A mistaken sense of failure


A few years ago I started taking some graphic design classes at the local community college to get in touch with my creativity. The first semester was wonderful. I loved the classes, learned a lot. I’m still using some of the info and techniques I learned in that one semester.

The next semester was a disaster. The professor came into the classroom and read from the book for an hour. It. Was. Mind. Numbing.
It was boring and I hated it. I wasn’t engaged and wasn’t learning.

I was telling a friend over dinner about this horrendous experience and she gave me a very simple and, to me, astoundingly awesome insight: “Paloma, you signed up for the classes for fun. If you’re not enjoying it, drop it.”

And I sat there, awestruck with the simplicity of her solution. I could drop the class. It never occurred to me that I could actually drop the class and walk away.

I could drop the class!

My ability to focus on the end goal of a project has served me well. The tunnel vision I develop makes it possible for me to ensure that I will do what I set out to do. Unfortunately, it also means that I don’t see the simple things like when it’s a good idea to abandon something.

Walking away from this did not equal failure.

So I dropped the class and felt better. But I didn’t learn my lesson. This week has been a good example of the fact that I still haven’t learned when to walk away from horrendous situations. I’m still focusing on the end goal and not noticing the boiling water I’ve landed in in the meanwhile.

Fortunately, I still have wonderfully insightful friends who point out the obvious to me. “Paloma, stop being a dumb frog and get out of the boiling water.”

I think I’ll listen.

Image source: miniformat65 / Pixabay

An unexpected smile of delight

To help get me back into the blogging groove, I’m trying out The SITS Girls daily writing prompts. Today I am supposed to discuss what brings joy into my life.

As cliched as it’s going to sound, it’s my family that brings joy into my life. And, honestly, the younger members (niece and nephews) accomplish this with very little effort.

Last week I was driving my youngest nephew to Spanish camp. My sister’s school doesn’t break from Summer school until this week, so she needed some help getting him to camp on days when she couldn’t arrive later to work. I pitched in a few days, my sister-in-law pitched in a few days, my niece did a day, my brother did a bunch of days, and between us we were able to cover the morning drive.

My youngest nephew is a surprise, a child who exceeds all expectations for intelligence and whose point of view never fails to astonish me. His mother enrolled him in the Chinese dual language program (instead of the Spanish one) because she hoped it would prove challenging; it hasn’t. He has been bumped up a year, the result of which is that he’s the youngest (and smallest) child in his class; she refuses to bump him up another. She has enrolled him in a multitude of after-school activities, including some sports, to keep him engaged and entertained. He goes to school for socialization, she tells me, and does middle-school level reading and math on the weekends for fun.

Smart kids are normal in my family. It’s common to hear from teachers about how well “we” are doing/have done in class. Even allowing for the different personalities, none of us had any difficulties in school. Yes, a few of us were distracted students, failing to turn in schoolwork and even failing to turn up for class. But, usually, there would be a test or something (for which little studying was done) and the term would be saved. We are used to seeing the children in our family be at the top of the class.

None of us were prepared for my youngest nephew. If he hears it, sees it, reads it, then he remembers it. And he makes connections with what he’s learned to apply it correctly to conversations or situations. He is a walking endorsement for “educational television” and proof that there’s educational value to Youtube.

Last week’s ride is an example. I had news radio on because he doesn’t care what I listen to as long as he has his iPad for the ride. I never count on conversation, he doesn’t “do” conversation on demand. There was a story about a Bob Dylan memorabilia item being auctioned off. I think he only caught the end of the story, when they kept repeating just the last name, “Dylan.” This caught his attention, since he recognized the last name as a name from school.

“Dylan?” he asks, a bit puzzled.

“They are talking about Bob Dylan,” I tell him. Then I proceed to try and explain that who Bob Dylan is, but he cuts me off.

“I know who Bob Dylan is,” he says. “He’s a guitarist.” Then he proceeds to tell me a lot about him, more than even I ever knew.

As he tells me that he knows all of this because it was in an educational video at school, I can feel the smile of delight on my face. My 7-year-old nephew knows who Bob Dylan is, I tell myself in a moment of awe.

A week later, that’s what I remember about that morning, not the fact that ten minutes later he threw up all over the back of my car. Because even the smartest 7-year-old is still a little boy.

What brings joy to your life?

* * *

Image sources:

Should I get an MBA?

It’s that time of year again, when the old year is behind us and we’re well into the new year, when I take a moment to panic and decide that my life isn’t where I’d like it to be and consider how to make it into that elusive ideal. And then I start looking at graduate programs.

I graduated from college nearly 15 years ago. I knew, even when I was an undegrad, that I was going to pursue a graduate degree. But it had taken me 7 years to get my bachelor’s degree (taking semesters off, going part time, working two jobs) and the last thing I wanted to do was go straight into another degree.

So I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited.

At least once or twice a year I take a good look at graduate programs and try to convince myself that it’s time to go back. I research websites. I ask for information packets. I attend information sessions.

Then I take a good look at the price tag.
And I start to make notes about the schedule.
And I take another look at the price tag.
And I remind myself that I don’t really need the degree.

And I wait another year.

I turn forty this year. I think it’s time to make up my mind on whether this is going to happen… or not.

I don’t have to try to go this year. In fact, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pull off getting into a program for this fall. But I do think that I need to make a decision on when I’d like to go, which program is my preference, and start the paperwork.

So I’ve spent a few days looking at my options:

If I could go full-time, and it money wasn’t an issue, I’d also look at:

Know of any part-time graduate programs you’d recommend for a public relations professional?

Anyway, my research jag has just started. Now I’m going to start asking for packets and attending info sessions.

Wish me luck.


Things Today’s Kids Will Never Experience

“Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.” And I’ve seen this list everywhere in the last week or so.

As I watch my niece and nephews, I take stock of the things that were real for me that just don’t apply to them. The ones in these lists are just a few.

Time Magazine listed the “Top 10 Things Today’s Kids Will Never Experience” in a recent article:

From the MomHouston blog post about the same list (which is pretty impressive):

  1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.
  2. E-mail is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.
  3. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.
  4. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.
  5. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.
  6. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.
  7. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.
  8. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
  9. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.
  10. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.
  11. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.
  12. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.
  13. Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.
  14. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.
  15. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.
  16. “Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.
  17. Czechoslovakia has never existed.
  18. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.
  19. Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.
  20. Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.
  21. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
  22. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.
  23. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.
  24. They may have assumed that parents’ complaints about Black Monday had to do with punk rockers from L.A., not Wall Street.
  25. Beethoven has always been a dog.
  26. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

Of course, if you want the full list, go to the Beloit College site.