|The World Does Not Wait
||[Sep. 29th, 2005|10:27 am]
My entry yesterday elicited an unexpected reaction from some people. To summarize, it came down to, "you shouldn't treat the ability to cope as superior to the inability to cope."
Except, it is.
I realize that a statement this blunt is probably going to make people angry, and it may cost me a chunk of my audience. But I'm going to say it anyway: the world doesn't care about your problems, and if you let them rule you, it will punish you for them.
You're not supposed to say things like this. Everyone is supposed to be able to feel good about themselves and never be judged for their disabilities.
That is a big lie that the world tells you to make itself feel better about the reality: it judges. This isn't about me judging anyone. Some of the people I have referred to as my heroes are people whom circumstance has rendered unable to cope with the world in the way the world would prefer. But they will tell you that they have to overcompensate for their disabilities, and that there are times when they can't, and the world does punish them for it. It's not vicious or intentional, this punishment. It's just a grinding fact of life:
The less you are able to cope, the more the world will leave you behind.
I know this, because I've had it happen to me. When I went to college, I did not cope particularly well. Oh, I graduated with a B+ average, but I did it on the strength of my innate writing abilities and good memory. I wasted a lot of time, got a basically worthless degree, and skated. I had no career goals and no future plans, and it showed. Even though I felt like I was doing my best, coping to the best of my abilities, I did nothing to excel or stand out. Grad school was even worse. After developing my program, I never went back to my advisor. I took classes and floundered around and pretty much wasted two years. I would go out of my way to avoid the building housing my advisor's office, telling myself that tomorrow I really would call him, really would get myself on track - but right now I just couldn't cope. Ergo, I have no master's degree despite two years of courses. The world does not look upon this fact and say, wow, she had a rough childhood and she really felt like she was trying her best; we should give her the job anyway just because she tried. Nope, the world says, Master's Degree required, so why are you even applying, you loser?
Even now in law school, there are times when I get overwhelmed. Last spring I handed in a paper on which I knew I could have done better, but I did all that I was physically and emotionally capable of doing. I simply could not put one more scrap of myself into it. The fact that I was going through Kristi's surgery, a lot of other turmoil, and carrying three other very difficult classes had no impact on my grade. My effort was an "A" effort on the sliding scale of how much I could manage, but the grade on my report card was a "B".
The job world is the same. Certainly everyone has understandable life crises - death of a parent, illness, accident - and your fellow employees will rally 'round for that. But if your crises are weekly - fights with your significant other, disputes with your children/parents/landlord/neighbor, your own inner turmoil - and those crises reverberate in the quality of your work product, people are going to get sick of you pretty damned quickly. They smile at you through clenched teeth and say, "No, it's okay, I understand." But what they are thinking is, "what the hell is wrong with you?"
Because every time you fail to cope, someone else has to cope in your place.
Coping in your place is stressful because they already have their own issues, so yours are an unanticipated burden for which they have not scheduled. If it's happening more than once or twice a year, your most sincere apologies begin sounding hollow to the person who works through lunch to cover your ass.
You can accuse me of being unfeeling or uncaring, you can shut out my words as cruel, Randian, or heartless. You can rail against the unfairness of it all. But the world will inexorably grind on, and it will grind you. And it doesn't care how unfair that is.