I have been watching the ongoing blogger reveal with some interest and trying to decide whether or not I would throw my hat into the ring. In fact, I held a lengthy discussion with Achloryn about it, which more or less boiled down to one salient fact: I can’t decide whether I, Liz, the actual person behind the continuing saga that is Kia and Kia’s Brain, am quite interesting enough to talk about.
This would be the reason why I don’t have a personal blog and do my blogging about a fictitious bunch of human- and kitty-shaped pixels. Chris (the guy behind Achloryn) thinks I am, which seems to me to be a very good thing for a boyfriend to think. So since my opinion is very conflicted, I am going to lean on his instead.
I find that when pressed to talk about myself, I start reciting the litany of things I’ve done in my life, rather than the things I think or feel. Fortunately, I do have the advantage of having done some pretty cool stuff. A lot of it is very ancient history, but it does make for some nice conversational topics at fancy parties (not that I go to any) and for icebreaker games. Unfortunately, a lot of it speaks to the kind of person I was, rather than the kind of person I am. Of course, our pasts do shape our presents, but it is our presents that most people are interested in. Especially if they are nice, appropriate housewarming presents or perhaps a convenient Visa gift card rather than the set of ill-fitting and uncomfortable pajamas that is identical to the same set that I received from you last year.
So anyway, here’s some bits of my past that still speak to the person I am:
- One of the most significant bits of my growing-up was Odyssey of the Mind, which is a competition for students intended to help promote creativity and critical thinking. I competed in it for 7 of my 12 school years and was a judge for 2 more. I spent most of my junior high school career with my fingertips covered in a thin, impossible-to-remove layer of Zap-A-Gap (I thoroughly recommend it for all your superglue needs) and tiny slivers of balsa wood from the probably hundreds of 8.5 inch, 18 gram tiny towers I built. My team won the right to represent the state of Pennsylvania at the World Finals in the Structure Problem twice. It made me think I was clearly supposed to grow up to be an engineer.
Two and a half years into college, I admitted to myself that I was a terrible, terrible engineering major, would absolutely hate being an engineer, and promptly switched majors to business administration. 12 years after graduating from high school, I now have absolutely no idea what I am supposed to be when I grow up. I keep thinking I have some idea, and keep changing my mind.
- Freshman year in college, I was one of four females in a class of 60 engineering hopefuls. My first day in my Intro to Engineering class, my (male) professor told us that at the end of four years, that class would almost certainly be reduced by at least 50% from the people that couldn’t cut it. Several weeks in, when I was already thinking I had made a mistake in my choice of majors, I had a run-in with a particularly obnoxious male classmate who very un-ironically informed me that I would be of much more use in the kitchen making him sandwiches. (He clearly had never tasted my sandwiches – I am a terrible cook.) I therefore spent the next two years trying to prove him wrong and made myself completely miserable in the process.
I finally came to grips with the fact that I was doing something that made me seriously unhappy in order to prove a point to a guy that I barely knew who was intentionally trying to insult and provoke me – and all women, really. I realized that there are always going to be people in the world who are going to despise you for no other reason but that you are different in some way and that it is utterly, utterly stupid to try to make them like and admire you. You never will, and you will only make yourself unhappy in the process.
- I spent the summer after my freshman year in college building and racing a solar-powered car the entire length of historic Route 66 with the American Solar Challenge. Our team was about 15 people, and we spent far, far too much time together. We did not win, but did finish a respectable 13th place out of (I think) 40 teams. We also won the 1st place Technical Award for building both the car’s battery pack and solar array from scratch. We started with 3,000 bare solar cells about the size of a credit card, analyzed them, prepared them, soldered them together in strings, and mounted them. The shell of the car (her name was Genesis) now hangs on the wall in the lobby of the building that houses my alma mater’s School of Engineering.
I don’t remember anything about how to analyze the electrical output of a solar cell. What I do remember is breaking many fragile and expensive solar cells, getting us completely lost somewhere in the wilds of southern Illinois in my role as team navigator, and very nearly running our baby, our pride and joy, our beautiful Genesis into a tree during the only time I was allowed to take her out for a spin. I remember the feeling of helpless confusion in the midst of much higher-level thinkers and knowing that I was a thousand leagues out of my depth. For some of us, the pride and glory of team triumph can’t assuage the sting of personal failure. It is a self-centered mentality. It is a good thing to want to be the best that you can be, of course, but if that comes at the cost of failing to rejoice in the cooperative successes of your team, you have lost something beautiful.
- I spent a year and a half working as the Business Manager for an organization in Burkina Faso that is working to answer the needs of the disabled in one of the poorest regions in the world. It is simultaneously one of the coolest and one of the hardest things I will ever do, no matter what else life brings me.
The most common thing that people say to me whenever I tell them about Burkina and the Handicap Center is “I could never do something like that.” I understand the sentiment, I really do. It looks foreign, and hard, and self-sacrificial, and scary, and lonely, and it was indeed all of those things. It was also hot. Very, very hot. The thing is, when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are supposed to do something, no matter how foreign or hard or scary it is, you just… do it, and it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to you.
-I am still making the same mistakes. I still let the desire for other people’s approbation (whether they are people who merit a say in my life or not) try to dictate my personal happiness. I still mourn over personal failure when I should rejoice in group triumph. I still look at mountains and say, “That is too high for me to climb”. I still think that what I have done – the good and the bad - is enough to tell people about who I am.
I play it. I write lightheartedly about playing it. Has my game been affected by who I am? Of course. I have let the desire to be better dictate playing differently than the way I love to play. When I am last on the damage meters, the fact that we quickly and smoothly one-shot the boss tends not to mean as much. I still look at challenges in the game and think that these mountains are much too high for me to climb, even when I’ve proven to myself that they are not as big as they look and that I am a better climber than I think I am.
Sometimes I climb them anyway. I’m always amazed by the view from the top.