Testing…Testing…

If you believe all of the online quiz results, my inner age is 30 and my real age is 42. My true calling is “creative genius.” My power element is metal. My season is fall. I am 50% left brained and 50% right brained. My classic rock band is The Eagles, and my life quote is from Theodore Roosevelt ~ “With self- discipline, most anything is possible.” I am politically astute. In a past life I was a Greek philosopher and my IQ is “gifted.”

Well, I definitely like to create things but I’m not sure at all about the genius part of that phrase. I may be gifted for some things, but most days I can’t say if my gifts are a blessing or a curse. My real age is not 42 (but thanks for that), and my favorite season really is fall. I have always liked The Eagles, and I don’t know if I had a past life, but I could have been a philosopher. As for the self-discipline quote, I am certain that a lack of self-discipline is one of the things that keeps me from unlocking my full potential.

Here are some of the things online quizzes have correctly discerned about me:

  • You are persistent (and maybe even a little bit stubborn). If you see something you want you go for it. You have a lot of strength and it’s difficult to get you down. Very logical, you tend to analyze everything going on in your life.
  • You believe it’s important to find and cultivate a purpose in your life. You can’t imagine living without meaning. You are intuitive and thoughtful. You appreciate solitude but also draw energy from being with others. You are an excellent communicator.
  • You are a real hard worker, and you can thank your past experiences for that. Your childhood was not the easiest one – you weren’t always popular, people put you down, but you’ve decided to pull yourself together. You decided not to let any of this stop you, and got the best results at the end. You’ve learned that you can accomplish anything if you just refuse to give up, and stop listening to haters.

I am not at all sure if I should be flattered or concerned that two online quizzes have pegged me as a “badass.” They might be just a little bit right about that, but that alone does not paint a complete picture.

But how do they know? How can they tell who I am just by indicating that my favorite color is green and that I prefer pictures of adorable puppies over slimy lizards? What’s to say that a word I use to describe myself at any particular moment is a true indicator of my personality? I’m pretty sure these quizzes are not designed by psychological geniuses. Or are they?

My favorite Harry Potter character

My favorite Harry Potter character

At any rate, here is the best answer yet: my female Harry Potter character is one of my personal favorites, Minerva McGonagall! Here’s what the results say: “You are a raging badass (there it is). Loyalty and bravery are two things you highly value. You do not tolerate foolishness, but you do have a dry sense of humour. You are quick witted and are not afraid to slap a bitch if necessary. Everyone highly respects you because you are stern, yet fair. You are a wonderful problem solver and have a temper when you encounter injustice. Your strut is also fabulous.”

The answers often make me either think, or laugh, or both. Anyway, these quizzes definitely feed into my previously mentioned lack of self-discipline. Who knows what I could accomplish if I would just stop playing and do something productive? Well…I’ll definitely stop after I check my knowledge of 1980’s movies….

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I’ve heard more than one person say it isn’t taught anymore, or that kids don’t have it anymore. But from where I sit, most of those who demonstrate a serious lack of respect are adults.

I have been privileged to hang around with a fair number of young people, mainly thanks to my daughters, and most of them seem to get it – in spades. But when it comes to adults there seems to be an awful lot of focus on themselves and not much at all on care and concern for the people around them.

Respect is broadly defined as showing esteem or honor. But we don’t have to like everyone or everything in order to show respect. All we really have to do is demonstrate that we care, and treat others like the frail and fragile human beings we all are.

For many years I was fortunate to work for a human services organization with offices in a restored Victorian mansion.  We shared this spectacular building with other non-profit human service providers, some of whom saw clients in their offices. Often, these were people who were down on their luck or really needed some guidance to help get their lives on track. They all passed by our doors, and our boss made it clear that we needed to treat all who entered with respect. The building also helped to set the tone, since you could not possibly enter that dark wallpapered foyer with the grand staircase and feel that it was okay to mess around with anything or anyone. We didn’t have too many problems there, because we treated people respectfully.

Not every place is like that. Sometimes the tone is completely different and people are used, abused, and treated like they are only  necessary to handle certain tasks. All too often human beings are herded like animals or treated as disposable commodities.

I’m sure if you look around you’ll see some people who regard life as though they are playing a game of chess; moving the rooks and pawns around the board to protect their queen; or worse yet, those who see themselves as the puppet masters, working in the mistaken belief that we all dance the same way when our strings are pulled. But we don’t, because we are all tied to different strings: hope, desire, low self-esteem, cowardice, illness, or a simple need to put food on the table.

Arrogance and ego are far more prevalent than respect. Respect means we value each other as individuals, regardless of our beliefs. It means we politely listen to each others points of view, even when we disagree. It means we seek other opinions in order to form a well-rounded decision.

The Oxford Dictionary defines respect as a “feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” I would challenge that we don’t even have to get to “deep admiration.” All we really need to get to is good manners, and if we work hard we could graduate up to civil and courteous discourse. It would improve the human condition substantially – in our homes, our work places, our churches, and our governments.

Aretha Franklin got it right. All we need is r-e-s-p-e-c-t…just a little bit.

Then and Now

Do you go to your high school reunions? I have missed a few, but I usually go and I’m not at all sure why. I guess in some ways it’s an affirmation that my life turned out okay after all.

I am comfortable with myself and the life I have. No – not everything is perfect in this life. But it’s okay. I have a great family that I am extremely proud of. My career is alright. And my health is mostly decent. Nothing about this life is ostentatious. It’s all modest, but meaningful. And at age 55 that’s all just fine with me.

High school was a challenge for me. Academically I was fine, but socially I struggled a bit. In my first years of high school I was your basic wallflower. I was not involved in many extracurricular activities.  I was that nerdy girl who dabbled in Debate Club – for real – and was never very good at it. Looking back on it, it’s actually pretty funny that I have made a career out of public speaking over the past 35 years.

Top:  Four best friends in high school Bottom:  Missing one, but we don't look too bad for grownups

Top: Four best friends in high school
Bottom: Missing one, but we don’t look too bad for grownups

During the second half of high school I came out of that shell a bit. I was in a play and I got a part time job after school, and both of those things helped me to open up a bit. I made more friends, and went to more parties, and started dating.

I have never been a social butterfly. Don’t get me wrong – I love spending time with people I know and care for. I have fabulous friends! But I have never been good at small talk and am truly still an introvert. Somewhere deep within me will always live that four year old who cried because she had to go to nursery school, and the ten year old who lived so much in the world of the fiction books she loved that her mother had to admonish her to “put that book down and go outside and play” on a nice day. More often than not I took the book with me outside.

But here comes another reunion. It’s a multi-class reunion from my high school, and the real draw for me this time is the hope of seeing some of the people I truly liked who did not graduate in my class. In fact, this reunion is spanning two decades worth of classes, and I fully expect there will be a lot of people there with whom I have no connection. Or if I do, it’s because of connections we have made in the community and outside of the school walls. But with over 500 people set to attend, I am certain there will be at least a few people that I know and remember.

So I will go, with one of my longest (not oldest) friends and our husbands. My friend and I agreed that we look pretty good for our ages, and here in our mid 50’s it doesn’t really matter all that much. We are comfortable with the people we are now, and we hope to reconnect with some people who may have been part of our history.

Reunions are more daunting before you turn 40. That’s when the expectations are higher: you expect that everyone will look great and will have hit their career stride and will have a perfect family life. If anyone else has judged me, then so be it. I can’t stop them and I don’t care, and now in my mid 50’s I know the truth:  the only expectations ever have been inside my own head. Well past the wallflower stage, I now represent the total of my experiences over a pretty well-lived life.

So I look forward to seeing old friends at the reunion this week, with no stress, no judgment, and no expectations; just a walk down memory lane and a good time.