Friday, June 13, 2008

on distraction, failure, and dreams

My friend Sean told me about this great episode of the Diane Rehms show on "Distraction and Democracy." I had brushed off his recommendation of D.R. once before, and the topic sounded interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try on my commute home. Sadly, embarassingly, I got bored, distracted, and also kind of annoyed at both speakers after 25 minutes or so. I switched to an episode of RadioLab instead.

I don't think it's really that I'm shallow, or uninterested in current affairs, or too used to multitasking. I get impatient with the kind of "kids these days" superiority that goes into the viewpoint that we are now somehow more flawed than we were at some time in the past, and it's because we're not trying hard enough. Or reading enough newspapers. Of course both authors wanted more mandated classes in K-12 education, which annoys me too. Our public schools are expected to be all things to all people on no money. But that's another kind of post.

I mostly was aggravated because there are reasons we're all constantly distracted. I think most of us are trying too hard not to make a mistake. Even college students are already laser-focused on how to find a job that will give them health insurance and enough money to pay the bills. The stakes have become so high that none of us can afford to fail anymore, and there's not much of a safety net, and we're afraid we'll never get a second chance to do things right.

J.K. Rowling's address to Harvard
talked both about the lessons of failure and the importance of empathy. I think that both have been undervalued in our "but-how-much-will-you-get-paid" world. I've managed, in my time, to find and follow a few dreams, and those are the times in my life when I've been happiest. The times in my life where I've been too busy trying to play it safe to dream have been the saddest times I've lived through, and also the ones where I've felt most like a failure. Playing it safe seems sometimes like the most dangerous thing you can do.

I have a lot on my mind right now and all I can do is worry, and scratch (my hands are breaking out in a rash) and hope for the best. A lot of the thoughts are happy, excited thoughts but there is a part of me that really prefers things to be settled, and they're not right now. Things are in a state of flux, and I'm hoping that in a month or two I can tell you what I've been babbling about...
But what's the biggest dream you've chased lately, and how has it turned out for you?


  1. Sad to say, but I haven't spent much time chasing dreams lately. I'm not sure I even have any that I'm willing to acknowledge and nurture. My brain and energy have been so focused on weight and body stuff to the point that it bores me to tears and haven't made any progress. Not working so well for me and maybe the lack of dreams to chase is why.

    Although moving to my current job allowed me to have the dream of better working conditions and more relaxed living. There's a lot to be said for that.

    Good topic, Jen. Time to give myself permission to dream.

  2. My dream is going to Israel. It is happening next month. A bigger dream I'm working toward is not asking for a seat belt extender on the airplane. I have gone from a size 26-28 to an 18-20 so I'm hopeful. I enjoyed this posting. I work in education on the higher ed level but with middle & high school students. I so admire everyone who works in K-12. There isn't enough money to pay me to deal with that environment on a daily basis. JC


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07