On Asking Stupid Questions

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” -Abraham Lincoln

I find all too often people are afraid of asking things because they don’t want to appear stupid, which is why I consider Ask A Stupid Question Day to be one of the most important non-holidays of the year.  I’ve had way too many of my classmates tell me they are afraid to ask a question in class or answer one of the teacher’s questions because they don’t know absolutely everything about the subject and they don’t want to look stupid.  It’s okay to not know something, and it’s okay to be wrong.  What’s not very okay is to be afraid of learning because you don’t want to admit you’re not omniscient and infallible.  This doesn’t just apply to students in schools.  Everyone runs into situations where they don’t know something and they’re with someone who does.  And it’s okay to ask a question.  And if you’re in a situation where you’re talking to an expert and you’re not sure about something, say it anyways, and maybe mention that you’re not sure about it.  If you’re wrong, the other person will say so and you’ll learn something and that’s always good.

So although Abraham Lincoln might have said that it’s better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt, I think he’s wrong.  I think it’s better to speak out, because that’s the only way you can learn something and stop being a fool.

Happy Ask A Stupid Question Day!

An Analogy for Consent

I recently found Hershele Ostropoler’s absolutely wonderful analogy for consent in a comment and wanted to share that with you.

If you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.

If you step on my foot without meaning to, you need to get off my foot.

If you step on my foot without realizing it, you need to get off my foot.

If everyone in your culture steps on feet, your culture is horrible, and you need to get off my foot.

If you have foot-stepping disease, and it makes you unaware you’re stepping on feet, you need to get off my foot. If an event has rules designed to keep people from stepping on feet, you need to follow them. If you think that even with the rules, you won’t be able to avoid stepping on people’s feet, absent yourself from the event until you work something out.

If you’re a serial foot-stepper, and you feel you’re entitled to step on people’s feet because you’re just that awesome and they’re not really people anyway, you’re a bad person and you don’t get to use any of those excuses, limited as they are. And moreover, you need to get off my foot.

See, that’s why I don’t get the focus on classifying harassers and figuring out their motives. The victims are just as harassed either way.

Courage

“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.” — Thucydide

I’m very much a person who lets her fear rule the course of her life, for better or for worse.  Fear is a very natural emotion, and it’s one that warns us we’re heading for danger before we get in too deep to save ourselves, but as someone who lives with an anxiety disorder, I have to be very careful about knowing whether  my fears are justified or whether they’re anxiety disorder induced fears which also seem very, very real when I’m worrying about them.

My most recent encounter with this has to do with university applications.  I’ve applied for a variety of courses, some ‘safe’ and some that are ‘not-so-safe’, and I’m struggling to make my decisions about what to do with my future.

Let’s start from the beginning.  Last October, I was about to only apply to three vet schools, but my favourite teacher suggested I add Cambridge to my application because since I was able to see the advantages of other universities and wouldn’t be heartbroken if I didn’t get into Cambridge, I might as well apply because it wouldn’t do me any harm.  I recently got an offer, and my teacher admitted to me that he’d all along felt that I was not applying to Cambridge because I was afraid of rejection (and I could write a whole post on just that…maybe I will).  Now that I have the offer, I have pressure on one hand from my parents who don’t want me to go to the UK, and pressure from my teacher who has supported my UK university application along every step of the way and who thinks that Cambridge would be a very good fit for my personality, and I’m stuck in the middle.

In my previous post, I talked about my struggles with needing approval from others, so the pressures on me to make a certain choice are especially difficult to deal with.  I know that no matter what I decide, whether it’s with my university applications or anything else in life, I will most likely have to disappoint some people, and that is a very, very hard thing to accept but something I’m going to have to work on.  But now I need to realise that the only person I truly need to avoid disappointing is myself, because this is my life and I am going to be the one most affected by the decisions I make.  I also need to look on the bright side of things, no matter what choice I make, there will be someone who supports my choice and agrees with me.

The secret of happiness is freedom.  The secret of freedom is courage.  If I have the courage to make my own choices, I will have the freedom to live my own dreams.  If I have the freedom to live my own dreams, I can find fulfilment in my life.

Frozen

At my brother’s request, I recently watched the new Disney movie, Frozen, with him.  It was a good movie, but there were some really sad scenes in it that left me pondering the question: what if being yourself meant disappointing everyone you ever cared about?

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know

This isn’t a new idea. It’s been explored in other movies.  But it’s something many of us struggle with.

I think most of us have at some point or another had our parents say “why can’t you be more like ____?”  I know I have.

I had a classmate who was very focused on what she wanted to do in her future and was very proactive about doing the things she needed to do to get where she wanted.  My parents saw her at a university fair approaching and talking to a university representative and later said to me “Why can’t you be more proactive like S?  She’s not a nice person, but she knows what she wants and she’s aggressive enough to go out there and get it.  If you want to get anywhere in life, you have to be aggressive and manipulative.”  (For the record, S is actually a very nice girl, this is just my parents’ impression of her from that one event).  Up to that point (and to some extent even now), I had been proud of the fact that I was what I considered to be a nice person.  I was proud of not being manipulative, of not being too pushy, of not only being focused on what I wanted to achieve without regard for other people.  After a lengthy discussion with my parents, I realised that they didn’t appreciate those qualities.  Because of their experiences in life, they both believe that in order for me to succeed, I need to stop trying to be a nice person and start to be more aggressive and more ruthless in going out and getting what I want.  While I can see where they’re coming from, I realise that that isn’t who I am.

That was just one example of my parents wanting me to change to be someone I’m not, and more importantly, someone I’ve made a conscious decision not to be.  And honestly, the pressure to be a certain way isn’t really just coming from my parents.  In many ways, my teachers, my peers and some of the people I look up to have wanted me to change in a way that ran counter to my values, beliefs and character.

Now, I often wonder whether I should give in and change or whether I should remain true to myself.  I wonder what if being myself means disappointing everyone I have ever cared about?

Welcome to Midnight

900 years of time and space, and I've never met anyone who wasn't important. - Doctor Who

The Doctor’s words of wisdom…

Another year is over.  Finally over, or unfortunately over.  I hope it was a great year for you.  It wasn’t really one for me.  But that’s okay.  Because a new year is a time for change, a time for healing.  Change is absolutely terrifying, but it’s also one of the most profoundly beautiful things in the universe (which has to do with the title of this blog, Le Chatelier’s Principle).

Every year at this time, people all around the world make resolutions.  Today is a time to take an honest look at our lives and rebuild them.  And that’s what I plan to do this year.   For the past year, I have let my struggles with depression, self harm and anxiety rule my life.  For the past year, I have fought my demons, winning sometimes and losing sometimes.  For the past year, I’ve fought my demons mostly alone, because I didn’t feel I deserved to share, to reach out, to ask for help.  This year will be different.  My promise to myself is to not let my belief that I don’t deserve help get in the way of my asking for help that my friends and family are waiting to give me.  I’ve survived this year, and that’s a great thing to celebrate.  But what I’d much rather celebrate is my commitment to not be ashamed of my truth.

*****

The following was taken from the TWLOHA blog and was written by Jamie Tworkowski.  It can be found here.

Five.
Four.
Three.
Two.
One.

The ball drops and fireworks. Resolutions are made.
People scream and people kiss and is it possible to change?
Is it really truly possible to leave the past behind?

Welcome to Midnight.

Another year comes to a close. Another year begins.
With a moment in between.
Why the fuss?
Why the fame and fireworks?
Is it more than hype? More than something else to sell us?
Is there something to this holiday? Something true inside it?
Because isn’t there something inside us that aches for change…
Dreams it to be possible…
To let go.
To hold on.
To leave it behind.
To start again.
To be new.
Is it possible?

If you’re reading this, if there’s air in your lungs, then you’re alive today tonight right now.
And who can know how long we have here…
And is it a gift? Was it ever a gift? Did that ever feel true or could that one day feel true?
Are there things to fight to live for?
Moments and people… Weddings and children and all your different dreams…
Love…
Is your life more than just your own?
And are there broken things you were made to fight to fix?
Broken families, broken friends… Injustice.
Will you move for things that matter?

Wouldn’t it be nice if change took just a moment?
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy?
Midnight and we’re new. Midnight and the past erased. Midnight and we’re free.

It seems to come slow. It seems to be a surgery.
Forgiveness. Healing. Sobriety. Letting go. Starting over.
It seems to happen slowly over time.
One day at a time, the choice made new each morning.
Will you fight?
Will you fight to be healthy?
Will you fight to be free?
Will you fight for your story?
Will you fight to get the help you need?

Change takes more than a moment, but maybe there’s also something to this celebration of a moment, something to the way it speaks to us, something to the way we fear it, and dream it to be true. Maybe it’s the most honest moment of the year.

It’s possible to change.

Welcome to Midnight.

Here’s to the possibilities.

Peace to You.
jamie

A Quote I’d Like To Share

A former teacher shared this quote with me and I decided to put it here.  I don’t know who the original author is, so it’s not credited, but it’s not mine, either.

“Life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people. I’m not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. What I’ve learned over the years, is that learning to accept each others faults and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences, is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship. Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right and have compassion for the ones who don’t.”