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LJ Idol Free Topic Week: "The Waiting"
cap, captain miss america
I was talking to Destiny earlier today, before she went to bed, about how people often want to know what kind of person you are.

Are you an artist? A writer? A musician? A scientist? A mathematician?

People are encouraged to specialize, to hone one talent instead of all talents.

In A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket, there is a character named Carmelita Spats. Carmelita is a horrible child, a spoiled brat in every sense of the word, so awful that even the villain, Count Olaf, can't stand her for prolonged periods of time.

At one point, though, she decides she wants to be a "a tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian," and then revises this to "ballplaying cowboy superhero soldier pirate." And part of me wonders whether these are really negatives. Whether we shouldn't be encouraging ourselves to explore every dream we have.

Sure, as we get older, we have to make choices-- do I want to spend more of my time writing, or more of my time fishing? Do I want to get a degree in engineering or a degree in music? But how many people are naturally inclined to do just one thing? And if we are, should we have to put one on hold, spend all our time doing another, and just wait until later to do the first? Leonardo DaVinci painted and designed flying machines and wrote backwards! Ben Franklin was a politician and wrote witticisms and did science experiments! But so often we are funneled into one thing. What do we want to be?

I draw pictures. Many of you know this thing about me. Perhaps you also know that I write words. Maybe you know I mix cocktails. It is possible you know that I sing songs and cook foods and crochet crochetedy things. Do you know I code websites? Do you know I write functionality specs for software design? Do you know that I enjoy physics and astronomy and often read books on the history of those subjects for fun? Probably not so much as you know about the things like drawing and writing and cocktailing. When I am doing one of these many things, I get impatient to do another. Sometimes, I will be drawing a unicorn and really want to make a pie. Sometimes, I will be cooking soup and really want to be making a website instead.

I went to a career counselor a few years ago. He gave me a Myers-Briggs test, which said I was an INTP (Did you get it right?). He told me that INTPs make good statisticians.

He had me read some articles about what it means to be a statistician, and I thought that sounded exciting, but told him that I really wanted to also be able to draw and write. But I wanted to be able to draw and write and also do things like collect and analyze data. He said he didn't think such a job existed, and that I should really consider being a statistician. I stopped paying him hundreds of dollars to tell me what I should be, because I didn't want to be just one thing. I wanted to be a lot of things, all at once, and I didn't want to have a job where I would have to give up doing some of the things that make me happy.

But he was right that I like statistics. I like looking at them and trying to figure out what they mean. I like to analyze them a lot. Sometimes I like to write reports on them. I keep track of many statistics at my job purely for fun...nobody asked me to. But I like making spreadsheets full of exciting numbers and then comparing them to other exciting numbers! I like clicking the "sort" button and looking at all the relationships between one set of numbers and another set.

I like organizing many things, but never things I have to organize, like my closet. Once when I was a little girl, I spent an entire day sorting a bag of "assorted plastic beads" into lots of little compartments by shape and by color. My mother kept checking on me. I think she was a little weirded out that I thought this was fun. Sometimes, when I should be doing something more responsible, like cleaning my room, I sort my yarn stash by color instead.

Sometimes, when I really should be sleeping, or maybe when I am waiting for contest results, I like to take numbers and put them in neat little charts. I did this tonight. A few weeks ago, Destiny made a spreadsheet that collected some data from the LJ Idol competition. Today, I made my own spreadsheet, which you may see here. It looks at every contestant from the beginning of the season on, tracks their vote totals and percentage of total vote, when they were eliminated and how. It is pretty exciting stuff, if you are like me and enjoy looking at numbers doing a flip-flop thingee when you sort them.

So by now, you may have guessed that this is sort of a piece of free-association writing about what I did today and thought about today while I was waiting for results, mostly so that I could offer you all a look at my lovely spreadsheet. Because I like making spreadsheets, but I also like pondering the reasons I like making spreadsheets, and writing about what drives me to make spreadsheets, and possibly cooking a spreadsheet pie and singing a song about spreadsheets. It doesn't actually have much to do with waiting, but I hope you will forgive me in light of my fabulous spreadsheet.

This entry was written for therealljidol as a Free Topic: The Waiting

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I like how you chose not to make a cartoon this week.

I am in Delaware and don't have access to a scanner here! Somehow I am always out of town when there is a free topic. I am not sure how this happens!

I've tested INTP and INTJ at various times in my life

and for the most part, I really could have written this post.

But I hate stats. And numbers.

But sorting beads? I'm on it.

I love numbers as long as the numbers represent something concrete. I have trouble with abstract and theoretical math that does not correspond to specific things.

I did know all these things you like! Also, I understand the organizing, because sometimes when I should be cleaning my apartment I sort my mardi gras beads.

I think the common theory is that when there was less things to know in the world, people could be good at all of them. If you were a scientist you could study all the science you wanted and still be good at it. But we don't let people do that today.

I dunno. I like to do everything. But sometimes I worry I won't be able to get away with that forever.

Well, I think people could still be good at many things! I just feel like people decide what you are when you are a little kid and then don't encourage you on other things even if it turns out you are good at them. Which is bad when you might not have even been introduced to the subject yet!

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And I wanted to say, when you did get it right, that your comment for how you came to the conclusion was really cool! But I didn't want to influence other people too much. XD It made me happy, too, because I like it when people seem to understand me.

Oh I feel you there, I have far too many interests and things I like to do!

Also, fabulous spreadsheet.

You have just the right number of interests! I think the things you know are so exciting!

And thank you! I figured you would like my spreadsheet.

I like this post! Especially because I'm in it. :D

And you already know that I want to study everything. And I'd rather have 30 Bachelor's degrees than one PhD. It's always been frustrating for me that I'm supposed to choose one thing or two things to concentrate on.

It's probably related to a couple of things. One, from the time I started school, I was tracked into multiple Gifted & Talented classes--in every subject available in my school. I guess it's what's called omnibus gifted. Some children have strengths toward one subject or group of subjects (math/science or humanities or music) but I was good at all of them. Two, when I was taking grad classes in Education, we had to take a learning styles inventory (I guess because in understanding ourselves, we can better understand our students). When my results came back, I had scored exceptionally high in all but one learning style (I think the one related to athletic ability, though I still scored fairly well on that)--meaning that I can learn in pretty much any mode of delivery. Three, I have ADD.

We didn't have gifted tracking in my school, but I went to a CGY program and there I was taking French and Computer Science and Rocketry and Journalism. Although apart from Rocketry, all of those are sort of language-related. But then I switched out of Journalism for Forensics. I guess Forensics is kind of a language, too.

I took a learning styles test in high school but I don't really remember how it came out.

I would like to study many many things as well!

Ehem, to quote Heinlein:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

Also, <3 quantitative analysis, though three years ago I would've said I hated it. People change, I guess? Your spreadsheet is interesting and fun...but have you seen spydie's, on the 11th hour votes in one of the past weeks? Now /that's/ data gathering :D

I didn't see that, though I did one for week 17.
Where did she link it?

I knew most of those things, except for the statistics stuff!

I relate so, so much to this post. I want to be a knitting roller-skating yogi gardener baker foodie photographer stuntwoman. I often feel frozen because society trains us to want to focus and be one single solitary thing, and how am I supposed to choose just one? It's hard for me to even focus on one thing at a time!

Yes, exactly! I want to be a sailing badminton-playing tree-climbing beekeeping cooking bartending singer cartoonist writer web developer analyst!

Also! I have the pie comic about half-done and should finish it by the end of the week! What are you doing next weekend? I was thinking about having people over for my annual Easter Peep Cocktail Fest.

actually there are jobs sort of like that in video game companies. Not one job mind you, but a lot of people change jobs and hats randomly after a project is finished. Concept artists become texture artists, 3d modelers become writers. at a good company they listen to you and trust you.

i like sorting stuff too sometimes. i feel so much better afterwards. trouble is i can never find anything when i'm done. :/

Well, I have lucked out in that all my jobs have been like this. I don't know how I've done that, but I have always made sure that I have jobs that require me to do at least half a dozen things. But even though I have jobs where I get to write and analyze and code and draw, I don't have jobs where I can do all those things and cook and bowl and sew and build furniture! It is still too specialized for me. And for the vast majority of my friends, it is not true. You can't practice medicine in the morning and then sell hamburgers in the evening, not without a lot of work and a lot of sacrificing.

I have that problem with cleaning, but not with sorting!

I admit, numbers REALLY lose me.

That said, I understand some of the feelings in this post. I like too many things, it is hard for me to just pick one or two things to focus on.

Yeah, I don't like the trend toward specialization. And I think it happens too early, and a lot of little kids are shunted down one path based on what they are good at at 7 or 8.

One of the things that most excites me about being a librarian is that I get to be an information generalist-- I can be really good at finding all different sorts of information, but I don't have to know everything there is to know about some special sort of information.

So I know a little about biology; and a little bit about legal procedures; and a little about most countries and languages; a little bit (although I don't understand a lot of it!) about high-end physics; and all of it fits together, helping me do my job better.

Hmm. That brings up another question for me-- the difference between getting to know a lot about a lot of different things and doing a lot of different things. Oddly enough, I'm less interested in knowing a little about a lot of things, and more interested in doing a little bit of a lot of things, regardless of knowledge. Does that make sense?

i ran into this face-first in my last year of undergrad, which was when i realized that 1) all the stuff i'd learned? barely scratched the surface of what's out there, and 2) grad school meant further specialization. in other words, just when i was learning enough to know that i really didn't know much in the scale of things, even in just one broad field, i was being encouraged to further limit the scope of what i was to learn more about. oi. not that you stop learning once you exit school, but that was slightly disheartening, but exciting, all at once.

(i also hear you on liking to organize things besides what i actually have to organize. like my embroidery thread vs. my desk. *facepalm*)

Yeah, I think especially for someone like you, studying sciences, it's hard to be a generalist. I keep thinking about the fox and the hedgehog, how the fox knows many things, and the hedgehog knows one big thing. We were sort of taught that it was more important to be a hedgehog than a fox, to value that way of thinking, and now I'm not so sure I agree.

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