She has no idea how bright she is, terrifying a way. It's how she connects the dots on subject matter she's barely heard of, head down, red faced focused until she's come up with a solution which solves for x in addition to providing the answers to the two equations that haven't come out of the box yet; maybe because she's the only person in the room to see them coming down the road as she resolved the first issue.
She's a fashion librarian, one of twenty in the country she tells us. What the HELL was I thinking?! I'm an archivist! I specialize in, well, CLOTHING! The only place I can live and work is NYC and I don't LIVE AND WORK IN NYC ANYMORE AND SO NOW I'M A PART TIME LIBRARIAN AT AN UNDERFUNDED COMMUNITY COLLEGE! And suddenly she knows about Big Data, Tableau and why guiding students toward understanding and utilizing massive quantities through multiple data sources with that particular tool (there are others but that's the gold ring right now) has become a key part of any higher education. Even an Art History major needs access to data with the ability to parse it intelligently without the overwhelming desire to put her head through a thousand virtual spreadsheets.
Lisa went from zero to sixty in the knowledge base in seven days. Yes, you can google the words Big Data and Tableau comes right up there with it but you have to know the words Big Data first. The assignment (it was for an interview for an opening for which she believed she wasn't even remotely qualified but let's face it, a highly specialized archivist is shelving books which isn't necessarily what it sounds like either) was to put a presentation together on emerging technologies. She filled in the blank called...'and how this affects, or does not currently affect our student body'. Or, how we gonna get there. She did all that in seven days. The words Big Data and Tableau are not enough. Downloading the application (Tableau, it's free), learning how to use it effectively, and then accessing some of the Federal databases which someone hasn't gotten around to taking offline yet (he's working on it) and figuring out how some of those databases might have slices of intersecting data in common, pulling those interesting slices into independent datasources (I'm pretty sure they're established in Excel but I haven't even gotten that far) which are then picked up by Tableau and finally producing new and relevant information.
All of this sounds complicated. Maybe? Maybe not. I guess it depends on who you are and what you already know. When my recruiter suggested I learn how to use Tableau because it was the hottest new thing I downloaded the tool and dumped bank statements from three different accounts into spreadsheets and went to town. I understood intrinsically. It didn't occur to me to go out and find some live datasources because I already understand how to parse the unmanageable; I've been working with Business Intelligence tools since 1997. The children coming out of high school today have had an ocean of information washing over them since the first electronic object blinked on in front of their tiny little eyes; maybe it was a Baby Einstein tape or DVD when they were eight weeks old but from the moment it started it never stopped. Elizabeth had a Fisher Price computer which was supposed to replicate the minimal tasks she could perform on the Mac when she was three years old but she could do it unsupervised and maybe go a little bit further. She mucked about with it for about twenty minutes, tossed it aside, climbed back into the desk chair, pushed the on button, and assumed the position. That was the first and only time we ever attempted to give her a dumbed down version of anything.
But Lisa had to catch up. She can tell you anything you ever wanted to know about Jackie Kennedy's wardrobe and I do mean anything. And she can tell you how it affected a nation. She can tell you where it still reverberates and why. She can tell you what we were wearing in the fifties and sixties, what defined us, how we changed, and in a lot of ways, how we did not, how we still have not. By the way, if you think this isn't relevant I'd ask that you stop and think again. What we choose to put on our bodies, what we have available to put on our bodies is as telling as the tools we use and how we use them. That's all; I just felt the need to mention it.
Lisa had to catch up. She was scared to death to even apply for the job much less put the presentation together and the only reason she did it was for Grace. It isn't that she didn't want it. Oh, she wants it. She wants, new, more, growth, opportunity. But she's scared, scared, scared. There's so much not enough in that woman's life. So many reasons to believe the I can't or I should not do it stories and I hear them. She isn't saying them. She's fierce. Her husband is fierce. Her daughter is fierce. They all put on their pink hats and marched in Washington. When #45 took office I thought her husband was going to lose his mind more for women's issues than anything else. It isn't that she doesn't have the support structure telling her, yes you can, and yes you should. It's that there's so much more telling her NO YOU CAN'T. And the voices are so damn loud.
She did it for Grace. What kind of an example would I be setting, she asked us? If I backed down. It would be OK if I failed but it would not be OK if I didn't try because I was too scared and it would not be OK if I failed because I applied and then didn't do the work to at least try to get there.
She has no idea how bright she is.
When I met her she was a long string of: I can't do that and my life is always going to look like this and I'm just short of perpetually unhappy but I'm pretty sure if I just keep plugging I'll get through it. Oddly enough we were friends anyway because oddly enough, none of that came out as a whine, just a statement of fact. I thought, well shit, if that was my life I think I would panic a little. I think I might feel, um, trapped and super scared and, well, I might start whining about it because I'm really not very good at accepting that I can't do something about a situation or that I don't have any options even if those options might seem sort of unpalatable. After a while it seemed like she had a manageable life and also that the things she really wanted to make happen, happened. She did not say mean things about other people. She said when things people said or did caused her pain. Well that's not so unusual in a town like this if you're going to get yourself in a vulnerable state but the point is she said it like that, not the other way around. One day she referred to a group of women as, 'you know, the 'we wear pink on Wednesdays' crowd' and I laughed my head off because it was an accurate assessment and somehow she'd managed to say it with some sort of affection while at the same time saying, and I'm going to avoid that, ok? She's easy to be around, even when she's struggling.
She's an extrovert. She's an extrovert and I do not feel like my soul has been sucked from my marrow after three hours at The Donkey House (not what it's called but we call it petting the donkey because of what we do to the donkey on the way down the stairs). We always close the place down (OK, they close at 10 PM on a Saturday night. WTF, people?) and I am never ready to go home. Lisa does not appear ready to go home either and she's more prone to isolation than I've ever been. She's an extrovert and she has an easy give and take that seems to ask nothing in return except that when you give it to her, this thing she wants, she'll tell you that you have and she'll tell you how much it matters but she'd never in a million years ask for it.
Sharon needs a reason to trust. She'll tell you some of the most intimate details of her life. Not the TMI parts, just the parts that are hard. In this town we don't do that. We talk about the good things, the wins, the number of AP courses my kid is taking this semester and what schools we're looking at. What is my kid's GPA? What is yours? This is information I don't care enough about to discuss for the most part. When asked where Elizabeth is looking most of the time I don't know because periodically she locks us out of Naviance. When I tell people she's done that they look like I should take her for help (that's why I do it). I say, look, she'll undo it the moment she figures out she actually needs help and / or information. If she's too late then she'll either go to a local school for a year or she'll work something else out but if she really wants to do this by herself then that's what she's going to do. I bet I'm not the only parent with a kid who locked up the college prep site. My point is NOBODY talks about this shit. Sharon does. Sharon talks about what's happening in her life and she feels on edge because while she knows there are issues she doesn't know what they are. She doesn't need to know what they are she just needs to know that the people she talks to are human. Or that they're willing to be human?
You don't want to be vulnerable by yourself, I tell her.
No. She does not.
I want to trust the people I'm talking to. I'm telling you about my life. When you tell me about yours I feel safe.
Well that's good, Sharon, because when I go home I don't feel like you've sucked the life out of me.
Pure horror on her face and Lisa explains why this is a good thing and also that sometimes I'm going to say things after two glasses of wine that I failed to process properly or preface properly and that also Lisa had three margaritas and has failed to be oddly blunt all night. Sharon has probably never been directly blunt in her life but it turns out she's got a spine of steel.
Sharon is in market research and here is what she has done. When I first met her more than two years ago because I was at the Air Company she had been at the same company for nine years and she couldn't leave because she worked from home and couldn't work in an office because she had some medical issues that would make that difficult. She needed to be able to walk around a lot. She didn't like her boss and it made things difficult but it worked for her. When her youngest daughter went off to college her husband took a job in Boston and said he wasn't coming back. Sell the house, he said. I really can't, she said. We made massive improvements on it and now there's a HELOC and I'm not sure we can get out of it want we owe given this market. Figure it out, he said. Screw you, she said, the kids still need a place to come home. Then she lost her job. Well, oh fuck. I watched her not panic. I watched her figure out how to sell herself in her industry which involved letting go of every single obstacle she'd put in front of herself in the last eleven years. She sold herself.
Sharon started working on June 1 which was a Thursday. I started working on June 5 (Monday). I don't know why they started her on a Thursday, that's kind of weird, but they did. So off we went, more or less hand in hand except she got on a plane and I got in my car. I got to come home on Thursday nights and didn't get within spitting distance of an airport (Westchester does not count, it has a mini parking garage and a wee bit of tarmac and doesn't even notice when you drive by). I think Sharon came home on Saturday nights and left again on Sundays with just enough time to run a load of laundry and repack. I have no idea how she's handling her dry cleaning unless she's worked out a delivery service. She's going to spend about a month overseas. Her perspective on this is forward looking. What do I need to do to take care of myself?
I think that when we are rooted in 'I can't do this because my body has done this to me' it has got to take something epic to change that conversation we're having with ourselves into 'what do I need to do to take care of myself?' It's not so easy as it sounds. Her medical issues are real and they're huge. I'm not saying she can't do it. She is doing it. She's not even making a big deal out of it. She hasn't even figured it all out yet; it's just that she's clear, I think. She's clear that she's moving forward and therefore clear that she will work it out even if she doesn't know how yet.
She has no idea how brave she is. Persistent, yes, she knows that. But brave, I don't think she knows that part and I think if I told her it would scare the shit out of her because she might see just how scared she really is. And how's that go? Nevertheless...she persisted.
Me? Well I got what I asked for. The last time we all went to pet the donkey the woman who hadn't worked in however many years said we should all consider ourselves lucky to find employment in our fifties and there was talk about wanting to just find that one last job and ride it into retirement and I said, NO!!! I am NOT done! I want more of everything! I am not done learning, I am not done with new, I am not done with the chaos of being faced with what the fuck is THAT?! And I am not done with oh shit I have no idea how to do that and I am not done with sitting head down in a cube all red faced and focused until I figure it out over and over again, getting up at the end of the day, end of the day being when my brain has gone to mush and then starting over again in the morning and repeating until I've got a handle on one thing and then picking up another and hoping I don't drop too many stitches along the way (or at least noticing I've dropped them so I can do something about it before the hole is too big).
Every week I pick up a new project which is added to my growing portfolio. Every week it is something which is written in some language I've never seen. I'm not talking about a programming language; metaphorically I mean a system and process that doesn't make sense or mean anything to me but I've obviously said enough of the right words and displayed enough of the right skill sets that somebody believes I'll jump into the middle of it and work it out. I don't start at the edges and work my way in. There isn't time for that. I dog paddle and try to remember to breathe to the side. I collect my questions and get answers in five minute increments and get right back in again. When I break the damn thing I get back out and get help.
My brain works. It worked at the Acme Ajax company but I wasn't asked to process information quite the same way. Acme was a stepping stone and a really great place to remember what I can do. Apparently I also learned some really valuable skill sets.
I'm having a really hard time letting go of my daughter. This is not good for either of us. There is a big difference between being concerned about leaving her home alone and letting go of the near constant contact. It has become readily apparent that she is not quite alone at home. The neighborhood is watching. If there's a strange car in the driveway, I get a text message. If it is past 8:30 and her car is not in the driveway, I get a text message. To date, I've had an explanation for all of these events and eventually it won't be so intense but I'm not alone and she isn't either. So this isn't the part I'm having trouble with.
I'm having trouble coming home and finding out she didn't eat what I told her to eat.
You should see the look she gives me. The fact that she makes no attempt to hide it really says everything and I suppose I should be grateful for that.
Alecto, this need to control everything you possibly can about your last baby is going to kill you. It is not going to kill her because she's not going to allow it, but you? It's going to blow the top of your head off.
At least I can see it.
On Friday night the probably forty year old in the wall A/C unit which is the only thing that cools this house off during the eight weeks out of the year that it becomes oppressive made some very terrible noises and shit the bed. If I had to describe it I'd say it sounded like a demon. Seriously. A demon. There's a demon wedged in the wall of my living room. It scared the dog so badly she ran into her crate. Upon further thought I decided maybe a demon was standing outside and somehow put two large wrenches and a long screwdriver into the mechanism and they were being tossed about and ground into whatever moving parts were attempting to move when the fan was turned on so you hear really loud banging sounds (those are the two large wrenches) hitting the sides of the box, and grinding (that would be the really long screwdriver) and the sound of the fan going from sort of on to full speed as it tries to get past the screwdriver in it's guts and avoid the thrashing of the wrenches flying past it going from one side of the box to the other. See? Demon. I'd leave it on to see what happened but I'm afraid it might burn the house down.
I'm going to Sears now to see if they can save me. I can't very well leave a live demon in the side of my house. Someday I'm going to have to sell the place.
It was really good to see my friends.