Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Monkey Shines

I had the most wonderful thing happen to me today. Truly, truly wonderful.

In the back of my brain a monkey crawled up out of the dark depths and started shrieking and flinging unpleasant things around. In his small, dark, primitive monkey way he shrieked loud enough and long enough to convince me that I was incredibly airheaded, and despite whatever brilliance I might think I possess, my tendency towards missing details and forgetting the small things would always, always overshadow me.
The entire world, in that very moment, knew this about me and thought I was stupid because it was all they could see. Not the times I performed well or executed my tasks with a little extra bit of insight so it didn't go to the most obvious place or completed with errors. They whole world saw when I missed a small subset of the issue, or misspelled something. The whole wide world. And so I was a moron.

Now, I know this monkey well because he visits me often and has since I was a teenager. At some point in my youth I was in the throws of being Alive and Doing Things when he leapt on to my back and began to chatter in my ear. I looked silly. I was fat. Who did I think I was to try and do tricks on a bike? I would crash and look stupid. Who would ever read the stories I wrote? They were foolish and fool of holes...
We are good acquaintances. But I've never felt the need to ask him his name. He just shows up at the appointed time and place, makes his noise, and reduces my confidence to nil. Over the years he has perfected the art, knowing the exact place to stick the knife that robs me of all energy to do a certain thing.

So it was that he emerged and shook himself off, having been laid to rest for a slightly longer period of time, and began to create a ruckus. You see, he knew something wasn't right. It had been too long since he'd been able to get back here to holler. And when he arrived I rolled my eyes and thought "Ugh. You. I know what you're going to do."
The shrieks went on until he had a toe-hold. Moron. Air-head. Slow. The best one he found to use? "Well, she's at least got a nice personality..." He did his worst and peeled me open and raw. And suddenly being here confidently learning and wondering about my future I was reduced to... pain. And doubt. He was right, and he had all of these instances where it made sense and they linked together in this chain from the past up to the mistake I made a moment ago. It was irrefutable. I, for all my bluster and supposed quick-wittedness, was really all talk.
I stared at the screen in disbelief, then in shame.
I took time to breathe and the monkey, exhausted, gave up panting against the back wall of my brain as I continued to work, dishing tickets out at lightning speed and helping people with their issues. I kept an eye on him there, aware that he would be rallying soon and also aware that a lot of the damage had already been done. He knew it, too.

After a time of the monkey making some halfhearted hoots at me to remind me of my innate tendency towards failure, I did what I should have done in the first place (and what I did not do for fear of seeming self-involved and neurotic) which was to message Bob out in the aether and say "the whole world knows I'm dumb."

What followed will go down as one of the better conversations I've had while feeling neurotic and stupid. This is a rough approximation of it.
Me: "I keep making small mistakes all the time and I never get it right and I'm no good at anything and I screw everything up all the time. I will never be good at anything ever again and everyone knows I'm stupid and nobody realizes that I'm actually really smart it makes me really upset ohmigodwhydoIkeepmakingsmallmistakesIshouldn'tbemakingthem...." *gasp for breath here*
Bob: "Are you learning from the mistakes?"
Me: "Sometimes. Not always. Sometimes I have to ask twice. Or write it down so I'll remember. It's really embarrassing."
(It occurs to me right now as I right this that I thought off in the distance I heard someone yell "MY GOD WHAT IS YOUR ISSUE? MOST PEOPLE USE POST-ITS..." Which may have actually been him...)
Bob:"Well, if you learn from it and keep going it isn't so bad."
Me: "But I was thinking if I keep making these small mistakes that it will completely hamper me when I go in to the IT field or the programming field. I'll be a laughing stock because of all the tiny details and mistakes I will miss. I won't ever be any good at it. I'm stuck answering the phone for the rest of my life."
Bob: "You think people don't make mistakes in coding?"
Me: "You don't make mistakes when you code. Do you?"
Bob: "The only way I stop making mistakes is if I die."
Me: "But what about forgetting to close your parens and such? Just stupid small detail things that'll kill the code."
Bob: "Everyone does it. When I worked at (name withheld) if we didn't find any mistakes after reviewing the code, we went back through it again. We just assumed there would be one somewhere. Because human beings wrote it."
Me: "some other whiny phrase about how my mistakes render me useless"
Bob: "Loving verbal smack of Shut Up And Stop Being a Doof." followed by "If you were going in to programming thinking that you weren't going to make mistakes, I think you should probably seriously reconsider why you're doing it. Because they're going to happen."

At this point I am rendered near mute with the thunderbolt of Reality that has struck me between the eyes. The monkey sits up in terror in his corner, clutching at his chest as his heart beats rapidly, knowing by how quickly I've sat up in my chair that Truth has bloomed in my mind....
People screw up. I am People. I'm not stupid. I think so fast it only seems like I make more mistakes. I make the same number of mistakes, just at a faster rate. And then sometimes I just goof the hell up and miss a small detail because I'm tired or allowing something to take my focus away for a split second.
Basically, I don't screw up any more than any other human being. And while I'm probably not as smart as I think I am, I'm certainly never as stupid as I suspect. And with that thought in my mind, the monkey retreated, completely defeated, back in to the murky pit from whence he came.
I'm of half a mind to cap that well in the near future.

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