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Of Work, Education, Intelligence, and Dreams 
26th-Mar-2013 12:15 am
To those who don't know me very well, this may sound like bragging. It's not. This is me being introspective about my reality. It's also very long, which is pretty typical of me.


Sounded interesting - a full scholarship to University of Phoenix for retail employees. Work had a notice for managers to make sure that all employees were aware of this opportunity (though unless they bring it up at the meeting this coming Saturday, pretty much nobody knows - communication is a huge issue in this company) and I decided to check it out.

I've occasionally considered the possibility: another degree, to get me somewhere more useful than I've managed so far, to get the credentials to be acknowledged when I write about things I've observed, as though the ability to recognize patterns in the world and follow scientific logic requires certification from an accredited agency. (I have a sort of cynical amusement at this notion, since I noticed long ago that the problem with standardized intelligence testing is that it is limited by the intelligence of the test creators.) Psychology, perhaps, or an MBA? Maybe even something in web technology.

I was good at school, very good. The hurdles they put in front of me were so easy, I hardly had to work at anything. English was like breathing, history was basic memorization (when it wasn't fascinating tales of things people did, complete with dry-erase marker hurricanes wiping out Mobile so many times the French named it for the moving), science had horses and cats and flowers and other interesting bits (though Earth Science was as boring as the rocks it featured), and math...

Math I hated, because it wasn't as easy as the rest of it, but it was still something I could do more easily than my classmates, though I didn't realize it at the time. In hindsight, I recognize that a huge part of the problem was that nobody ever explained what it was good for, and some of the teachers just weren't very good at it themselves. Basic arithmetic, sure, I got that - have to be able to count how many of something you have and subtract the ones you lost or used up. Multiplication and division just make that faster. I even figured out, eventually, that life is made up of Algebra Word Problems, because if you've got $20 and the thing you need costs $3.50, then X is how many you can afford to buy. The Saxon Math series helped a lot, both because of the offbeat word problems (cars stalling on train tracks and people in falling elevators are macabre, but memorable) and because every day brought review of older material so you never quite forgot how to do something you'd seen before.

I still hate probability/statistics and calculus. I don't care about the chances of something happening, I care about what was and what is and what I want to have come to be. I don't want to be told it's nearly impossible, I want to have someone go with me and help me force it. I have been told that calculus is useful for engineering, but I am not and have never wanted to become an engineer. Still, the simple fact of the matter is that I did get a C in Calculus A, even though I discovered the concept of having friends halfway through the semester and decided that was way more interesting than doing my calculus homework.

When customers come ask me about study guides for GED/ACT/SAT/GRE and so on, I can't really recommend any particular one, because I never used any of them. I took the ACT and GRE without any extra studying, and even though I was physically ill the day of the ACT, I got a 28. I never retook it, because the "experts" all said it would only change by a point or two. Sometimes I wonder, because those "experts" weren't thinking of the kind of handicap I'd had that day, but ultimately it doesn't matter. (I've been asked, occasionally, what my IQ is. I've never taken that test, so I don't know - but again, it hardly matters. It is what it is.) That 28 was still enough for the honors program at UAH, not that I did much with it. The one honors class I took - English 102 - only transferred as a basic English class to BJU, and I still had to prove I didn't need English 100 by taking a placement test. The GRE was still required of graduating seniors at BJU (mine was the last class - the next year it was optional) and since I didn't care very much, I didn't put any particular effort into preparing for it. It was just another requirement to do, a hurdle to clear; do it and move on. I later learned my scores were good enough for MENSA. (Seven/eight years later, they keep sending periodic requests for me to rejoin. It's kind of funny.)

With all of this, school sounds like the perfect place for me. All the more reason for me to go back to it, right? To be perfectly honest, there are times I really miss college, hanging out with my friends and discussing life, the universe, and everything. It was stressful, but it was wonderful.

On the other hand, I have now spent half my life in the working world, and most of the stuff they teach in college is...insufficient. To call the traditional school system completely useless is a bit too far, but it is vastly deficient in preparing children for the rest of their lives, and that goes for both sides of the game: public and private schools. I've been in both, and while the private schools' hurdles were higher, they still didn't help that much with the real world.

I mistakenly assumed that having a degree meant listing it, getting hired, and having a predictable career. That's how it worked for my parents, after all. I had plans: I was going to get hired into a movie studio, work my way up, and split off to have my own studio. This was before I had any clue that the internet would become the mega-monstrosity of information transmission that it has become, so I had also planned on developing my own line of movie theaters. I was going to act in my own movies, and I was going to be a famous movie star, beloved by millions (and, not so coincidentally, show Them that I wasn't the useless, undesirable thing They always kept isolated, insulted, and lonely when we were growing up).

After a few years of unsuccessfully attempting to get hired by any movie studio for anything, I found myself watching a discussion in a filmmakers' Yahoo Group, where the majority of producers expressed a dislike and distrust of any would-be film crew who had a degree of any kind. Some claimed that degreed candidates thought themselves "better" than their non-degreed co-workers, and unwilling to do the dirty work to "pay their dues." I never replied to the discussion, but after my knee-jerk 'That is not true!' I was finally able to put it into words: I do not think I'm better than anyone else, I just didn't want to do the internship part over again because I'd already done that at school. Maybe not every film school does that, but mine did. Their refusal to even consider accepting it as such galled me. Besides, it's not like I could afford to do such a thing; living in Los Angeles is ridiculously expensive. Living in Los Angeles with no income and working 14 hour days for free - well, that might as well be college tuition all over again, except that you can't get scholarships for that.

Anyway, I kept trying a variety of things (in 2004, when I went to LA and took a job as a receptionist, I had intentions of moving sideways to try to get into the film industry, but without a car, job options weren't great. After 8 months of getting deeper in debt every month, I decided to cut my losses and come back home.) so I have (sometimes unpaid) experience in child care, singing (solo and group), pet care, acting, fast food, cafeteria dishwashing/foodservice, private security, electronics manufacturing, museum presentations, teaching, writing/editing, preschool photography, marketing, office reception, mortgage processing, car sales, cashiering, product demonstration, retail, printing/bindery/graphic design, waiting tables, merchandising, and buying used merchandise from consumers. I've seen and done a lot of things, and I've dealt with a lot of people from a lot of different areas.

Somewhere along the line, I lost my love of film. I'd rather read a good novel or fanfic, in plenty of detail, than sit through a 90-minute movie that can only brush the surface of the story. TV shows are a joke. Even the shows I liked have less depth and consistency than well-written novels, and these days, those shows have mostly been replaced by "reality" shows featuring warped contrivances and desperate people's reactions to putting themselves through them. Don't get me wrong; I still like some movies, and there are some stories I'd love to see made into movies, but the vast majority of what Hollywood produces wouldn't prompt me to watch for free, much less pay the ever-increasing theater prices. I'm sure there are some who would say that I'm "just jealous" because I couldn't get into that world myself. I would respectfully disagree. We all change as we grow older, and my passion for good stories with depth and emotion has grown stronger with age, even as the industry has turned to lighter and less-scripted material.

I'd still love to get involved with certain people and places, but only if I feel I could actually help, and only if I believe the tale can be told well enough to be worth the effort. SquareEnix, with their epic-length game plots and absolutely gorgeous graphics but not-so-perfect film scripting, is at the top of my list. Whether they'd listen to someone who never made it into the industry is doubtful, but they are one of the few places that still hold my attention in the entertainment world. Different people and businesses have different ideas of what experiences are useful to them. Of course, I also have experience with both paying bills and being unable to pay bills. It didn't take long to get really sick of the latter, so I have no intention of allowing myself to land in that situation again. Sticking myself in college with more debt would be heading back down that road, so I'd already decided that the only way I'll ever go back to college is on a scholarship.

I looked through the options, and the more I looked at it, the less I wanted it. The course listings at University of Phoenix included basic summaries of their content, and I couldn't help thinking, 'How ridiculous. Their courses are shallow. I've seen more than this in my own life to date, and I've read more in good books on these subjects. I've observed the world around me and analyzed the patterns, and if I were to pour my effort into their syllabus, I'd only frustrate myself with their lack of understanding. What a waste of time and energy that would be.'

The business courses speak of learning to fit into corporate culture. In my observation, the majority of these "corporate culture" businesses need to shift to better fit reality, rather than forcing employees to conform to the corporation. A little over a year ago, I went to Dan Miller's Christmas Open House, and, in one of the random drawings, won a door prize that included Dave Ramsey's EntreLeadership. I was skeptical of its usefulness, since I don't particularly want to build a large corporation - I just want to be free.

Nevertheless, I did read it. It was a physical book, and it did deal with entrepreneurship, so I figured it was at least tangentially related to my interests. (I still haven't listened to the Millers' audio recording I won along with it - I really don't care to listen to speaking when I'd be much happier reading it. It's kind of weird, I suppose, since I want to record my voice, but I tend to dislike listening to others, whether singing or speaking, unless it's a conversation. Audiobooks, radio broadcasts, podcasts, speeches, and even most "popular singers" do not appeal to me, even though I want to sell my services recording my voice in such things. It's odd.)

At any rate, EntreLeadership surprised me. Astonished me, really, because all the way through the book I kept saying "Yes! This! This is what that manager did wrong! This is what I wish I could show this other manager! This is what I wish I could make all managers everywhere do better!" Instead of an MBA, would-be managers need to study Dave Ramsey's book. It works better.

As for web technology; well, I've played around with HTML, XHTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript, and while I could certainly develop the skills to build everything from the ground up, I have learned enough to know that I don't want to do it. Just like math, computer programming is something I am capable of doing but hate anyway. I'd much rather have someone else do the coding.

Then, of course, there is Psychology, the "science" which ignores scientific method. Anyone who insists that directly conflicting theories can all be right is completely ignoring fundamental logic. (Of course, all theories can be equally wrong.) The notion of regurgitating their accepted explanations of things that do not fit observed evidence galls me. The notion of ignoring my own observations because they do not fit the accepted explanations infuriates me. I am not less qualified to observe the world simply because I don't have their stamp of approval, and I take a dim view of any "discipline" that teaches its students to ignore the evidence of their own senses if it conflicts with the program they have been taught.

Ultimately, I find I'd much rather take classes in fighting and dance, in drawing and painting and pastels, in piano and winds, in Gaelic and Polish and Japanese and Spanish and lots of other languages. I'd rather tell stories and explain the mysteries of the universe to people who are willing to listen. I'd rather sing and speak and read and write and act and make music and art. I want to teach the world to think, to dream, to be what we were meant to be, rather than cogs in a bureaucratic machine, grinding down the freedom-loving spirits that are our birthright. Our current "corporate culture" is a bureaucratic nightmare. Sure, we have to do work that pays the bills, but why should we have to spend our lives in drab, concrete-and-beige bunkers, punching clocks and bending to the ever-increasing list of regulations and living for the weekend? (and in retail, you're lucky to get two days off together, much less Saturday and Sunday.) I've found a book I love - My So-Called Freelance Life by Michelle Goodman - and as soon as I can get my furniture situation settled, I mean to record demos and start looking for freelance voiceover work.
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