Speaking to the Past: What it’s like to face something from a power position.

So, for anyone keeping track of my life, this happened:

And yes, I was sitting in the audience.  And he was pointing at me.  And I did get nervous.

And he is a pretty cool guy.  Kind of like a dad.  You can definitely tell that he has daughters and is active and instrumental in his kids’ life.  All that for what would have amounted to about less than 5 minutes of conversation time, I could tell.

So.

Back to reality?  I mean, this was a part of my reality, but what happen post?

I’ve been told to capture the moment, so I did: in the form of speaking engagements.

I don’t consider myself the greatest speaker.  I get nervous, lose train of thought, and maybe go off on a tangent and forget where the hell I was, but I do definitely see myself being understood in the eyes of the audience.  Maybe because I see inside of them.  Seanna says I’m really good at that.

I got the opportunity to speak at an old facility that I used to work at.  The guest list was unknown to me, but I figured if it was in the IT world, it was more than worth the time I could take to drag along a buddy to speak to the disparities of minorities in the IT field and whatnot.

I got to the location without a problem.  I had worked there, so I knew all the good places to park, especially if I had to sign in (I didn’t want to walk clear across the lots to do so).  I showed up early enough to make an entrance, but late enough to see that most of the people had already gathered there.

At around 5 til, I saw him: my old boss.  I told myself that I knew he was coming simply because I could see so on my LinkedIn profile.  It was amazing.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect, so I acted casual like I always do in scenarios where I have to interact with people that I hadn’t seen in a long time and I’m not even quite sure if they know who I am (as a person).

I sat down and concentrated on my partner.  We hadn’t seen each other all day and it was the first time that we had to get a gathering of where our day was.  We chatted and the show started.  I knew what to expect from the PowerPoint slide presentation, so I was just waiting my turn.

I got up, he was in my eye shot.  I spoke about the tragedies of being in the information technology field, being a woman, being black, and being gay (although I didn’t touch on the latter directly because it was surely implied).  I caught a glance of his eyes and he turned away.  I don’t know if I had said anything offensive, as the nodding heads did not reflect so, but I was quite sure that I was definitely not who he thought I was.

I talked about my skills, how I had been underrepresented in both my resume and my title along with my job duties.  How I helped out mine and other departments by breaching the “silo gap” that so often plagues the IT world.  And how I did get to finally meet the CTO of the US (who is awesome, btw).  Female nerds FTW!

As I got down from the stage, feeling my heart race after having a debate on “what I should do with my life” with a CTO (did I mention this audience was full of St. Louis’ CIOs and CTOs? Yeah.), I decided to sit and carefully listen to my colleague speak about the ins and outs of the program that so graciously found me and placed me and said how underemployed I was, various times.  He did a great job.  I think he really hit home, which is all we wanted for the program to do to people “out there” who would seek diverse people from diverse backgrounds.

The point of all this is to display that regardless of the fame (perceived), grace (also perceived), and dignity that I portray, I still get nervous, question myself, and question whether I understand others, clearly.  I want all of the world to see me as I truly am: someone who cares, cares deeply, and wants nothing but the best for everyone involved by choosing the lesser of two evils, at times.

The speaking engagement was a success.  It opened people’s eyes, and that’s all I wanted to do.  Inevitably, I feel like it opened more than that.

The Last Straw (or how this relationship will probably be my last).

This week, I took a long tour of the US.  I drove to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, traversed the mountains of the Colorado Rockies, and seen about three baseball stadiums in my travels.  I expected to land in San Francisco for a few days, to only turn around and trek back through the southern states on my way back to the Midwest drudgery.

I noticed something along the way: I was no longer in a relationship.  I was there with my fiance, but for the life of me, I was no longer emotionally aware that we were a couple.  I know we were a couple of people together, but as an emotional entity, I just wasn’t there.

This disturbed me.  I had planned to take this trip only to see and discover the hidden gems that this land had for me.  I didn’t think this would involve my own well-being and relationship status, but it did.

I have an insecure partner.  She is readily insecure about anything and everything that makes her feel bad.  And if there is nothing to make her feel bad, she will make me feel bad.

I know this is part and partial to the fact that we BOTH have mental problems (illnesses/issues).  She must always have someone in her life that she feels resents her existence.  I must always feel like no one wants me alive.

Between the two of us, we argue constantly.  Most arguments are positioned on feelings.  We are completely out of touch: she sees me as too sensitive, whereas I view her and many others as being too harsh and blunt/straightforward.

I took this trip to rejuvenate myself, I thought.  The trip was supposed to give me the sort of mental relief that I needed away from the drama of everyday life.  Not only was this brought on this trip, but it also accompanied me with the responsibility of my pet, along with creating plans for another human being on and during her birthday weekend.

Not to mention the family pressure: my nephew’s birthday was soon to follow and even though I spent a full 3 days on the road, covered in pimples, dirt, and exhaustion, my family expected me to speed on through and divert myself to the annals of the lone star state.

Top that with my fiance’s mother consistently checking on our route, a placement agency asking me to do a favor at last minute, and my workmates sending out emails about something related to what I do there.  I relented to the fact that I wasn’t going to have a vacation.  I’d just be working, just in another location.

After all this time, effort, and money spent, I began to realize that the people around me just didn’t give a shit about my feelings.  I know that sounds plain and simple to some, but I’m just not now realizing how much they’re going to say, “When you said this, it hurt *my* feelings.”

This saying has rung true for the full breadth of the 28 years since I’ve known what a relationship is and why it existed.

The truth is also this: People care even more about how people make them feel than making people feel a certain way.

I’ve learned, now, that it doesn’t matter how much my feelings were hurt by someone.  They will take advantage of every turn to make me feel like they don’t belong in the place that you put them.  And they’ll fight you, all the way.

Sociopathy and how “Gone Girl” uncovered the most hidden secret of our lifetimes.

Gone Girl bathroom hammer scene gif

Gone Girl scene, courtesy of Buzzfeed.

There’s a reason why this film was made in the Midwest.  Not just because the book had it take place there, but because these type of things happen here.  Living here most of my life, I’ve seen various grades of this behavior.  And although subtle, it can tear a person in two.

When I had first heard of Gone Girl, I saw it on the bookshelf at a local store.  I pondered about its title, thinking that this might be the simpleton book that places the story and primary blame on its main male character.  And then I learned of how much buzz it was getting, and that it was being made into a movie.  At that point, I decided to explore more.

I knew instantly who the sociopath was when I learned what the main plot of the film was supposed to be.  I knew because I’ve been involved with women like that.  They’re often pretty, beautiful to the general public, charming, suspiciously accepting, and always, always wanting to be your friend RIGHT AWAY.

They’re often at a disadvantage of some sort, and they portray everyone else in their life as the enemy or villain in their simple story.  People eat it up, just as the officers and public seemed to do in the movie.  They could, in all essence, get away with a heinous crime, and make everyone believe that they are nothing but the innocent victim.

This is a type of social engineering that I learned about, recently: looking the part.  People get up, get dressed, check their face and clothes in the mirror, and they go about their day.  The only thing not making them into this sociopath is their intentions and what they plan to get away with… and also a healthy moral obligation to society, as a whole.

The sociopath manipulates people, just as the main character did.  She carefully, thoughtfully manipulated people BOTH in the moment AND pre-planned.  The only difference that I noticed is that she was so good at improvising that she needed to do nothing more than think her way through the situation as it occurred: something I’m rarely able to do in all circumstances.

People may wonder about Nick’s character.  Does he also qualify?  No, not quite.  He did it to get to a safe point, but he didn’t do it to implicate or make other people suffer.  I’ll refer to another genre, TV, with the ever popular “How to Get Away with Murder”.  The show’s protagonist isn’t a murderer or a sociopath, but a person caught up in a very dangerous situation in which he needs to get release and relief in order to survive in the society he lives in.  He has no ill will towards anyone, but he is often caught in a blaze of conundrums in every episode with consistent steps towards freedom and trying to protect loved ones and the populous, in general.

There’s a difference in what you’re doing something for, and when you’re doing it for your own entertainment.  Some people like to see others burn.  They want nothing to do with the wholesome goodness of humanity because they don’t believe in it anymore.

I feel like, without the people in my life, I could have easily made the mistake to live with one.  They often open their homes and hearts to you, with the prospects of relief from your life and everlasting shelter.  But the truth is clear: they use their doe eyes and sense of wonder against you.  If you want to evade it, you have to see past their lies.  Take a moment to look deeply into someone’s soul… and if your gut tells you there’s something wrong, listen.  It has saved me many times.

Screenshot of Mensa Test Results

Dreaming of greatness and things.

Courtesy of dreamlab7.com

There are many things that I dream about when I go out into the world: being an astronaut, conquering some great threat, or being just an overall good person.  But what about those dreams seem unreachable?  Why do we sit around and wonder if they will ever come true if they seem to be within our grasp?

I took an introspective look at myself recently and discovered that I could totally control my behavior.  But what kept me from doing it before now?  I knew that it “could” be done, but I had never “done” it… until now.

I think we look at ourselves and say what we think is a logical container on which we can eschew our emotions.  We tell ourselves “One day, when we’re [strong/courageous/powerful/awestruck] enough, we’ll do that thing we’ve always wanted to do.”  Why do we delay it, though?  What makes us think that we aren’t strong enough to handle it right now – right while we’re thinking about it?

My first inclination is that there is not nearly enough confidence in the world.  We’re taught that we’re nothing without numbers.  For instance, on a whim, I decided to take my Mensa practice test.  It was only a dollar, and I’ve spent far more money on far worse things.  Since it was a sale, I figured it was a sign.  I’ve always wanted to take it, and I had no good excuse not to buy a testing key.

When I took the test tonight, I got this result:

Screenshot of Mensa Test Results

My Mensa Test Results (LML).

So, I began researching, trying to find out exactly what all of this meant.  I’ll spare you the extra screencap and just say that it puts me in the 86th percentile, which means that I’m smarter(?) than 86% of the people who took this test… or are out there, in general… at least, in America… the USA, that is.

Mensa membership is often reserved for those in the 98th percentile.  Which means I’d have to score on the official test at least better than an additional 12% of the population.  Which means, I’ve got to have better cognitive thinking that millions of people.  Millions.  Over 700 million, if everyone on this earth took the test.  That’s close to 1 billion people.  I feel like it’s an incredibly high standard.  It’d still be about 600 million even if we just counted the adults over 25.

Why does this number, though, frighten me?  I think it’s from my youth: I always felt like being poor meant being dumber than the rest of the world.  My worth was determined and measured, constantly, by my wealth (or lack thereof).  I write about it a lot because that’s all I know.  Consistently, I think about how to be smarter, faster, more agile, and more fluidly flexible than the next guy.

Which comes to the fact that I’m up writing at 5am (central time).  It’s because I’m thinking so hard on solving some problem that I can’t even stop long enough to go to sleep.  It’s not a worry so much as a brain teaser.  It’s about traveling, and the best route, and the best method, and the best blah-blah-blah.  I normally don’t travel because I get so stressed out trying to plan for as many instances as possible (i.e. if something goes wrong, then I feel like it’s my fault for being too slow/unthinking/unprepared/what-have-you).

But those guilt feelings, those angering thoughts, and those pitiful glares that I give to myself do nothing more than motivate me to find a better, faster, more efficient way to do things.  Doing something is all I know how to do.  Being lazy, lackadaisical, and static often result in me trying to do even more to think of how I can do something.

One day, I’ll solve some big puzzle, or find out that space really isn’t all that daunting and make it easily doable, or discover a new something-or-another.  One day, all this overthinking and non-stop thinking will pay off.  Until then, I’ll keep dreaming of the day when I uncover something wonderful.

5 Things To Do When You’re Bored

So, you have nothing to do.

There are no pressing deadlines.  Everyone is out of the office.  You’re just sitting down in your pajamas or work clothes of your choice just waiting for the bell to ring so you can jet out and leave wherever you are to do something else.

In a word, you’re bored.

Here are 5 things I do to keep me (and maybe you) busy, and keep the old noggin pumping with exciting thoughts and things and whatnot:

  1. Make up a story

    Many people get caught up on the idea that a story has to be well thought out and takes years to master.  The reality is that most stories are things we just think up out of sheer boredom.  Our minds have nothing better to do than put nonsensical things together, anyway.  Why not write it down and make a million dollars off of it?

  2. Watch a different show/movie that’s not your normal genre

    Everyone has those go-to movies.  For me, it’s psychological sci-fi thrillers (thanks, Blockbuster, for putting a name to my musings!).  Every now and then, I’ll do a love story or something cheeky or even a horror flick.  But what I don’t go to, like the occasional cowboy movie, I seek out when I’m bored.  I’ve lost nothing and I get to expand my mind (and even relate to someone who views these as their fave, as well).

  3. Go to that place you said you’d go to when you had time, and have no expectations

    You know that time you said “Oh, I didn’t know that was there.  I’ll have to check it out.”  Well, now’s the time to do that.  Especially if it’s summer and you’re just walking/driving around, anyway.  For winter, I have some spots that I’ve always wanted to go to: like a mall in a corridor that I’ve never visited, or an indoor farmer’s market on the other side of town, or even a museum that’s tiny that relies heavily on contributions and foot traffic to keep its earnings (and has a crazy/interesting little niche).  Especially, if these places are free for you to go to (like a new park that opened or plaza that you noticed that one time you were driving down that road and saw the whole place has been gentrified). This is good for when you have no expectations whatsoever on anything anyway, you get to enjoy what I call a “pure experience of being”.

  4. Start a new project

    Think of something, anything, that you said you wanted to do “one day” and just start on it KNOWING that you won’t be able to finish it and being okay with it (*whew, takes breath*).  Seriously, everyone has that little spark of an idea that they haven’t fully fleshed out.  Then they say, “Oh, when I have more time to think about it, I’ll start it.” And then, they never had more time to think about it. And never start it.  So, just start it.  Know that you won’t be done.  Know that also you’ll discover some things in the middle that you hadn’t thought of in the beginning because you hadn’t gotten into doing it yet and didn’t know that you’d run into something that you needed.  It’s like discovering gravity or something.  Bad pun, but you know what I mean.

  5. Take a nap

    I was a little hesitant about writing this one, but I thought, “Surely these people know to do this at the right moment… like not in the theatre, or during a play, or in the middle of driving.”  But for those that don’t, please heed warning that you should only do this if you are in a place that is both safe and reasonable to do so (like at home, at a trusted friend’s house, or in a fairly safe tropical region with a reasonable amount of sunscreen on).  I’m sure there’s some studies that will tell you that a person who sleeps is more creative or some such thing, but in essence, you just feel better after a quick nap (I’ve heard to go no longer than 20 – 30 minutes, but to each their own).  I tend to think better after a nap, and maybe find some other things to do now that I’ve got the extra energy to do so!

So, that’s my food for thought or whatnot.  Do something different to expand your mind, your way of life, and your thinking.  The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll learn something new.

Controlling the Situation Isn’t the Answer

[TW: Animated GIF, it’s safe… just flashy.]

Animated GIF from Little Buddha (courtesy of Tumblr)

Of all things that I know, one of them is that I cannot possibly control anything outside of myself.  The elements may change, and the people, but the only thing I can absolutely determine its destiny of is usually (in most cases) my own self-awareness and being.

I remember being yanked as a little girl, tugged to the side, and told “CONTROL YOURSELF!”  And on that day, I did.  I was glad only after I got older and started to see other full-grown adults throw what I know now are temper tantrums.  In a recent workshop, I saw a man, balding, who literally threw a hissy-fit in front of the entire group.

Was that man escorted out of the room, told that he needed to seek some self-control? No.  I’m still wildly aware of the differences between the genders and how most males are perceived as having a strong disposition, while women are still mostly viewed as nagging and irritating.  But even more so, the fact that he got that old without anyone saying two words to him about how awful he was acting is something beyond my comprehension and general understanding towards acceptable societal behaviors.

So, with all the fury that I have within me, I controlled myself.  That is, until the finger was pointed my way, and then you’ve basically called off all bets for me to be nice, demure, and understanding.  And then, I excused myself immediately.  The guy? Oh, people were fine with him within the week.  Me, on the other hand, I was razed for days… weeks.  And I tried to laugh it off, but inside, I knew that I was being discriminated against and pointed out… I didn’t come from the better half of society, so I couldn’t – shouldn’t – have done what I did.

When I tried to control another person or a situation, I ended up losing a part of myself.  When I tried to communicate to a person who wasn’t ready to give their full communication back, I was only doing myself a disservice.  I’ve learned that sometimes these people are completely unaware that there is such a thing as two-way communication or having a full, vested conversation.

I’ve gone out to a gathering where half of the people were talking but looking at their phones.  I tried to do it, but only found myself half paying attention.  I’ve even heard others say to me “I’m sorry, I was just looking at this [fill-in-the-blank] and didn’t hear you.  But, look at this…”

Really.

What happened to good old fashioned communication when you looked at a person and had eye contact most of the time and looked like you were really interested and enjoying what they are saying to you and you to them?  Is it gone the way of the Palm Pilot?  What are interviews like now?  Do people just say, “Yeah.  Uh huh.  That’s fine.  I can do those things.  Can I ask for $5,000 more?  Okay.  So… thanks?” <– My sly impression of a disconnected millennial… one who’s never been on a decent job hunt in their short-lived-on-their-own life.  I do know millennials that know better, btw.

I feel that I want to say out there to the world, “You’re starting to lose it.  Yes, I understand that it’s an antiquated way of communicating, but it’s used to foster connections to people… outside of Facebook… and Twitter.  Which both are super nice and helpful products, for goodness sakes: I’m a blogger, but still, nothing beats a good old face-to-face and connecting with someone by looking at their facial expressions and just – I don’t know – having fun reading them and trying to make them smile?  You know, without having to share a GIF.”

It’s almost like there’s nothing in the way of telling these people that they are bad at communicating.  And as a way, they’re not controlling their own emotions.  They’re not learning what it’s like to be happy/sad/content without the aide of an artificial device.  We didn’t have emoticons… you had to tell people what you were feeling – in their face.

And once you knew, you took control of your emotions, and did the best you could to try to mend everything – immediately.  Now we’re in an age where someone breaks up by just not responding to their posts and disconnecting them from their social media contacts.  That’s the equivalent of moving out of town, without notice.

I know in my life I have a few more people to iron out: those that are far behind and not willing to make the sacrifices needed to catch up because… well… there’s no motivating factor to being courteous.  So why do that?  Why control yourself?

I do it because, in the long run, I live a happier life.  I know that I only get back what I put out into the universe.  So I’m trying my darnedest to pay attention.

I am Dr. King’s Dream: Achieving the Impossible and How Racism is Not about Skin Color

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first assumption that one often makes about racism and Dr. King’s tireless effort at equality is that the people committing the atrocities were hardened and didn’t mean well.  That assumption is almost always present in movies, TV, and novels, but rarely based in real life.

Racism isn’t about treating someone different because of the color of their skin, as much as it’s about treating someone different because of the belief that you have about their intellectual level.  Often, it is grounded on exterior characteristics that are grouped by ethnicity or race.  Let’s take my pet rabbit, for example.

The bun understands that sometimes I’m too big to fit in his play area, and tries his best to accommodate my gargantuan size into a suitable alternate arena.  He doesn’t have to do this.

He and I share pretty much the same tastes in fruit and most vegetables.  He understands that if I don’t eat food, that I may have a low blood sugar attack and that makes him feel anxious.  So, he will often try to share the food that he knows I can eat with me so that I don’t go through a “crash”.  He doesn’t have to do this.

Sometimes when I’m crying from a really, really bad depressive state, he bangs his paws on the door to let me know he’s there.  He wants out, to be near me and lay there until I feel better, in which he then bun-kisses me on my hand and sits down in a place where he can monitor me as I move around gathering tissues for my watery, tear-stained face and get myself together.  He doesn’t have to do this.

My bun is keenly aware that I am not a rabbit… or not the traditional type of rabbit.  This, he does not care about.  He does all the things I listed above because he loves and cares about me.  He doesn’t have the vocal cords to say so, but he does have the wherewithal to enact these actions, even though I do not demand it of him.

My partner is the same.  She doesn’t have to do the things that she does. And many in society may tell her that having empathy for the type of person I am is a waste of time.  It’s hard enough that she’s dating an ethnic minority, which is going to make it harder for her to move throughout society (as one of those “sympathizers”), but she also chose to be in a same-sex relationship with said person, who also has mental disparities like depression, PTSD, anxiety, and OCD (much of which is amplified by the aforementioned subject).  She does not have to do this, but she loves me anyway in spite of what hardships it may bring on her.

I forgot to mention the nerdom.  Not many black nerds are known to exist (sidenote: there’s actually a lot, they’ve been forced into somewhat of a closet as they haven’t achieved a level of social acceptance outside of “being a doctor”), however, there are many nerds out there that are ethnic minorities that want very badly to go to the local science center and geek out at the latest displays in technological/scientific advancements.  So, there’s that.

Overall, Dr. King dreamed of freedom… from oppression, from assumptions, from everyday categorizing… he basically dreamed of being able to see people for who they are on the outside, and knowing that it’s only a minor descriptor to who the person actually is: “Yes, I have darker skin and tight, curly hair.  That means that I have ancestry from Africa.  I know, right?!  Okay, so what do you think about Agents of Shield?  Do you think that they’re going to have Trip come back? I heard that X-Files is coming back!  OMG… they should totally bring back Fringe! That was such a frickin’ awesome show!  And I’m sorry, Stargate needs to figure out a way to bring back James Spader and (through some miracle) Jaye Davidson.  I know he doesn’t want to do acting anymore but I would be like ‘Please!  I’d give you 10 million dollars… I know you died in the last one but we need you in some sort of prequel thing!’ I’m tired of them playing with my feelings on another Star Trek series… they need to just do this… I’m going to need Netflix or Amazon Prime to do something about it.”

Anyone knowing me would instantly have the conversation progress into that.  And then, they’d think “Jesus Mary Joseph, she’s the biggest scifi nerd I think I’ve talked to, today.”

Don’t get me started on The Matrix…

If it weren’t for people like Dr. King, me having these conversations, thoughts, and being able to enact them, would have probably never happened.  I would have been an unhealthily cooped up person hoping that one day I’d leave the country and be able to be the full-blown science nerd that I’ve always wanted to be.

And then, I saw the rendition of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” where the main male character said that he loved going elsewhere where his scientific research was looked at seriously and not as some “side project”.  That is the exact feeling that I never want to have.  But if I do encounter it, I do what I’ve always done… move.

I decided to take myself to a more racially-accepted area to live, on purpose.  It just so happens that that area is also in the midst of a bubbling tech hub revolution.  I’m growing excited, by the minute: being surrounded by some of the brightest minds minutes away from me, while simultaneously being socially accepted for my vast nerdom regardless of skin tone and perceived intellectual “rightness”.

This is new for me.  This is something that I never thought I’d experience in the midwestern region of the United States.  I look forward to the progress, and I’m sticking my nose in anything that seems to have growth potential… and… I’m being welcomed!

I am the dream, and I keep moving towards the impossible.