My mom and I were having a disagreement the other day. I don’t know how we got to the argument, but the basis was that I was giving people too much credit. She said that most of the population just want to live a comfortable life and are not really that interesting, their lifes, that is.
I can’t accept that, I hope I never will. First of all, obviously everybody has their natural story, with its ups and downs and progression from childhood to adulthood and then aging. But it isn’t just a conglomeration of random events, it has cause and effect and congruency. So it is my personal belief that everybody could fill out an interesting book on their deathbeds, filled not only with their lifes, but their hopes and dreams.
Second, it is about the strive to achieve comfort. The lull of complacency being such a strong pull to resist the fight, the struggle, making people boring in the process. Again, I have to resist to accept that. Maybe we aren’t all awesome. going out into the world, changing it, rather sitting in our the comforts of our home and the extend of activism liking a Kony 2012 vid . It isn’t about that, it’s about following your passion!
Here is where the main disagreement was. Do you think that enough people follow their passion?
I was on a radio program the other day (brag!) and before starting we had a small pre-interview with the moderator. Of course, the moderator wanted me to feel comfortable, so she was very “fascinated” with astronomy throwing out phrases like “how interesting!” and stuff like that. Anyway, eventually we got to the question of what made me go into astronomy. First she wanted to know, why I entered such a male dominated field. It must have caught me off guard, because I didn’t know how to answer that, it was never a question for me, I just did. But it made me stop and wonder why people didn’t make the same choice, that moment when somebody decides as a teenager/young adult saying to themselves “ok, that image I had of me as a [insert dream profession here] is nonsense, I will give it up”.
It’s not like I haven’t had these disagreements with other people before. Just a few weeks ago we were debating on a poker forum about some professional poker players. There is a saying that if you can be a succesful professional poker player then you probably would be more succesful monetarily in some other venture – it’s a really hard way to make an easy living. And so the argument was to dissuade people from doing it, because you would be more succesful monetarily doing something else. For example, with the knowledge you have from poker math and statistics, you have the ability to comfortably make 200k/yr with minimal investment (e.g. programming classes) versus pursuing your passion which will pay off crappily. But I would never make that choice, it would almost feel like betraying myself. Am I wrong in thinking that people don’t betray themselves? I’d rather be happy with myself than complacent with the world.
And so I keep on refusing to believe that people make those comfort choices, how at least in their spare time they keep chasing their passion, on forums on the internet (TV fanfic, video game cheats, …), through similar interest groups (book clubs, knitting circles, choirs, …), by just following through (building hot rods, cooking the perfect meal, travelling, …). I don’t care what you do as long as you do what you love and for that you will earn my respect and I will call you awesome!
And another thing is the large amounts of stories we don’t hear. There are an immense amount of role models out there and they are just “normal” people like you and me. The website and blog Grandma got stem presents women that pioneered in the STEM fields in the 20th century, how they had to overcome obstacles and biases. Just awesome women you never hear about. And so I believe there is that awesome individual in all of us.
Just recently I was alerted through facebook about a David Foster Wallace excerpt turned into a video (This is Water!). The message of the video that resonated with me is that it is up to YOU to choose how you see the world and the people in it. If stuck in a traffic jam or in the line at the supermarket it is incredibly easy to dismiss everybody as simple idiots who are just in your way, but everybody in that line/traffic jam has an incredibly complicated history on how they got to be there at that very moment and probably had very good reason to act the way they acted. In a last piece of irony, it is amazing that David Foster Wallace had that insight into human perspective, yet chose to take his own life in 2008.