over and over:
1) Get Shorty/Be Cool (same main character, so I'm counting it as one choice)
2) Dances With Wolves - first part only, before the killing gets out of hand
3) Mr. Holland's Opus
4) Good Will Hunting
Four places you've lived:
1) Norwich, England - nice cathedral and castle, shame about the night life
2) Oundle, Northamptonshire, England - my old school
3) Manchester, England - university in the early 90s when it was v. hip
4) Langley, BC, Canada - my first Canadian home
Four TV shows you love to watch:
2) Gilmore Girls
3) Coronation Street
4) Restaurant Makeover
Four places you've been on vacation:
1) Ibiza, Spain
2) Paris, France
3) Las Vegas
4) Devon, England
Four of your favorite foods:
3) baked beans
Four places you'd rather be right now:
1) Venice, Italy
2) Zermatt, Switzerland
3) South Africa
Four sites I visit daily:
Four Bloggers you are tagging:
No, I won't do it!
Blessings to this meme as it BITES THE DUST.
Friday, January 13, 2006
World's Greatest Blonde Joke
Technorati tags: blonde joke meme
This article reminds me how important it is to give gifted kids the tools and information about their emotional and social development that speak to their intense experiences. I suspect that much of gifted education today only concentrates on fostering intellectual growth, thus holding students back by not giving equal time to their other overexcitability areas. In my experience, the more one area grows without developing the others, the greater the internal tension created.
Gifted kids can feel so lost and alone in their highly coloured emotional worlds, with no map to guide them through the wilderness. It is nearly impossible to be happy and successful (according to western society's standards) unless you have a good understanding of self and of others, no matter how high your intellect soars. Let's at least give them a compass and wise counsel along the way.
Technorati tags: gifted overexcitabilities education
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Back to your Regularly Scheduled Program
At the UBC seminar I mentioned yesterday, Dr. Marion Porath presented preliminary findings of her research* on how gifted kids think about learning - their own internal epistemology or theory of knowledge. I don't want to discuss it too much here, as the project is ongoing, but one thing that really stuck out was the difference in attitude to learning about math. Kids were much more focused on the drilling and memorization aspect of the subject than when learning about reading, which had a much greater ability to enthuse and inspire them.
My own response to this is tempered by the reading I've been doing lately about the teaching of mathematics to gifted kids. I made a huge discovery - what I think of, and was taught, as "Maths" in England, is only one tiny part of mathematics. I wasn't very good at school math, mainly because I couldn't see the point of it. Even then I had little patience for busy work.
Math teachers who write books about gifted math are quick to point out that math is everywhere, we use it every day, driving, or swimming in a crowded pool, or calculating when to leave for the movie theatre so we don't miss the previews. It's a logical language we can use to decode the world. Generally, I'm good at those things. I'm excellent at getting all the food on the dinner table at the same time. Apparently, this too is actually math! I'm good at math! I'm GOOD at math.
So what happened? Why didn't the fire light under me, in the same way it did about music or art or reading or geography? I suspect it was because I couldn't relate it to my life or my interests in any way, and the emphasis was on practice and repetition. I didn't see it as a tool to solve problems - I saw it as the problem, something to grind out to please a teacher. I feel cheated! I will now go and find some internet homework-type sites to help fill in the gaps in my knowledge so that I can begin to find the beauty and elegance that so entrances my mathematically gifted friends.
* if anyone can tell me what the clear plastic object in the wallpaper of this picture is, you will save me hours more of fruitless speculation. Thanks.
Technorati tags: gifted math
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Anyway tonight I am going to a lovely seminar on gifted education at UBC. Can you say, "free educational and networking opportunity"! I'm also confirmed to do two improv shows on the next two Thursdays as part of !nstant Theatre's Cage Match. Our fabulous and talented team is called Krispy on the Edges. Yeah!
Finally, I found an exciting new feature on Bernard. If you set it right, it will take 24 shots in about 5 seconds - check out Steve flailing for maximum effect!
And that's about all for today, folks. Will continue meandering through the underworld until I find the magic door.
Technorati tags: slump improv
Monday, January 09, 2006
The Dreaded Dip
I've followed some of the news, and I don't feel like talking about that. I refuse to talk about the weather. I've been reading C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell, and even a book by the wonderful Keith Johnstone that is new to me, and still nothing to say. Nothing bubbling up from the well of creativity. Zip. Nada.
For me, periods of extreme creative joy are always followed by periods of self-loathing and indolence, rinse, repeat ad infinitum. In this time, I usually hole up and read all the books I've been meaning to get to, and also clean up my office and do my accounting. So whilst these times are actually quite productive, I usually feel like the world's biggest slug, terrified I'm going to get busted. I am creating nothing! Execution looms!
Yet, all the reading I have done about creativity and talent development tend to skip blithely over the dips, giving the false impression that you can be creative and fulfilled 100% of the time. The really scary part of this is that the establishment educators haven't noticed that dips are a normal part of life for creative people, and push for constant progress at all times. I can deny the reality and work through it, and make sales calls and write proposals anyway, but from experience I know the best thing to do is go through the funk wholeheartedly and come out the other side.
And before you write and tell me, I know this post is not funny. Oh yes.
Technorati tags: creativity work
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Having read of another firing due to blogging (aka "doocing") here, I'm wondering exactly how corporations and other organizations are going to deal with the "threat" blogging represents. After all, they can't fire EVERYONE. And they can't impose rules on behaviour outside work time, although they can create a culture of fear (that's easy!)
For those who crave change and are looking for guerilla tactics, blogging is very powerful. My mischevious side is gleefully rubbing its palms together and chuckling. With the anonymity of the internet, perhaps the daily torture of work will finally be exposed, and commentors will be able to support each other in getting out of disgusting situations. How about live webcasts from within the workplace, showing some of the inanity? Podcasts of actual conversations between you and your crazy boss? Blog posts that contain complete emails (identifiers removed) that are particularly juicy? Oh, I'm just getting started. Hee hee hee!
I know that most of these things could already be accomplished with pre-blog technology, but nothing has the potentially instant impact of a blog on a huge number of people worldwide. I remain optimistic that blogs can change the world!
Technorati tags: blog work dooced
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
It's Not ALL Bad
I think one of the great and under-represented benefits of being gifted is a greater capacity for fun. There's lots of focus on the depression part, which is good because it's life-threatening and we need more research, but not much on the other end of the spectrum. Gifted people get more laughs! They can find the humour in everything, as well as the horror. I find myself chuckling and smiling at very inappropriate moments just as much as bursting into unwanted tears.
I am going to go to my new favourite hangouts, UBC Libraries, and see if I can find anything about this. I adore libraries and these are great - different specialties and atmostpheres, but with a central catalogue. I can choose the one that best suits my mood, the darkness of the Education Library for bad days, the soaring heights of the Main Library for transcendent ones. It's like the various varieties of Starbucks - arrrgghh, they got me in the end.
Technorati tags: gifted supermarket humour
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Oh goodness, that's really tweaking all my perfectionism gremlins. Don't post unless you're funny! You've blogged it, it's out there, now you must live up to your promise! Ironically, this is the very thing that makes comedy improv go bad - a LPM, Laughs Per Minute, requirement. It's when somebody goes all corporate on an improv troupe and demands that they guarantee entertainment. In improv, you can't guarantee anything, which is what makes it so thrilling to watch. Can they make the scene work? Will they make us laugh? Will they crash and burn? Will they make us cry? Who knows?! Ah, Fortuna!
The improvisor is now in a difficult position. Do you take the restrictions and rules, in order to have the opportunity to perform and play, improving your craft and not incidentally getting paid? Or do you thrust out your chest and yell "Hey man, I'm not sacrificing my art to your fear of unpredictability!" and head off into the wilds, forming your own group, and thereby sacrificing yourself to administrative headaches and sales pitches and the temptation to institute an LPM rule yourself?
Tough choices are the only ones worth making.
Technorati tags: improv choices