Category Archives: Quest for Knowledge

Course correction!

A version of this post appeared yesterday in my “Sistas” community – I’ve mentioned them here previously. So if you’re from there, you’ve read some of this before – but only some of it 🙂

I am so uninspired by the study of corporate/healthcare compliance. I set out on this path because it was the smart thing to do. I still believe it’s smart, but frankly I have spent around 50 years doing the smart thing instead of doing what lights my fire. I sorta don’t want to spend the next 50 doing the same.

I also have to say that the program is poorly run. It’s been one excuse after another as to why the program is a semester behind, why it is disorganized… there has been illness and budget cuts in the criminal justice department, and I get that, but holy guacamole, you’re a freakin’ university, ACT like one! That just makes me want to run further from this program, because it does not seem like this graduate certificate is going to mean much, considering some of the courses were such a mess and I didn’t have to do much to get the grades.

Something went right today (even if it IS two weeks late)And something else – my text book for the current class was back-ordered two weeks, and I am therefore behind a couple of assignments. Healthcare law is FULL of acronyms. Last assignment I completed, it took me two days just to read the 40 pages that were assigned. I’d have to stop, look up the acronym, understand what it meant, and then go back to the paragraph at hand and put it into context. Seriously erodes reading comprehension when everything is an acronym!

When something is this difficult to get done, I tend to think of it as a gauntlet thrown, but maybe it’s actually a Memo From The Universe that I’m on the wrong path. In this case, I think that about sums it up. I am so used to powering through difficulty by sheer force of will – and maybe, at one time in my life, that was appropriate. A little struggle is good for the soul 😉 But now – I don’t think things should always be this obnoxious to get done. I think this is wrong, wrong, wrong, just like praying for a job versus income was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Finally, there’s the timing of this class with the launch of the consulting gig. I have committed to starting that next week, directly after the holiday. I will have ramp-up activities to get through, studying their environment, making connections with people inside an unfamiliar organization, identifying the right resources to get the job done. It’s a no-brainer that I need to focus on penetrating the organization to the near-exclusion of all else.

Welcome to the REAL FloridaThe REAL wake-up call has been my experience this month with the Florida Master Naturalist program. I have been documenting some of my Florida Master Naturalist experience at My Mobile Adventures *~*~*, and I’ve got lots more to share in the coming weeks. It has been stimulating and thought provoking – and also a blast to be amongst fellow nature geeks three times a week, who all wear the same “sporty, functional and you can get ’em wet” shoes that I wear 😛 If you really want to know if you are with your peeps or not, just compare all the shoes. It becomes pretty obvious that these people walk the beaches and the preserves, same as me. 🙂

I TORE through my assignments for the FMN program, but I struggle to stay focused on the stuff for the compliance program. I am normally very academically-minded and can MAKE myself power through stuff I don’t want to do… there. That tells a story too, same as the shoes. I don’t want to do this. And I’m different now than I was when I hung on to the wrong marriage, the lucrative-but-meaningless job, etc.

So, I don’t think I can get a refund for this semester any more, but if I withdraw before July 8th, I can do so without academic penalty. Then I can concentrate on getting the consulting thing off the ground, get the income rolling again, and maybe launch a naturalist blog, do some writing about all this stuff I’ve seen and learned. The reason I want to avoid academic penalty is because the university has a graduate program in Environmental Science, and I want to leave that door open without any black marks on my “permanent record”. Yeah I know, I’ll never be done with school… I’ve always known this about myself, you guys might as well get used to it to 😛 Seriously, I don’t know if I will actually go for that, or even if I qualify with a B.A. in psychology and half a graduate certificate in compliance, but there’s no sense in “dishonorable discharge” if I can avoid it.

Midterm essays are due on 6/30 and I just don’t want to. And you can’t make me. So there. Neener neener.

The icing on the cake – after I consulted with the Sistas, I faxed in my Term Withdrawal Application and emailed my professors to give them a heads-up. I then checked my Facebook News Feed and found some interesting “signs” that validated my actions. I posted these at Memos From The Universe, which is a blog I maintain to record these quirky little “signs”. Go on, have a look and tell me if it isn’t The Universe giving me a nod and a wink and a pat on the back!

Memos From The Universe | Validation From The Universe

Renaissance juggling and the survival-based career

ImFeelingInspiredI have come to the conclusion that I am a Renaissance juggler.

“Renaissance man” is a phrase coined to describe someone who has a depth of knowledge spanning a diverse range of interests. A juggler is someone who has many balls in the air at the same time. I am someone with a diverse set of passions who can and does indulge in several of them simultaneously. I’ve never felt an overwhelming, life-long pull toward any one of these interests for very long. Interests come and go only to return again years later, borne back to me on some unseen tide. At intervals during my life, I’ve had keen, intense interest in writing, performing, photography, organic gardening, Disney, sea shells, psychology and all manner of IT geekery. That last interest currently manifests itself via a fascination with consumer electronics and social media.

Photo by Helico on Flickr
Photo by Helico
I don’t believe I’ve ever been focused on only one or even two of these things at a time. I can remember a time when I was working long hours in IT and using the train commute to either memorize an operatic role in another language or else to study with the goal of acing my next psychology exam, all the while also attending classes and rehearsals at night, roto-tilling, pulling weeds, perfecting the art of the smoldering compost pile and performing on the weekends. Simply looking back at that time is exhausting and causes me to question my own sanity. Yet I was productive and active and happy.

[pullquote] because I’ve never felt committed to just ONE thing that impassioned me the most, I ended up in a survival-based career.[/pullquote]I think it takes a lot of diverse intellectual activity to keep me from becoming bored. Here’s the problem with that; because I’ve never felt committed to just ONE thing that impassioned me the most, I ended up in a survival-based career. That’s where you do what you do because you don’t hate the work and you like the money. It’s the exact opposite of the passion-based career – doing what you do because you want to, because it’s your life’s work.

I have no idea what my life’s work is, or was supposed to be.

Mary Poppins and Mirror Poppins in harmonyIt has never surprised me to find out how many of my colleagues at The Firm are coulda-shoulda-woulda-been musicians, actors and other assorted artistic types who “fell into” careers in IT during the 90s dot com boom. Like me, they were all just looking for their cushy little day job with medical benefits whilst running about auditioning, until someone figured out they had brains and promoted them. You get to an age where being a starving artist doesn’t hold as much romatic appeal as it once did, and the money you’re making doing something else is certainly seductive.

Mary Poppins thinks Mirror Poppins is showing offIt’s nice to not have to limit dinner to popcorn every night – with butter on it as an extra treat on Sundays. It’s nice being able to pay down your credit card debt, purchase a car that was made in THIS decade and go away for vacations. Thus, when faced with the realization that making a living as an artist is going to be a life-long uphill struggle, the survival-based career not only looks attractive, it seems more logical, more sensible, more likely to get your family off your back. I think a surprising lot of people are doing survival-based careers with their lives and that’s why work seems like… well, work. That is why “everybody’s working for the weekend…”. It’s because people don’t wanna work; they just wanna “bang the drum all day”.

Mary Poppins and Mirror PoppinsEarly last month, I was in Downtown Disney at the big World Of Disney store. The jumbo TV in the center of the store began to show a scene from Mary Poppins“A Spoonful Of Sugar”. I was half-listening and humming along while pawing through a rack of t-shirts when the scene suddenly grabbed my attention. Mary was singing. In harmony. With herself. The words, “in harmony with HERSELF” swam to the forefront of my consciousness, and I watched transfixed as she went from joyous to annoyed with… well again, it was with herself. Mirror Mary kept singing a mile a minute even after Real Mary had stopped. What’s more, Real Mary was peeved that Mirror Mary was grabbing all the attention for herself. “Cheeky!” is Real Mary’s tart retort. Off she goes in a stern huff to tend to the children. Mirror Mary only smiles.

(I could go off on a tangent here about Disney and the relationship between work and play, but I’ll spare you!)

[pullquote]Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could always be in harmony with ourselves, and still be able to pay the mortgage, buy some toys and have a little fun? Some people live like that, I hear…[/pullquote] And so it can happen. If any of the fun aspects of a Renaissance juggler’s life start to race exuberantly ahead, consuming more than the permitted allocation of personal bandwidth, then the part that works for a living to support your fun habits can become peevishly resentful. It’s always the survival-based career, the thing you are sort of “meh!” about, that sternly proclaims you’re “cheeky” for studying something fascinating, for tripping the light fantastic upon the wicked stage, for devoting time and brain power to figuring out how to grow tomatoes without using pesticides (hint: “companion planting”. With a heavy dose of self-discipline, that dreaded of all activities known as “taking care of business” commences, and the fun stuff takes a back seat.

Wouldn’t it be really cool if we could always be in harmony with ourselves, and still be able to pay the mortgage, buy some toys and have a little fun? Some people live like that, I hear. I haven’t figured out yet how to make that happen, but there’s one thing I’m doing consciously now to try and find the answer.

I’m listening.

The thought of abandoning the survival-based path, the good ol’ reliable method of obtaining a steady paycheck, instead trying to make a living doing what gives me joy is both intoxicating and frightening. It would be so much easier if I didn’t have so many interests from which to choose. It would be so much easier had I done this earlier on, so much easier if it wasn’t just me bringing a paycheck into this house. This is the downside of single ridership. I find myself with a serious case of SAHM-envy. OK, you’re right, not the “M” part… But I don’t have the luxury of travel back in time or of a mighty breadwinner to see me through this. Therefore, the draw toward the most pragmatic choice is strong. And yet, I cannot help but see that guillotine looming in the near future as my liberator, permission to veer off in a different direction

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Believe in the beaty of your dreamsI do realize that I have not been in harmony with myself, and that a lack of active unhappiness does not equate to living with active  joy.  I do realize that living a little more deliberately, a little more consciously, would make me more actively joyful. The more I send this understanding and acknowledgment into the Universe, the more the Universe has reflected it back at me.

I’ve been having more and more of these moments of synchronous epiphany leap into focus, like the one in the World of Disney store. These moments started last summer, slowly at first. In the beginning, small synchronicities presented themselves, things that, considered singly and out of context, could be passed off as mere coincidence. But as I began to suspect and then fully recognize that they weren’t a coincidence, and even began to look for them, they began happening with more regularity. Some days, they happen so rapidly I barely have time to record them. It could happen online, in text or an image. It could happen while having a conversation with your best friend or with the grocery store clerk. It could happen when you walk into a restaurant and see a piece of artwork on the wall, or while browsing a rack in a shop – something will practically leap off the display and jump up and down crying, “Me, me, me! Look at ME!”. Something that gives me pause, makes me think, connects a few of the sea of dots before me.

Maybe it’s happened to you, too; maybe you know what I’m talking about. Each time it happens, it’s as though the world shifts a little, the movement barely discernible but nevertheless a bit of a shock. There’s a focus, a click of vision and soul, and then you know – you’ve been receiving Memos from the Universe.

I’ll be sharing more about this, very soon. Promise!

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National Day of Prayer UNTRUTHS and How Google Can Be Your Friend

President Obama, VP Biden And Their Families Attend National Prayer ServiceAttention: Anyone who is claiming that Obama has “canceled the National Day of Prayer” on May 7th.

Obama didn’t cancel anything. His predecessor, George W Bush, chose to hold a ceremony for the National Day of Prayer at the White House every year he was in office. Obama has not chosen to hold a ceremony in the White House. Many of Bush’s predecessors, both Democrat and Republican, and including his own father, have done the same as Obama. They have signed presidential proclamations to observe the day, as Obama has done, but they have not held a ceremony at the White House each year of their administration. There is nothing historically out of the ordinary going on here.

No one, not even the mighty and apparently much-feared Obama, can cancel your right to pray.

As far as I can tell from the research I’ve done, President Obama will observe the 2010 National Day of Prayer via Presidential proclamation as he did in 2009. Observed does not equal canceled. Nothing is stopping anyone from praying on May 7th. Nothing is commanding them to pray, either.

PLEASE STOP BEING SHEEP. Learn to read FOR YOURSELF, beyond those incendiary email forwards you’ve been blindly re-distributing. I understand that you want to spread the word about what a bad man he is, but when you spread the falsehoods, you degrade your own credibility. How will anyone ever take you seriously ever again if you continue to propagate that which cannot be substantiated?

INVESTIGATE FIRST. You have the absolute right to criticize someone if they do something you don’t agree with. BUT FIRST, make sure he actually did it. Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Don’t put your own credibility in the hands of anyone else but yourself.

GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND. Search. Explore. Investigate. Criticize for what he DID do, if you don’t like it, but don’t spread untruths. It only makes YOU look bad.

Where do shooting stars come from?

121220091739-WDW-Boardwalk-The-Screen-DoorSo, I’ve mentioned that before I moved to Florida, I actually made a wish on a shooting star… that I could live in Florida for always! The photograph to the left illustrates precisely where I was standing when this event occurred. The wish was made at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas resort at Walt Disney World, where dreams come true, where magic lives, so naturally it was a shoe-in. I’ve since made another wish on another shooting star, this time not in Walt Disney World, but standing on my lanai here in Florida. That one’s a little longer in manifesting… well, we’re not at Disney, I cannot expect the same quick turnaround!

Suddenly, something comes along, something so terrible it threatens to shatter my faith! Sent to me by Brother No. 2 (FORMERLY my favorite), who apparently just could not leave me with my illusions…….

The blank slate of Yule beckons

IMG_5154-Christmas-Radio-City-Music-HallOne of the great things about going home to New York, to The Loverly Isle of Long for Christmas is that I get to see the “back home” tribes and hang with them just like old times. This year is special – I’ll be home in plenty of time to make a Winter Solstice celebration with my friends. The Winter Solstice aka Yule is typically observed on December 21st, the shortest day/longest dark of the year. Solstice is all about the rebirth of the sun; in terms of the Wheel, we are at the lowest point of the year, but you know what that means – the only way left to go is up 🙂 The purpose of the feast is to celebrate the beginning of the end of the dormancy period of the year, and prepare for a fresh start. The clean slate of a new year stretches into the future before us, upon which we get to write… ANYTHING WE WANT! How cool is that?

And so, we’ll go to the woods to gather greenery. Back at home, we’ll prepare the meal, deck the halls and set the table. We’ll light the candles and we’ll write on those clean slates, earnest notes filled with our desires, our requests of the Universe. And then we shall set them aflame and watch as the fire transforms them into sparks of prayer, rising through the crisp air into the night sky to become one with the stars, to be heard and fulfilled.

And then, we shall feast.

I did a little googling this weekend, to find appropriate foods upon which we should be feasting on the Solstice. Feasting and celebrating is something people can look forward to as the earth turns ever colder and darker leading up to Solstice. Anticipation of the celebration, of being able to put the darkest days behind us helps to counteract the depressive psychological effects of winter. When it’s so dark like this, we have too much melatonin, which causes malaise. That might be appropriate for bears, who are supposed to sleep away the winter, but most adult humans are expected to be productive. We need to find ways to assist ourselves in pushing past the darkness.

Anything that puts us in the presence of negative ions will lift our mood and make us feel energized. Isn’t that odd, that “negative” produces positive in us? In nature, places that tend to be negatively ionized are mountains, streams, forests and beaches. This may be why people flock to these types of places for relaxation and rejuvenation. There are other negatively-charged things we can use to help erase stress and seasonal fatigue. A wood fire, bees wax, green plants – all of these things can help to make us “of good cheer”. I guess we now know why we burn candles, deck the halls and have a Yule log. These things make us feel better and help us to to feel celebratory, to have hope that winter WILL end and that the life-bringing warmth of spring WILL return to us. The ancients may not have known about a substance called melatonin, but they knew that the air was filled with a magical, uplifting energy after a lightening storm, and that communing with nature by the side of a waterfall brings comfort and peace.

So you can see where I’m going with this. I now wanted to know – what foods carry a negative charge and make us feel good? Survey says – those foods that are alkaline help deposit negative ions into our bodies and are good mood enhancers. Most fruits and vegetables are alkaline, and they assist in combating the acidification of the blood. The more negative ions our blood carries, the better our metabolic, autonomic and immune systems function, and our skin and tissues are more elastic.

Googling once again, I discovered lists of alkaline vegetables, and most of them seemed to mention root vegetables like carrots, garlic, turnips and onions (we already knew about the root veggie-Yule connection). Other interesting things at the top of a few of the lists I found were broccoli, artichokes and leeks.

When I read about the leeks, I remembered a book I’d read called French Women Don’t Get Fat and how leek soup – with or without root vegetables and beans – is a staple food of the French woman’s diet. There’s even a recipe in the book, which uses lentils as the beans and can optionally be turned a little “creamy” by melting together a pat of butter and some flour and throwing that in at the last moment. They sometimes throw in some sort of browned French sausage that’s described in the book as a high-end hot dog. Ewww! I think we’ll be forgiven if we alter the ethnicity a bit and use Italian sweet sausage instead 😉

All the while I’ve been writing this post, my thoughts have been drawn repeatedly back to the prospect of the blank slate. I have that feeling that I used to get (and sometimes still get) when I was a young girl, filling marble-covered composition books with poems, stories and the minutiae of my existence. When one book is all done, you get to start a new one, and THAT, my friends, is a magical and sacred moment. You walk it reverently to the desk and turn back the cover… it’s blank! The pages are pure, empty yet ripe with the promise of endless possibility. What events, what aspirations, what desires and dreams will manifest upon these pages?

Anything we want.

Anything we want!

What am I good at? Survey says… part 2

ImFeelingInspiredAt last, I’ve finally had some time to continue examining the data collected during this merely quasi-scientific study of What I’m Good At, aka “Manifesting – The Musical!”. I’ll bet the handful of you who have been reading here probably forgot about this, it’s been so long. Well – on with the show!

Response Rates

89 people were polled, 37% by email and 63% on a private internet forum. A combined total of 25 people responded. 56% of the email population responded, as opposed to 44% of the forum population. The forum is female only; hence there are no male responses by the forum polling method. 38% of the females polled via email responded, as compared to 20% via forum.

Population Polled, by Polling Method and Gender

Figure 1: Population Polled, by Polling Method and Gender

Whereas email responses were made between me and the respondent, people from the private forum posted their responses in full view of the other members of the tribe. This may account for the higher response rate amongst the email population; it may have felt “safer” to opine only to me than it would have to opine in the presence of a wider audience.

Population responded, by Polling Method and Gender

Figure 2: Population Responded, by Polling Method and Gender

Approximately 87% of those polled were female; 13% were male. Despite the disproportion between males and females polled, it should be noted that fully half of the males polled responded, as opposed to only 24% of the females. Two of the male respondents are Siblings, two are Friends From High School, one is a Tech Geek and one is a Sanibel Fan. The distribution may suggest that I tend to engage in high-quality interactions or friendships with males who are similar to the ones with whom I was raised in in my birth tribe.

Normalization of Responses

Responses were made in free-form prose which had to be broken down and normalized across respondents in order to take measurements. Often, it was not enough to identify keywords as presented in the prose, because the same word used in different phrases by different respondents could translate into different concepts. Each respondent’s contribution was examined and broken down into the separate concepts that were being expressed. There were 124 concepts identified, which were then mapped to 55 keywords.

A few examples of this challenging task include:

  • The phrases “straight talk”, “telling it like it is”, “no bullshit” and similar phrases were all distilled down to single keyword, “Forthright”, because they clearly all described the same concept
  • The phrase “cutting through the bullshit and whittling down the issue to its essential core” became two keywords – “Analytical” and “Insightful”. Although this phrase shares the word “bullshit” with “no bullshit” in the previous example, it clearly implies something besides “forthright”. There are two concepts expressed in the phrase. One is “cutting and whittling” and the other is “essential core”. The former implies the tearing away of layers while the latter implies that there was some foreknowledge that the removal of these layers would yield something, even though that “something” might not be defined until the “cutting and whittling” had been completed.
  • Words and phrases like “entertaining”, “making an event special”, “making people feel cared-for”, “a good friend”, “you listen and make me laugh”, “good at bar crawling” were initially lumped under the single, somewhat whimsical keyphrase called “pixie dust”. However, there came the realization that again, separate concepts were being expressed, and the distinction was important. Therefore, this category was separated into “Fun” (“bar crawling”, “make me laugh”, “entertaining”) and “Nurturing” (“special”, “cared-for”, “good friend”, “you listen”).
  • Despite roughly 30 years of near-radio silence between us, a single participant ended up contributing a detailed and frighteningly accurate response that yielded 18 separate keywords. In fact, this individual is responsible for contributing, either directly or via normalization, 9 of the Top 10 most common keywords in the survey. This means half of his keyword responses are represented in 90% of the Top 10. And he had the nerve to accuse *me* of possessing “a highly effective vocabulary”. Pot, kettle, black! 😉

Top 10 Keywords

As a result of normalization, 126 instances of 55 keywords emerged. Many of these 55 keywords repeated only once or twice. To focus the analysis, the Top 10 most frequently occurring keywords were identified (Figure 3).

Top 10 Most Frequently Occurring Keywords

Figure 3: Top 10 Most Frequently Occurring Keywords

The number of occurrences of the Top 10 keywords represents about half the total occurrences of all keywords that resulted from normalizing the survey responses.

Figure 4: Top 10 Keywords, Percentage of Total Occurrences

Figure 4: Top 10 Keywords, Percentage of Total Occurrences

Occurrences of the Top 10 Keywords were most often found in the responses of the Sistas and the Friends Back Home.

Figure 5: Distribution of Occurrences of Top 10 Keywords Among The Tribes

Figure 5: Distribution of Occurrences of Top 10 Keywords Among The Tribes

It may be surprising that a tribe with whom interaction takes place almost exclusively online should be so well represented in the Top 10 Keywords. However, it should be noted that the Sistas tribe is primarily focused on the discussion and resolution of life problems and issues. Discussion topics are often deeply personal, which produces interactions that are generally more intense than those taking place in other tribes. The nature of the interactions in the Sistas tribe may account for the high volume of occurrences of Top 10 Keywords that the Sistas tribe produced.

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Those of you who aren’t asleep by now Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….. will be happy to know that there is only one more part to this series. Next time, in Part 3, we will take a look at what everyone said I should be when I grow up. Ciao for now! 🙂

What am I good at? Survey says… part 1

ImFeelingInspiredYeah, so, probably wasn’t the best time to start a new blog! Job has been chowin’ down on my life with a fair amount of regularity and consistency. At last, I’ve managed to carve out some time to work on Manifesting… The Musical! 😉 I still like that title, but it’s more whimsical and self-indulgent than descriptive. Therefore, we’re going with What am I good at? Survey says… for this series. I’ve polled the tribes and they have spoken. Without further ado, let’s get started!

What Am I Good At?

A (merely quasi-) scientific exploration into my mad talentz and skillz

Introduction

The purpose of this exercise was to find out what skills and talents I possess according to people who know me from all walks of life. The exercise is modeled after one that appears in the ebook, “The Principles of Successful Manifesting” by Thomas Herold, founder and CEO of Dream Manifesto LLC.

Population Selection

Over the years, my key interests have driven me to seek out communities of the like-minded, in both real life and online. These communities – or tribes – were targeted for population selection. Individuals with whom I’ve had frequent and/or high-quality interactions have had ample opportunity to observe my behavior and form opinions as to my particular talents and skills – What I Do Well. “Frequent” does not necessarily mean “recent”. My key interests tend to morph as the years pass. “High-quality” is harder to define. It pertains to the level of exposure to one another via shared experiences, whether they are shared virtually or in real life (IRL). The more we share, the more we know about one another. Therefore, the better the respondents knew me, the more accurate – and therefore, useful – their responses would be.

Method

The population received a message, either in an email or else posted to the private forum, which said this:

Hola, friends –

I’m working on something – myself!

I’d like to ask y’all for the favor of your opinions. I am asking people from all different walks of my life, people that know me well and people that know me not so well. If I get the same general responses from people who know me in different ways, then that means they’re all on to something. I realize that a few of you know me only from the internet, but what you have observed over the years is in fact behavior, so I believe it’s valid to ask cyber friends as well as RL friends to respond to these questions.

Here are the questions – feel free to answer some, all or none, as the mood strikes you!

– What do you think I’m good at?
– What do you think my talents are?
– What do you think I should do with my life?

The first thing that comes into your head is probably the best answer.

Thank you in advance for your time

xxx
Erin

Responses were received on the same platform as the request was delivered (email or on the forum). Responses were analyzed and normalized for measurement, and the resulting data was plugged into a spreadsheet along with some demographics.

Metrics

Data collected and analyzed includes the following:

• Polling method (email, forum)
• Gender
• Venue
• Tribe
• Common Interest
• What I Do Well
• Career Suggestions

Venues, Tribes and Key Interests

Venues
The three venues or contexts within which the tribes I belong to generally meet to interact are –

• Real Life
• Internet
• I-2-RL

Behavior (interaction, relating) is not limited to “real life” in this, the 21st century. Internet life can be active, rich and rewarding. However, interaction on the internet requires different methods than interaction in real life. The chief difference is the mode of communication. In real life, the primary mode of communication is verbal; whether face to face or on the phone, it usually involves vocal cords and ears. Verbal communication can also be accompanied by vocal inflections, facial expressions and other bodily cues that convey context and nuance. Alternatively, internet communication has been primarily via text – the written word. Recently, audio and video communications have been introduced, but the prevalent mode is still text. Lack of vocal inflection, facial expression and body language can often lead to misunderstandings on the internet. Therefore, successful internet communication requires an additional level of attention to the selection and interpretation of language in the written form that is not generally required in IRL.

In addition to Real Life and Internet, there is a third venue, a hybrid of Real Life and Internet. It has become more and more common for people who initially meet and interact via the internet to arrange to meet in real life. In the cases of my Sanibel and Disney tribes, the initial meeting usually occurs at the travel destination that is part of the common interest, often for large “meets” but just as often for smaller groups who happen to be vacationing at the same time. Sometimes, these meets result in cases where Internet relationships take hold and cross over into Real Life. For the purposes of this survey, this venue will be identified as “I-2-RL” (internet-to-real-life). One-time or infrequent interaction offline is not considered for inclusion in this group.

Tribes
A tribe is the community and context within which I have had the most interaction with the respondents. Tribes are more than just collections of people; they are also the socio-ethnographic backdrop against which the respondent has observed my behavior. In some cases, a respondent and I belong to more than one tribe together. To simplify the analysis, I selected the tribe within which the most frequent and/or highest quality interaction has occurred.

The tribes selected for the study are:

Disney Fans – lovers of all things Disney. Primary focus is on animated films and and visiting Disney’s theme parks. Interaction began 5-7 years ago
Friends Back Home – these individuals are primarily friends from high school or from the performing community on Long Island. Interaction began 10-30 years ago.
Sanibel Fans – these are people who have belonged to a few forums online devoted to visiting Sanibel Island and collecting seashells. Interaction began 5-7 years ago.
Siblings – this is my birth tribe. In this survey, a “sibling” is a respondent who is either one of my brothers, or married to one of my brothers. Interaction began 20-45 years ago.
Sistas – these are women who are members of a private, all-female support forum. All of them are also members of the Disney Fans tribe; however, greatest quantity of high-quality interaction has occurred in the Sistas forum. Interaction began 5-7 years ago.
Tech Geeks – my oldest online tribe, this group of individuals started together in a technical support forum for distributed computing in the early to mid 90s. It is also the smallest tribe I belong to, consisting of three Englishmen, a dude from Pennsylvania and me. Interaction began about 15 years ago.

Key Interests
Disney – shared primarily with Disney Fans and Sistas tribes; secondary interest with Siblings tribe.
Family – primary interest shared with Siblings tribe.
Geekery – primary interest shared with Tech Geeks; however, technology has become a very mainstream interest and therefore is a secondary interest shared with virtually all other tribes.
High School – primary interest shared with the majority of the Friends Back Home tribe. “High School” really means “we were once all young together”. It should be noted that not all of the tribe still lives “back home” but once a member of the tribe, forever a member of the tribe  😉
Long Island – catch all for friends who are on Long Island and therefore “back home” but with whom I never performed and with whom I did not attend high school. Typically, I met these people when I was already an adult but not within the context of work or music/performing.
Performing – the third leg of the “Friends Back Home” stool, performing is an interest shared with people I know from studying vocal music technique/repertoire and participating in musical theater and opera productions in New York.
Shelling – the collection of sea shells, primarily from Sanibel Island. The Sanibel Fans tribe often self-identifies as “militant shellers”. “Militant” shelling involves the study of optimum conditions for shelling and the use of tools and other gear to facilitate the hunt and capture of specimens. For some, the interest also extends to cleaning, polishing, displaying or crafting with the collected specimens. This interest is shared almost exclusively with members of the Sanibel Fans tribe.

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So… fun stuff thus far, huh?   Wait till we get to the part about normalization of responses – woohoo!   Until next time….

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?

– Emily Webb, Our Town

And how can we, when we are born knowing absolutely nothing? I think it’s one of the cruelest things about life – that we are born not knowing jack shit, and we have to make a bunch of serious mistakes before we learn and grow and start getting in right. I’m not really sure how we are supposed to appreciate what we have when we’re so young and inexperienced we’ve got nothing to which we can compare it.

I had to go through cancer to understand how precious a working body is. I had to go through years with the wrong man to understand how fragile relationships are, and how irrevocable heartbreak can be. You can learn things by the example of others, certainly, but there really is no substitute for experience. I look at my young nieces and I wonder what trials they are destined to endure in order to reach the place where they realize at least part of life, while they are living it. They have no idea. How could they?

Still, I refuse to believe that the essence of youth is “wasted” only on the young. Most of the time, I feel like I’m around 12. Most of the time, my inner adult gladly steps aside and yields to the fun, fun, fun of unencumbered singlehood. I think I’m making up for lost time. I think I’m doing all the things that were forbidden or at least frowned upon when I was young and controlled and repressed – and I didn’t know jack. Jack and I, we’re more than just acquaintances these days, and we both like to have fun. Jack definitely realizes life – every, every minute. Jack is my hero. 🙂