Today’s blogging post was to compare two things that don’t seem to have any relationship with each other. Sort of like mice and the Loch Ness monster or cat food and a pencil. Or maybe a mezzo soprano and a hockey puck.
Years ago, I went to see a vocational counselor, in the hope that he could help me figure out a career that wouldn’t result in a crash and burn experience. I had had very little luck finding a full time journalism job. I tried other things, such as clerical work, but I just kept having one crash and burn experience after another. It was those crash and burn experiences that led me to finding out what was causing me to be unable to concentrate, stay organized, and multi task, which are necessary components in many jobs. All of those job failures led me to seek out professional help, and that’s when I was told about the disabilities that had been dogging me all of my life. I always knew that I didn’t learn like most people, but it wasn’t anything that I wanted to talk about.
One thing that I learned is that I am very much a tactile learner. To be the most effective learner possible, I need to touch. So I struggled in school, with listening to lectures and I struggled in jobs, where I was given lots and lots of verbal directions. It was all just too many words! Hence, the vocational counselor. He didn’t really do all that much. Once he told me to read the help wanted ads in the newspaper. When I pointed out that I could do that at home, he let me know that he didn’t like my attitude. Another time, he handed me a book and told me to go through it and find a career that I liked. And he walked out of the room.
“What kind of vocational counselor is that?” I thought, as I squinted at the pages of very tiny print. Needless to say, I couldn’t find any interesting jobs. I don’t know if there were no interesting jobs or if I just couldn’t see the print. When the vocational counselor came back into the room, he asked me if I found anything. I didn’t want to tell him that I really couldn’t see the tiny print so I just said no. He grabbed the book and leafed through it until he found a job title. I squinted hard at it and saw “billing clerk.”
“It’s just like journalism,” he said with a self-satisfied tone.
“It’s not at all like journalism,” I responded.
“Yes, it is. You write letters,” he asnwered.
“You send bills. And you have to have an associate’s degree in accounting. Did you look at the information about me? I count on my fingers,” I pointed out.
“I don’t read that. I try to get to know the person first,” the vocational counselor said, actually admitting that he did not do his job.
I spent many years puzzling over the connection between journalist and billing clerk until I acknowledged that my imagination had failed me. So I came up with other odd comparisons. For example: being a gardener is like being an editor. In both cases, I am presented with something that looks bad and needs to be fixed. I edit the piece of writing by moving around words or paragraphs, removing redundancies, and fixing sloppy grammar and punctuation. I tend to a garden by removing weeds and by pruning shrubbery and, sometimes, by planting seeds, bulbs, or seedlings. In both cases, I am taking something that is imperfect and even unsightly and am turning it into something that looks polished and attractive. I’m just using different tools to accomplish the task.
Today, I was thinking about the article that I had written last week and the necklace that I beaded today. At the same time, mainly because of this writing challenge. When I wrote the article, I had gathered information, but I needed to shape the information and form an article from that. I needed to put in the facts and add personal stories to make the article flow and feel alive. It was hard and it was emotional but, when I was finished, I had an article that I could send to the editor.
So, how is that like designing a necklace? Well, in both cases, it’s about problem solving. I had a pendant that I had painted when the Clay Cafe was open. The pendant matches a refrigerator magnet that I had painted at the same time. Last week, I found a bunch of beads for it… but I didn’t have enough! And I had no idea whether or not I could get matching beads. So I did something else. I decided to change the pattern and to create something entirely different. I found other beads of various sizes and shapes. And then I came up with a pattern that worked. And it flowed and felt alive.
Discussion topic: talk about something that you created that brings you joy.