Milk and Toast

I was told this week by a coworker that I had a “good personality for this stuff,” as she acknowledged how I handle multiple requests from many chefs with different visions. One person tells me make something red, then another asks why it's red, then another asks for less words, then another asks for more, and so on. On one project in particular I was being pulled in several directions, but I remained calm, and I think that people appreciate my mannerisms. That's not to say that I don't question conflicting direction, or try to get people together in an e-mail or ideally the same room to work things out, but I have a way of doing so that differs from others who just blow up.

It's definitely a professional attitude, and the self that family and close friends see is one that shouldn't be let out in meetings. It's been a while since I put my fist through a wall when a comment from my mom about my socks making me “look like a nerd” set me off, but I think people in the office would be surprised to learn I'd ever had a reaction like that. Some of my calm attitude is professionalism, but I think my shyness slips in there as well, my tendency to consider my words carefully and not speak if there's a risk of looking foolish. I worry sometimes if that makes me a pushover, but again there are times I disagree and do so in a rational, convincing manner. I think therein lies the key, that it's possible to argue a point without it being a fight.

A coworker had recently relayed a story about how her son disrespected his grandmother. The boy asked her a question about his homework, and when she told him something was wrong, he began to mock her, doing that thing kids do where they repeat everything an adult says in a funny voice. The grandmother got very upset and sent the kid home. Later, it turned out that the boy was actually correct. His mother told him he was wrong for the way he talked to her mother, but she also seemed fixed on the fact that the boy was right. I'm not so sure being right is all that important if you give your elders or superiors attitude about it. There's a question of respect, not to mention maintaining a good relationship for the future. You catch more flies with honey.

It's also a matter of picking your battles, and knowing when to stand your ground and when it will be easier to just do as your told. The paycheck is the same either way. I'm not so concerned about my easygoing manner in my professional life, but it does leave my personal life flat at times. I've avoided more embarrassing situations than I've created by opening my mouth, but I think there are a lot of regrets and missed opportunities out there. Sometimes I dip my toe in the water, and the water seems fine, but I never go for a swim, no matter how much I think about it.

There are a lot of moral questions surrounding the premise of the show Dollhouse, and I particularly enjoyed seeing one apparently amoral character finally questioning the consequences of his actions, of wiping people's memories and sending them out with false, programmed personalities. But it does make me think about the possibilities of programming our own personas, either adding or subtracting bits we don't like, or just adjusting the balance of what's already there. Maybe we bring out some things we suppress, and suppress the memories and experiences that cause us to be so cautious in the first place. It's a nice fantasy, but is it? We're shaped by outside events, but don't we control how we respond to them? Are we forever shackled by who we were in elementary school. or can we make a conscious decision to be someone else, to be the best we can be?

Good questions. Damned if I know the answers....


Blogger Lorna said...

great title!

10/24/2009 2:22 AM  

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