Being Yourself As Hard as You Can

In one of the Tiffany Aching books, Terry Pratchett gives as a formula for success in life “Being yourself as hard as you can” and spending time doing what you’re good at. He said it was very sad that most people never found what they were good at.

This advice sounds deceptively like “follow your bliss.” It’s not. It’s more “find your vocation.” You have a set of unique characteristics that can fit optimally with some profession. If you find it, and use your skills to best effect you’ll be very successful.

Sometimes, some of us – cough, me – feel like everything that’s happened to us and everything we’ve gone through was to prepare us to do whatever our avocation is well. (Well, in my case I’m not finished. I’m sure there’s something I need to experience that will make me a good writer. I wait in eagerness. Or actually not, since these learning experiences are usually unpleasant.)

The thing is not that way of course, but the other way around. Having a set of experiences has prepared you to find something you can do better than other people.

Yes, that sounds like “one is the same as the other” but it’s not. Take Larry Correia, for instance. (Carefully. He’s rather big and you might not be able to lift him.) His knowledge of fights and firearms prepared him to write action better than any other living author.

Now you can choose to believe that being an author was G-d’s plan for him, and G-d guided him through his more fighty experience so Larry could do this well. It’s fine if you believe that. I do. Mostly.

OTOH you know we humans are very good at not being guided into the things we’re “supposed” to do – that’s why we get along with cats.

Hence our path is sort of a drunkard’s walk, composed of (if you believe in it) the intent of a higher power (or the pressures of society. Whatevs. I’m easy.) and our own mistakes, willfulness and “oh shiny” moments.

Which prepares us ideally to snatch at an opportunity to do something the drunkard’s walk has trained us for, when it comes along. Which brings me to…

I’ve been reading Tom Bailey, Story of a Bad Boy by Thomas Bailey Aldrich. It was one of my very favorite books in childhood, and I haven’t read it since becoming a mother. Reading it now is both fascinating and surprising.

First of all, the easy-breezy style holds up well, still, and I rather enjoy it. But second, its being the story of a boy’s childhood just around (I think) the Centennial, it’s eye opening and enlightening.

At one time the grandfather of the protagonist says “what a rascal you are, just as I was at your age, forever tumbling from scrape to scrape.” It’s largely how I was too, as a tomboy, if on a slightly less grand scale, since we didn’t have a coastline near the village, nor cannons to fire. Because that’s some of the stuff they do: go sailing in a storm, fire a cannon, set fire to a coach…

At best, in our day they’d be considered juvenile delinquents. At worst, they’d be medicated/counseled/confined.

Thing is, on a less grand scale, we did much the same sort of thing my friends and I. We got bamboo from the filed next to the school (Stealing) and had mock sword fights that left us covered in bruises. We carried on wars and vendettas around the adult supervision, which would now be described as gang activity. We explored the old Roman mines. And yep, we stole fruit, and caused havoc.

They were more extreme, but those were also more dangerous and frankly boring times (we had books and limited TV) They had to do SOMETHING.

Which brings us to: part of finding something you’re good at, something you can excel at is the “finding.” And the only way I’ve figured so far to know what you’re good at and will enjoy is to do a lot of things and fail at most of them.

For instance, given I like outdoor activity and am by nature restless, I might have thought I was suited for sports, except for the incidental fact of two left feet and the left hands to go with them.

Which brings us to: in older times people could find that they were bad at, and isolate what they’d like to do with their lives/might be good at by trying things at play as kids. By the time we hit our twenties, most of us had a pretty good notion of our limitations, be they “I’m not actually that coordinated” or “I can’t lead people out of a bucket with a really large opening.” Or “I don’t like working in close proximity with others because they’re all poopy heads” or….

Nowadays people don’t.

Most people. I for one gave my kids plenty of unstructured time and plenty of leeway to explored their inclinations and abilities. (This sounds ever so much better than “I was writing so they got away with tons of carp.)

However most of their classmates had lessons and play dates and sports days and museum days and… And never got to try things on their own and fall on their own faces.

As tight on money as we were, one of the things we made a point of was “get them the materials and get out of the way.” What I mean is if they thought they might want to do art, we’d get them materials and lessons, and then let them continue or lose interest. (The exception to this was piano lessons because the older insisted they were too expensive – at the time we were paying two mortgages – so he’s self-taught and will always have certain weaknesses. Weirdly, of course, that’s one thing he’s continuing to pursue.)

Or course, this also applied to astronomy, biology (we found a great deal on a microscope) and chemistry (that one was fun. Why do little boys like explosives? Never mind.)

Anyway, when the first kid entered college and we went to the parents’ orientation, I was shocked to find that they were talking about kids finding themselves. In college. At that price. “You might come in with an undeclared major.”

This falls under my shock at that chick’s article a while back as to why you shouldn’t get married at 22, because “you should be going to Europe, and you should be doing this and that….” Most of the thing she thought you should do were stupid, or at least things you should have got out of your system in your early teens. And the big ones? I’d done them by 22. Which is why I got married then.

What I mean is – and I’m sorry if I’m scattered. We’re trying to change internet service because the current one is the “family togetherness program” mostly characterized by us spending all our time going from room to room going “do YOU have reception?” It’s not going well. Before we can have new system we need to have a guy come out and do a thing. Until then this service is more down than up. And we’re trying to clean/pack/stage house for sale. So I feel like my head is… not fully on – we’re both overprotecting children and (in consequence) delaying (or thwarting in extreme cases) their self-discovery process.

Yes, learning who you are is difficult and often painful, but it is essential before you decide what you want to be. And I mean that in all senses. The decision of whether you want to be married at all or not, for instance, starts with the playing house of childhood. Childhood and adolescence are supposed to be a trying on of hats.

But we don’t want our kids hurt and society has grown less tolerant you boys exploration, which yeah, can be destructive.

So we’re turning out twenty year olds who don’t know who they are and what they want to be.

Some of them find out but by that time they’re in their thirties. Or later.

(Now a caveat here. Odds have always been a bit like this, often characterized by a succession of different professions because we a) are interested in a ton of things and b) get bored easily. So we careen from thing we’re trying to thing we’re trying, and might never find what we’re really good at, unless we make an effort. But that’s almost a stigmata of our people, not something that should possess society at large.)

The problem is that although we’re living longer than our ancestors, we’re not living THAT much longer. Some processes are still inescapable.

By thirty, your visual acuity is going, and some of your other senses are failing. By forty I felt like someone had yanked my batteries out. No longer could I spend all night writing and still function the next day. Fertility goes. And agility and…

Of what use is it for you to decide you want to be a surgeon in your forties, when you’ll never have the coordination for it, and when after extensive preparation, you’ll have maybe five years useful practice?

Of what use is it for you to decide you want a large family at 50 – if you’re female?

Worse, put things off often enough, and you get in the habit of just drifting. More and more I’m running into more and more people who have five degrees but are working at a convenience store late night, because nothing was quite right.

Childhood and adolescence are better suited to this sort of exploration because you heal faster, both mentally and physically. You can try being a thing, and move on.

The more we restrict those early life periods, the more we are stuck with adults who really have no clue where their limits are or even what is feasible as a grown up way of making a living. (Hence people with masters in puppetry shocked – shocked – they can’t make a living.)

There is a French song with the line: “Talent is needed to be old without being an adult.”

If that’s the case, our society is growing more talented.

It’s a waste of both time and – eh – talent and it creates a vast number of malcontents aka “radical losers” who fit nowhere.

I’m afraid we’ll pay dearly for it.  Far more dearly than some coaches set on fire, or even the occasional childhood death from a boat trip in a storm.

228 responses to “Being Yourself As Hard as You Can

  1. One of the things I mutter about, when I look back on my parents and grandparents education: School seemed designed to send them somewhere, to set them up for exploration and then line them up for success.

    When I was in school… Good place to store the kids for 8 hours a day, wasn’t it? Exploration and preparation was shunted off to college/in the future. Some vague gestures were made toward “well-rounded” but compared to past curricula? Joke.

    Looking around now? Terrifyingly worse.

  2. Like explosions? Because they are cool!! (the disappearing cement truck on Mythbusters still makes me giggle)
    My vision waited until I was in my 40s before it started to really decline, and boy, did it decline.
    agility. the less said about that the better I feel (where, oh where did my balance go?)

  3. Why do little boys like explosives?
    It’s genetic, encoded in the male DNA.
    We do love us our high explosives. There’s just something about the feeling you get when the overpressure wave washes over you that along with the sound and light show is somehow very satisfying.

    • Yep, and the even more fun of making your own explosives………

      • I was more into home-made arc lights and other electrical gadgets. That, and a “diving pump” that miraculously didn’t get us killed or give us pneumonia.

    • Excuse me, I blew a dent in a teacher’s desk in high school seeing if what another science teacher had said about two household chemicals was true. (It is, which may be why they changed the formula of one of them back in the late 1990s). I also cleaned out the scorch with a borrowed power sander from the auto shop and we all agreed that it had never happened. But I’m Odd.

      • Note LATE nineties. I suspect those two chemicals were part of what my son used to blow a crater in our backyard when he was four.
        BTW dad and I had our very own rocketry hobby. Many a happy weekend was spent making things go up fast (or blow up in place.) second only to making model hot air balloons and trying to set neighborhood on fire. But I’m an odd too.

        • You two, and a lot of others like you, are honorary boys. 🙂

          • So the SJWs believe it. But even my husband… When the kids were eight and four I bought them cap guns. I remembered my cap gun fondly. Dan came home to find the boys and I engaged in cap gun duels all over the house. (thing hide and seek crossed with non-laser tag.) He said “What? Why?” And I said, “I remembered my cap gun and how much fun I had when I was….” “A little boy?” Me, abashed, “Yes.” Sigh.

            • You had fun with it as “a little boy,” did you enjoy it as a mom?

            • Speaking of Laser Tag… when the guns got discounted, my friends and I would wait til parents were out of town and then practice clearing houses…

        • One reason I learned how to make black powder was to reload used Estes rocket engines………

        • He was probably trying to make rocket fuel. The pourable land mine, pour it into the ground and that spot of earth is an undetectable land mine for a few months or until some critter steps on it, was an accidental discovery by someone trying to invent a new and better rocket fuel.

          • Yes, you’re probably very lucky that mixture was unstable.

          • Are you talking about Astrolite? Minor quibble, with what you’re saying here–Almost all of the stable forms of that stuff require some form of detonator. It is just not going to explode without some form of fusing train being involved, and most of the variants that might are so unstable that they usually won’t last much past mixing them. You’d probably detonate the entire batch of that stuff the moment you tried pouring it out.

            And, then there’s the whole EPA thing–You’re basically dumping a whole lot of hydrazine into the soil/water systems with this stuff, every time you use it. Which goes a long, long way towards explaining why the West Germans weren’t exactly enthused about us using it in Germany during the Cold War. They didn’t even want us stocking the stuff in-country, to be quite honest. While the hydrazine component is routinely used in the chemical industry, the idea of your average US GI having routine access to the stuff, and hauling it around Germany just gave them the willies… Which, to be quite honest, it should have.

            • Hydrazine. The stuff NHRA decided was WAY too nasty to play with. Thanks, I think I’m with the Germans on this one.

              • I am, too. Now.

                Back in the day, I was sort of miffed that we weren’t going to be allowed to play with this wonderful toy. Astrolite is a really fun tool to pull out of your bag, when faced with Godless Communist Hordes (TM) coming over the Inner German Border. Just the idea of being able to conceal a literal metric butt-ton of explosives in the soil and be able to sow a bunch of fuse/detonators through it for them to have to find, first… Oh, my. One becomes quite giddy, thinking about all those AT mines we wouldn’t have to lay. Astrolite was such a cool idea–No digging, just dump it on the ground, let it soak in, and then spend a moment or two putting in a fusing device. Of course, the aftereffects would have been the very best sort of problem–Someone else’s. I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t have been a rash of issues afterwards that would have made Agent Orange look positively benign.

                Of course, the West Germans pretty much spent the entire Cold War in what amounted to a more-or-less futile attempt to ameliorate what we’d be doing to their countryside in the event of war breaking out. If it had been left up to us, the entire region west of the IGB would have been completely changed in order to make defending the country a bit easier, which would have had some interesting knock-on effects in terms of what the Soviets would then be forced to do to try to get past those defenses… Upshot was, the West Germans were in a constant balancing act, trying to do just enough to put up a credible defense, whilst not doing so much that the Soviets would say “Screw this, nuke the whole thing from Fulda to the Rhein… The tanks have NBC filters, let’s use them until we hit France…”.

                • If I recall correctly from the technical articles I saw on Astrolite, there was also some singing frog problem of unexplained premature detonations.

                  • Yeah, there were some issues. Still, kinda a neat idea, and a great labor-saving device if you were the schmuck who was supposed to spend the opening phase of WWIII laying a few million mines…

                    The singing frogs that might have resulted were just the gravy, from our point of view.

                    If you wanted to recruit some modern Germans to send back and reason with the German public of the nascent Nazi era, say around 1933 or so, you couldn’t make a better choice than to select from those poor bastards that had to spend the Cold War trying to keep a lid on the NATO Combat Engineer types who saw West Germany as this lovely little playground where they could grant free rein to their imaginations–After all, it wasn’t their countryside, and the Germans kinda-sorta deserved it, anyway, didn’t they? WWII, and all that?

                    The German staff who had to deal with all that sort of reminded you of some benighted mother duck trying to keep all of her little ducklings safe under some really trying circumstances. They’d no sooner head off something like Astrolite, and the ‘effing Americans would come up with the idea of hauling around Nitromethane and Ammonium Nitrate to use as improvised cratering charges (because, you know, having to keep high explosives in easily-controlled bunkers is just so inconvenient…), then the British would have some lovely idea about turning the entire IGB into some sort of carefully-landscaped death trap, with the forests moved/trimmed back to serve as perfect defense lines, with the spacings set at the exact max range for the AT missiles…

                    The Good Idea Fairy (TM) spent so much time in West Germany that she picked up a bit of a Bavarian accent. Keeping a lid on her activities probably kept entire staff sections of the Bundeswehr burning the midnight oil for decades, and likely resulted the high prevalence of ulcers for the involved officers.

                  • there was also some singing frog problem of unexplained premature detonations.

                    Isn’t that a series of Budweiser commercials?

                    Explains the taste, I guess.

                    • LOL…

                      I think he was referring to the Michigan J. Frog syndrome, where the phenomenon is only visible when one specific observer is looking at it–And, when they call for witnesses, it won’t reproduce the phenomenon.

                  • Liquid Explosives for Foxhole Digging (1978):

                    Mine Warfare (1989):

                    Not nearly as cool as Effects of Underground Nuclear Detonations on Tactical Warfare:

                    or Creation of Massive Terrain Obstacles:

                    • You must be the person to ask. Was that rumor about a Minuteman fire mission to dig a Nicaraguan canal in thirty minutes for real?

    • When our oldest was in her late teens, and her brother just about 12, we were active in historical reenacting (~1840s) and muzzleloading competitions.

      One of the best events each year was held near Crescent City, CA, just south of the Oregon border, during the week either before or just after July 4. We even got to march through town in the 4th of July parade, just behind the fire departments and associated pipe band. It was glorious.

      In the evening, there’d be a beach BBQ looking across the bay toward the Pelican Bay prison… One year, as we arrived at the party site, some local kids were setting off fireworks, one of them boasting “we’ve got our own fireworks!”

      A tow-headed 8 year old in our group shrugged and brushed it off with “well, we’ve got cannon”. And we did. A coehorn mortar, 3-inch Napoleon, and a bowling-ball cannon.

      The bowling balls traveled quite a way over the water, and make a very distinct warbling sound as they drop toward the water.

    • It started with making black powder, then nitrogen triiodide, then we graduated into nitro. It’s a wonder I am still alive and have all 10 fingers.

      • The book “Caveman Chemistry.” It is a textbook, albeit and odd (or Odd ) one, that starts with making fire and thread, then goes all the way to guncotton. The neat part is, if you didn’t learn the previous lesson, your experiment goes nowhere. Book’s probably banned in 42 of the 57 states.

        • 5..7???

          Okay look I know Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, New York, Washington DC are trying really damn hard to be their own city states but must you encourage them??

          • During his first election campaign, our dear leader claimed to have visited 57 states on the campaign trail.

            • Ah…see I never have subjected myself to any of his speeches neither on accident or on purpose. I like killing my brain cells with other things.

              • A wise woman indeed.

              • yeah, but he thinks there are 60 states. not 57.
                He said He’d been to 57 so far, one to go, and his staff wouldn’t even let him go to Alaska or Hawaii. 57+1+2=60.
                Of course it was a slip (he’d been to 47 of the states and I think it was 57 cities but not positive) but they made flubs up when it came to Palin, but he was so sooper smartified his slips were ignored.

                • They wouldn’t let him go to Alaska or Hawaii…. Wha der fluff?

                  • There was no way he was gonna win Alaska (and not just because of Palin), and he was certain to win his “home state” Hawaii so why bother with the expense of going to them and he wasn’t going to get much more funding out of either just by showing up. So they don’t go there

                  • I think JP actually got that part backwards. They wouldn’t let him go to Hawaii, and he had two to go.

                    It’s really easy to see how Obama’s mistake develops: “Let’s see – we’ve been to 47 States – Hey! There’s 50 States, so we only have a couple to go …” and then the brain mashes 50 and 47 together, and it comes out 57. But as was said, they attacked everything Palin said, as well as things she didn’t say (“I can see Russia from my house”), so what’s good for the goose, and all that.

                    And besides, if he had simply come out and said, “Whoops, got the two numbers mashed together there”. it would have been completely understandable, but NOOOOO… Ear Leader is PERFECT, he can’t confess to misspeaking! (Spit)

            • There has to be some serious conspiracy theorists speculating that there actually are hidden states somewhere and he just let that slip in that speech. Cave systems given to aliens, islands where secret experiments are conducted, colonies on the far side of the Moon or maybe Earth actually is hollow and they are in there, populated by specially selected immigrants from USA and their descendants… Hey, come on, you could write a (probably bad…) novel with that premise so don’t tell none of you have thought about it, even a little late at night after having had too much to drink. (Yes, I played with that idea a bit when feeling silly – just I’m no good writing that sort of comedy, that would need somebody with the skills of Terry Pratchett to get it right – but as said there also has to be some who are serious about it too or world isn’t the way I assume it to be). 😀

              • I’ve been meaning to put up a site with “have you seen this state?” with the missing states. One is in Italy, living incognito. It takes in laundry to make ends meet.

                • North or south Italy? There are all those postmark sized independent countries hidden all over the place (Europe, not just Italy). Alps… maybe some nice little valley there.

                  I guess you could hide a couple between other states in the Rocky Mountains too. Or maybe one got swallowed by Canada at some point, and nobody noticed fast enough, so now it’s there, all by its lonesome, cut off from the others and nobody even remembers (except maybe IRS)… *sniff*

        • Oh, that’s brilliant!

          *runs off to find it*

        • You can find it on Amazon, which link will give a little boost to Our Beloved Hostess.

      • Who hasn’t accidentally burned off their eyebrows a few times?
        It’s an essential part of growing up!

    • Not only men. 🙂

  4. By forty I felt like someone had yanked my batteries out.

    I always said my warranty expired.

    • Professor Badness

      I’m pretty sure I’ve already voided my warranty.

      • All I can say to that is if you’re going to rip off the “do not remove this tag under penalty of law” tag, do it before the chest hair comes in under it.

  5. There used to be a slot for those who didn’t possess the whatever-it-is that makes people specialize. Take Da Vinci, Pascal, or any of the other old famous sorts: they were pretty much all polymaths. I think the closest niche now is home schooling parent, and it really isn’t the same: doesn’t let you get nearly as much immersion in any area.
    I remember reading somewhere that stress causes maturation of the brain, which is maybe part of why we’re getting all these studies that show brains not maturing until people have graduated from college and are facing down student loans.
    I don’t know what it would take to get that shift in society, but in the mean time . . . Hey, you kids! Get off of my lawn! Go check out the creek!
    (People ask how I handle six kids of different ages and abilities all day. My stock answer is “There’s a wonderful place called ‘Outside.'”)

    • There actually is a job that is suited to that type of person, and I tried to define the qualifications for it in college without ever having known that it was a real job: Synthesist.

      It’s a person who applies multiple disciplines to solving problems, and there aren’t many companies who have that as a job description, but a number of consultant firms do that kind of work.

      • “It’s a person who applies multiple disciplines to solving problems,”

        I call that a “nexialist,” after Grosvenor in VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE. I’ve thought of myself as such for many years. But I’ve never found such a succinct way of defining what a nexialist is. Thx.

  6. I was going to be an archaeologist. Then I was going to be a military intel analyst. Then maybe work for the State Department after my 3rd attempt at getting in the military failed. Then it got Odd. I’ve had two rather spectacular (and metaphorical) crash-n-burns, so I’m still trying to sort out what the next chapter the Great Author has in mind. I just wish He’d quit snickering when I ask what’s next.

    • Professor Badness

      That sounds awfully familiar…
      Oh yeah, its just like my life.
      I try to follow my passions, but the need for money keeps getting in the way. No one wants to pay you for half finished novels or chainmail samples.
      I think it’s mostly lack of time.
      Oh well.

    • Military Intel analysis is overrated. Once you know what’s really going on, you wish you didn’t. The people who can do things about what you learn, seldom do. Cassandra is the unofficial patron saint.

      • William O. B'Livion

        ITYM “Seldom are allowed to”.

        • The general reaction when the analyst tells them something they don’t want to hear is a general stamping of their little feet, followed by “It just isn’t so…”.

          Higher you go in the command chain, the more you hear this. About the only time you have real results from your analysis when you’re an Intel type is down at the very lowest tactical level.

          Reality-denial generally goes on right up until the moment when the enemy is knocking ever-so-politely on the bunker door. Good example of this can be seen in the German movie, The Bunker. Hitler’s rant there at the end rang so very many bells for me, having been an Observer/Controller at the NTC that it wasn’t funny.

          • William O. B'Livion

            That’s not the people who can “do things about…” those are the people who decide whether to slip the leash of those who can.

            And yes, they’re generally ninnies.

    • Roboticist. I was, I think, five. Maybe. Then I wanted to be a steam engine mechanic. I actually sort of not really got to do some of that (steamfitters’ apprentice. eh, close enough). Then writer, which I never really got over, much. Then it was physics, which led to philosophy, which spawned history, which went to biology and biochemistry, when ended up in physical anthropology because I had *just* enough credits there to squeak by with a little (a lot) of work before they kicked me out, and about six credits shy of three minors…

      Managing Editor of a small mag, line cook in a three star restaurant, plumber, receiving clerk and mailman, auto mechanic and aftermarket custom installer, then manufacturing, prop designer and general construction fix-all, crew for indie-pro wrestling circuit, professional driver…

      That’s just some of the stuff I’ve been paid for, off the top of my head. Asking “what’s next?” is right up there with “what could go w***g?” It sets the gleeful manipulators in the sky to wringing their hands and muttering with mischievous smiles, plotting various “interesting” situations and proceeding to plop their favorite protagonist into them just to see what he will do.

      When I try to approach every job with “go placidly amidst the noise and haste” it always seems to turn into “I must have been a bad, bad man in a previous life…” But I know, always, I’ve got it better than I deserve. *chuckle* That things really could be much, much worse. I don’t miss interesting times, once they are past. Nope. Not one bit. Happy as a clam, looking forward to placid boredom… If I’m lucky?

    • Smile, you’re among friends!
      Although now that I’m past mid-life and looking down the barrel of unexpectedly having to become the primary breadwinner, I’m kind of wishing I’d spent less time on the “Say, that sounds like fun!” career path.

  7. FWIW, my mother taught herself the piano, including reading music, and my father taught himself to play a pump organ by ear. Could they play at Carnegie Hall? No. But my mother could play at least as well as Del Ward, especially Down Yonder, and some who’ve had lessons can’t do that.

    I think this is where talent is a huge factor, and perhaps part of that self-exploration of youth. My parents taught themselves in their early twenties, but they likely had an inkling that they has some musical ability before they attempted it.

    I think the lack of freedom given children these days stems from a well-meaning attempt to give children all sorts of opportunities we never had, and to protect them from a harsh world. At some point, though, you have to back off and let them try – and fail – by themselves.

    So it was we initially rented a musical instrument in case that turned out to be something that would be dropped – it wasn’t. Other activities tried and fallen by the wayside are too many to count. And even then, when I was informed that “I don’t have to know what I want to be when I start college,” I had to pull over and explain “Oh yes you will, or attend Huddle House U.”

    That choice, thankfully, has now been made, and a good choice I might add, that fits well with personality and ability. It’s a good thing when you can discover what you are good at and pursue it.

    Some of us aren’t as lucky, having to take what opportunities we can, which is no different than the majority of the human race up until fairly recently, so it isn’t a whine. It just is.

    • I think it’s less about protecting children than it is the parents looking to protect themselves. They’re desperately afraid of having to deal with the consequences – to them – of something bad happening to their chidentity that they look to nerf reality. As a result they rob their children of experiencing anything truly great.

      • Perhaps in some ways similar to those pet owners who refuse to get an incurably ill and suffering pet euthanized because that would make them feel bad.

        Maybe nowhere as bad as those owners who neglect theirs the whole time, but not quite what I would call responsible owners. And often those are also the same ones who have cotton wrapped and spoiled those pets during their whole lifetime too, not allowing them to be what they are but reducing them to some sort of comfort toys.

    • I still remember a couple of mothers defending fraudulent classification of children as having special needs on the grounds that a mother would do everything for her children.

      Didn’t get a very coherent answer to the obvious response: you can’t, because some things are incompatible, like shielding your kid from reality and trying to get him to stand on his own two feet.

      • And meanwhile my kid with real neurological difficulties refuses to let anyone know because “if I can’t pass the classes, I won’t be able to do the WORK.” (He is a little worried about a class that the teacher centers on SOUNDS. But he says he’ll be fine. “Might be a C instead of and A, but that’s okay.”

  8. We had BB gun wars on the side of a cliff. We shot GI Joes with .22s. Turpentine was an all-purpose cure for any skin condition, as well as for the annoying Yellow Jacket nest in the back yard. And it made the GI Joes more fun to shoot. “Get out of the house. Be back for supper at 6:00.” “Did you start the fight? No? Good. Did you win it?” We had a chemical wholesaler just outside of town who was quite understanding of teenage boys and would occasionally correct our mistakes before we made them. We took guns to school, and left them in the back of the truck to go hunting after school. Squirrels, rabbits, and ground hogs were vermin that had no season and required no license. It was the duty of all teenage boys to go out in the woods in the summer and thin out the packs of feral dogs. Fully half of the young men in my graduating class joined the military to go fight the godless communists.

    Try any of that now, and the thought, er, I mean child police, um, I mean family services will take the kids away forever and lock you up. And give the boys amphetamines (speed), sorry, I mean the perfectly safe medication called Ritalin. My son was punished in Kindergarten, and we were called into school, because he drew pictures of guns. My daughter was molested by one of our fine immigrant children from a poorly represented country, in school, in third grade- and principal’s solution was to punish her. My son got in trouble for finally hitting back after three bullies had been been hitting him every day, in school, for months – and the principal punished him (not the bullies, of course) and told us we were bad parents for encouraging him to defend himself. “Soldiers are all pathetic losers/violent PTSD psychopaths.”

    I can’t see where the new ways are an improvement.

  9. “Tom Bailey, Story of a Bad Boy by Thomas Bailey Aldrich. It was one of my very favorite books in childhood”

    Good stuff. The rascally-but-basically-good-hearted hero used to be an accepted trope for boy’s literature. Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Booth Tarkington’s Penrod (check out the scene where Penrod is writing a story of his own in his secret hideout…classic). Many of Heinlein’s juvenile characters were also less than notable for their adherence to The Rules.

    We don’t see much of that any more. There are probably some book-shaped holes there just waiting for an indie writer.

    • What’s the relative proportion of juveniles aimed at, and featuring, teen boys versus teen girls nowadays? I can think of a few series, but more and more books seem to have female protagonists.

      • Pretty high I’d guess, just going by what’s on the shelves at school.

      • Birthday girl

        I have noticed this also, and it annoys me. There are only a handful of boy/teen protagonists, but many girls.

        • Well boys can learn lessons from female protagonists while girls require a role model that looks like them, because male privilege. The Patriarchy demands boys have books written for them.

    • Mr. Aldrich was author of the shortest horror story ever written, with a title almost as long as the text:
      “A Woman Alone with her Soul,” by Thomas Bailey Aldrich.
      The last woman on earth sat alone in her room. Every other living thing was dead. The doorbell rang.

      • That’s a science fiction story, really.

        Unless a unicorn just rang the doorbell.

        • I have these disagreements with our hostess. She thinks “horror” equals much tasteless yuckiness. I grew up reading H. P. Lovecraft, most of whose “horror” is SF. If it’s creepy, and I think the example above is wonderfully creepy, I say horror. And a unicorn would be a living thing.

          • Ah, the Undead Unicorn!

            (…I’ve already been punished. The definition came to me and sent me to TV tropes…. It’s the undead horse trope, but instead of being a trope that is still used even though it’s routinely subverted, it’s a trope that was supposedly subverted but wasn’t a trope until after the subversion. Say, the way that Team America was a dead unicorn trope because it was a parody of movies that weren’t actually made [modern military movies that actually support the job they’re doing], so the recent popularity of rah-rah modern military movies are undead unicorns.)

            • Nonsense. The Mari Llwyd is an undead horse, and there are lots of horror horses.The original point of unicorns was that they were fierce, destructive, and full of murderous rage towards humans, even if there were exceptions and even if Christians made them a Christological beast, thus subverting the trope.

          • “She thinks “horror” equals much tasteless yuckiness.”

            It does.

            In past discussions elsewhere on this very topic, I’ve been known to say that “horror” is what you get when somebody tries to write dark fantasy (or dark SF) and does it badly.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Horror is when the dangerous “strange” intrudes into the normal world.

              Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot had his characters, in a normal suburb, deal with vampires. It was horror because “everybody knows vampires aren’t real”.

              Harry Dresden knew vampires are real and dangerous so when he has to deal with them, it wasn’t horror from his point of view.

            • Modern horror, maybe. Older ideas of horror pretty much were what now does get called dark fantasy (or dark SF). But I like the older horror much better, and refuse to call it something else because when it was written it was called horror (and the good guys occasionally even truly win, not just escape with their lives – or with her life when it’s the Final Girl – while the monster goes on which is usually the best alternative now. So sue me, I like happy endings. I also like Lovecraft even if he rarely had those, but then his protagonists often pretty much seem to deserve what they get, one way or another, and that one of the ways to write them which makes ‘and then they lost’ endings acceptable to me. Even if I still don’t want to read them often. 🙂 ).

      • Birthday girl

        Dr. Who?

      • So who rang the doorbell?

          Sorry. It’s an inconclusive ending, to use the terminology of the ghost story or subtle horror story.

          • I had an anthology at one point of “Last Man on Earth” stories. The Knock at the door was the challenge to the authors. The most basic form was “The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door…. It was the last woman on earth.”

            (She said she STILL wouldn’t sleep with him.)

    • Not a lot of folks can write “good hearted,” going off of a lot of what I see…..

  10. Childhood and adolescence are better suited to this sort of exploration because you heal faster, both mentally and physically.

    But… but… if children fail, they’ll be scarred forever!!!!


    • Sarcasm detected. Rant averted.


      That was a close one.

      • I aim to skirt the edge. 🙂

        • The guitarist from U2 in a kilt? More power to you, but I don’t see the point.

          • William O. B'Livion

            Given that he’s Irish, getting him in a kilt…

            Yeah, where’s my bag o popcorn…

            • So you’re lucky enough never to have been exposed to the “Irish saffron kilt” junk from last century. Good move.

              That said, the usual medieval Irish men’s outfit was a really long over-the-head shirt that went down to the man’s knees or calves, with a nice fitted jacket over it that went down to his waist, and a nice big shaggy frieze wool cloak to keep the rain off. If your shirt is that long, it might as well be a robe, and it looks like a skirt.

            • (Pssst….Dave Evans, guitarist for U2, known as “the Edge” is actually Welsh. His parents were Welsh, he was born in London, but they all moved to Ireland when he was a baby)

          • Eamon J. Cole

            If we’re skirting guitarists, might be better served to go after Flea. Guy’s got an aversion to pants.

        • Eamon J. Cole

          Like — with those little ruffled things they hang off the beds?

          If that’s what a guy likes to do, I’ve got nothing against it I suppose…

          • (Stares meaningfully at Eamon) Don’t MAKE me do the “I’m so pretty” dance. Cthulu runs screaming from that sight.

            • Eamon J. Cole

              Go on, I says — I dare ya!

              *readies blackout goggles*

              • We have this loverly stock of blindfolds I just found hidden in one of the back storerooms. Right next to a *giant* pile of foam earplugs.

                The sign above it has been defaced, though. “In case of …” has a lot of crossed out stuff underneath it. Think the latest one is “State of the Union Address…”

    • You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  11. William O. B'Livion

    For instance, given I like outdoor activity and am by nature restless, I might have thought I was suited for sports, except for the incidental fact of two left feet and the left hands to go with them.

    There’s lots o sports that don’t involve a ball and hand eye coordination. Unfortunately for me they all required “discipline”, of which I was in short supply as a…well, my whole life.

    Which brings us to: in older times people could find that they were bad at, and isolate what they’d like to do with their lives/might be good at by trying things at play as kids.

    Depends on how far back “olden times” was. Going back not-unreasonably-far and most people’s options were EXTREMELY limited.

    Then again I disagree that *most* people have a vocation beyond some sort of relatively mindless labor (this goes back to 85% of the people are peasants).

    However most of their classmates had lessons and play dates and sports days and museum days and… And never got to try things on their own and fall on their own faces.

    According to my father this is the biggest fight he and my mother ever had. He wanted our summers to be mostly unstructured free time. She wanted it planned and organized.

    We got unstructured *mostly*.

  12. Oh yes, they are. I live in the People’s Democratic Republic of Maryland. We moved away from Baltimore before the beginning of the next school year because of the incident with my daughter (among other things). So now my daily commute is about 4.5 hours – but it’s worth it to live in a little redneck town in the country, well away from Baltimore and DC.

    My son (but thankfully not his older sister) got caught in the early testing of Common Core math. So now he’s three years behind in math where she was at his age. Oh, and his Kindergarten teacher was left handed, so she taught all the kids to write as if they were left handed. His handwriting took 6 years to become legible.

    • Stupid Word Press. This was a reply to Eamon. Sorry about the non sequitur.

    • My first-grade teacher started out by making me switch from left to right hand. My father was at the school the next morning with a brief admonition to “leave the kid alone”. Come to find out years later that he’d started out as a lefty and was forced in school to use his right hand. Apparently it grated on him for a very long time.

    • William O. B'Livion

      BTW, my daughter gets in trouble (not much, but still) for *not* hitting back.

      If *any* adult was trying to punish my daughter because *she* got sexually assaulted?

      Oh man oh man. The jury would *certainly* convict me, because doing THAT with someone’s intestines is *not* something the 21st century sensibilities are prepared to cope with.

      • For legal purposes I can’t explicitly state what I explained to the principal, the boy, and the boy’s father. But after that meeting, the boy was punished at school, not my daughter; and when he saw my daughter, he ran to the other side of the hallway and stood still with his back to the wall while she passed by.

    • Eamon J. Cole

      Good thing we leave the teaching to the professionals.

      *tamps down rage*

      • Remember, seat if firmly but don’t pound on it. Tap the muzzle on a block of wood if you need to test that the bullet is seated properly…

        Oh, right. Professionals won’t need that advice.

  13. “Take Larry Correia, for instance. (Carefully. He’s rather big and you might not be able to lift him.)”

    I’ll take two! Though I’ll have to get a dolly to pick them up. With a little work, I’m pretty sure I can get them to each write a different book, thereby cutting our wait time in half!

    While I’m at it, can I get an extra Hoyt, too? More as a backup in case of emergencies. I would realistically expect to be able to get the two of them to coordinate. Would probably have to go suspended animation to prevent the Earth shattering KA-BOOM! Hmmm…would an extra six or seven Kratmans be sufficient to actually cause the SJWs’ heads to go all ‘splody for reals?

    • Six or seven Kratmans might be enough to actually solve the Islamist problem.

      • William O. B'Livion

        We can’t “solve” the islamist problem without worse damage to ourselves than to them.

        • Please supply a proof in formal symbolic logic before class tomorrow, Mr. Rico.

          • ⍋⍉X∈⌿Y*

            *yeah I know doesn’t actually make sense

          • William O. B'Livion

            There are three solutions to the Islamist problem:

            1) Islam grows up and marginalizes those sorts of idiots much like Christianity did. Note that it is unlikely this can be forced on them from the outside. People just aren’t like that.

            2) Conventional military action reduces the Islamic popluation to a level where there aren’t enough of them to be a threat, and does *something* to keep the remainder from breeding back to levels where they can be.

            3) Nuclear versions of the above.

            There are, allegedly, 1.6 *billion* Muslims in the world. Somewhere between 10 and 50 percent of those are “problematic” in that they believe that things like mercy killings, sharia law for everyone, taxing non-muslims or beheading them and attacks on so-called “civilian” targets are perfectly acceptable.

            That means that with #2 we would have to kill a minimum of 160 MILLION people spread out over about 1/8th the landmass of the world.

            This would require at least 3 generations of society more-or-less dedicated to the task. That would require a significant change the nature of the US body politic, and in ways I don’t think either one of us would like,

            With #3 we’d have to nuke about that same area and kill at least twice that number, THEN move in and sort out the survivors. And it would require changes to the US body politic that I don’t think either one of us would like.

            #3 would require so much radioactive material that it would raise cancer rates and cause other health problems.

            So really the only reasonable answer is #1, and *WE* can’t do that. *THEY* have to.

            • #4: We neglect to do #2 or #3 because of squishy moral or environmental concerns. Some more confident, determined to survive, and ruthless culture feels the Muslims are becoming a threat to them and does #2 or #3 in our place. Most likely #3 with airbursts followed by colonization* of the areas with profitable resources/geography. *cough*China*cough*


        • Ascher Goodrich

          It wouldn’t hurt me at all.

      • ONE Kratman (that is, the one we already have, here in Fiction Zero) would be enough to solve the Islamist problem, if you gave him a sufficient military force to organize and train, and carte blanche to do both exactly as he saw fit.

        Or, you know, give him control of the nuclear launch codes. That’d work too.

        Of course, if you want your Kratmans to do the job all by themselves, instead of by leading and training others, you’ll need a quantity that’d look more like the Clone Wars…and I’m not sure I’d want to see that. 😉

        • But consider the books…

          Of course, we’d need to clone Larry Correia and John Ringo as well, not to mention David Weber and our own Evil Space Princess…

      • Ya know, a Kilokratman as a measure of energy release might be useful.

    • Too many Kratmans inciting the population might lead to ‘splody heads, but I’m not sure it would be from natural causes.

  14. This society is in serious danger of failing…hard. I’m not talking about a political collapse. I’m talking about a failure to do ANYTHING. The collapse of a people, a culture and a country. I’m not talking politics here, at least not directly. I’m talking about an attitude.

    We, as a society, have gotten to the point where we have taught our children to be so risk averse that I’m not sure how they manage to even function. I get that some risks need to be avoided. Going over Niagara Falls in a barrel is just stupid. The fact remains that great things are accomplished by people who stick their necks out.

    Alexander the Great conquered the world by being willing to risk not just his life and well-being but that of his entire country. The Founding Fathers risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Galileo risked his life and, by his own belief system at least, excommunication and a one way ticket to Hell. Martin Luther King Jr. fought the good fight, knew he could be killed and continued fighting after someone threw a bomb at his house and nearly killed his wife and child. He paid the price of the risk he took, but I think he’d say it was worth it. Today’s kids won’t risk getting onto a bicycle without a helmet.

    Anyone who has taken and paid attention to ten minutes worth of history classes knows that the only constant throughout human history is change. It’s always there in one form or another. Even during stagnant periods in history the lord would die and his son would take over or the neighbors would get uppity and try to take what wasn’t theirs. Everything changes but change never does.

    The point here is that adapting to change takes risk. With Galileo it was change of attitude. With Martin Luther King, it was change in race relations. The Founding Fathers saw changes in taxation (increased) and representation (decreased) and founded a new nation with new principles. Where there is no risk, there is no reward. How will our children survive in a changing world if they refuse to take the risks necessary to do so?

    • The good news is that it’s not failing equally everywhere. There are still pockets of resistance.
      I knew I had moved to the right town when the town council voted to make bicycle helmets mandatory for children. Before that, around a third of the kids wore helmets. About a week after the council vote, no kid in town had a bike helmet. (They still don’t wear helmets, several years later.) And the police chief told the town council that he had no intention of enforcing their stupid rule. And the next election wasn’t kind to the incumbents.

    • Huge YMMV. Such attitudes seem directly proportional to the density of the urban environment.

      It’s heartening to observe city slickers adapt to the country. Of course, they had the motivation to move from the city. Still, they adapted, just as settlers who went from London to Australia and the American frontier.did long ago.

    • Eamon J. Cole

      Couple of guys have covered some of it ahead of me, but there’s a big one missing:

      Our kids are being raised in a risk averse bubble, but what are they doing when they get the chance?

      A lot of risky pastimes are growing in popularity, as people search for challenges. Those denied the chance to explore in childhood are exploring later in life. It changes some of the social dynamics, and I think will force some shifts in various subcultures (like employment). But finding, facing and conquering risk has not died out.

      The challenge will be finding focus in the behavior and moving the world forward. I think they’re up to it.

      • One response to the three of you since you all said pretty much the same thing and I’m lazy:

        That’s good to hear. Less than a mile from the city of Detroit, it’s not so apparent. Dealing with my ex-wife even less so. Watching my daughter melt down because I put her on a bike with no helmet…

        Well, I suppose I’ll place my faith in the countryside. Lord knows the city isn’t getting it done.

        • That’s because a lot of little kids are not taught that things like “not wearing a helmet” are risky. They are taught that it’s certain death. They don’t have the critical thinking skills or experience to call BS on this stuff, so they believe it. Given the bad information, they act rationally. GIGO.

          (Remember all the kids convinced by the global warming crap that every animal on Earth was going to die?)

          • Ascher Goodrich

            But, but, think about the Polar Bears and, and, the cute penguins! Al Gore told me they were all going to die if I didn’t buy his green products! I mean he wouldn’t lie to me, the man invented the internet after all.

          • They are taught that it’s certain death. They don’t have the critical thinking skills or experience to call BS on this stuff, so they believe it.

            Equally damaging– and in an and/or grouping– they’re taught that it’s wrong in the moral sense.

            There’s a reason my kids get an explanation about why mommy just went ballistic about something they did. I put an older man into a fit of giggles today at the library, because the three year old decided to charge off into the road without looking and they got a minute long lecture in “you are responsible for you” and why it was dangerous, with a mix of “you could get killed” and “just think how bad anybody would feel if they hurt you.”

    • Actually, Galileo in real life risked having to admit “this is a theory, I don’t actually have evidence for it.” (I was startled to find out the myth I’d been told wasn’t true, so I try to share the information as much as possible.)

      He only got in trouble after he agreed to write a book for his old friend who was the Pope, arguing both sides of the debate, and then named the character on the other side “idiot” and put an argument the Pope had made in his mouth, and that was after he’d given an oath not to teach his theory as fact– and broken it, and gotten warned.
      All that was after there was a blanket ban on books teaching the theory as fact, which his buddy the Pope was helping him bypass on a technicality, while paying his living expenses.

      There’s a really great blog post about the guy (well, actually, there’s several– but I’m only linking one) over at Mr. Flynn’s blog, “Galileo: Flame Warrior.”

      • See also the Eric Flint 163x world where Gallileo’s actual offenses are well explined

        • *snark on* His personality, y’mean? *snark off*

          Haven’t actually gotten into that series yet. Been on a happenstance historical kick instead. (Stuff that was here-and-now when it was written, but is just alien and old now; a thing that works best on an e-reader with the internet, because so many of the things were clearly useful when they were written, but are a cipher now.)

      • Just want to add my support to the recommendation. It’s a great series of posts. (But make sure you’ve got a couple hours free before diving in.)

        • A good idea for anything involving that blog. Part of why I started actually checking a lot of the history stuff I “knew” was his research into that “stoned a woman to death and burnt the Library of Alexandria” story– it just drew me right in.

  15. As our affluence grows, society becomes more risk adverse. I like to claim that it started when Women got the right to vote, and that is somewhat true, but mainly because our society had matured to the point where we had the time and resources to combat true social injustice (not to be confused with SJW crap). A Mother’s role is to be a safe loving support and comfort zone for her children. A Father’s role is to push them out into the cold cruel world to learn their independance. Yes, that’s sexist, but it was our society at least for the first 1/2 of the 20th century. Yes, you feminist can try to have it all, but, like good cop – bad cop, both of these ‘roles’ are required to turn a child into an adult. The horror of our post-modern ‘gender is a social construct’ culture is that it is totally absurd. Like behavior modification, it is an effective technique to housebreak your dog, but when you try to suppress ‘maleness’ for ‘gender equality’, well, just expect the ‘maleness’ to re-assert itself in some other, less socially acceptable manner. Why are western males turning to jihadists? Well beheading is fun, and you wouldn’t let them play Cowboys and Native Americans as children and learn to manage their aggression. And yes, repressing them from age 5 to 20 does indeed channel these drives into more horrible behaviors. Personally, I would favor a little more tree climing and play fighting, let them learn to channel these drives into socially acceptable roles like, say, a Father. Unfortunately, our society believes a Father is an outdated role model, better suplanted with the State. Remaining role models are gangster, pimp, drughead or jihadist. Pick your poison.

    • Unfortunately, our society believes a Father is an outdated role model, better suplanted with the State.

      To be a ‘father’ is to be a paycheck– and one you shouldn’t trust, either, because women are supposed to be able to totally replace them at the drop of a hat.

      Not “be prepared to carry on,” but always expect that they’re to be prepared for him to be gone before dinner. Not usually phrased that way, but….

  16. I was absolutely certain what I was going to do with my life, from the age of about 12 until I had to leave college. The career that supports me now (you know…the one that _didn’t_ lead directly to eternal damnation, the way the original one would have), even though in a very real sense I’d been preparing for it since I was 8 years old, was originally supposed to stay just a hobby. It wasn’t even the “fallback option”. I didn’t _have_ a “fallback option”. I just had this thing, that I’d been doing semi-covertly since the summer after third grade, and for money since the very moment it became legal to pay me for it, but that never EVER could be considered my real career…

    I must not be all that Odd, since I figure that I’ll be doing some version of it, or of something evolving directly out of it, until I keel over dead.

    I never really understood people who didn’t know what they wanted to do. It’s one thing to have a plan that turns out to be horrifically wrong (as in my case) or even “right, but not _as_ right as this other thing” (as in Larry’s case)…it’s quite another to have no idea to begin with.

    • In High School I knew exactly what I wanted to do after graduation. Funny thing is life happened and had other plans. Even funnier is how I ended up doing a good bit of what I enjoyed doing growing up, even though it wasn’t what I intended.

      • When I entered college, I had a plan, and two backup plans. After screwing that up, I’m in one of my backup plans, but it too 15 years to get into it, and in the meantime, I lost a lot of enthusiasm for it.

  17. Your post reminds me of an aphorism I made up for a past creative project; the project I don’t remember, but the aphorism I do. “You can spend your life doing what you love, or what you’re good at. If you’re really lucky, those will be the same thing.”

    Of course, being older and (slightly) wiser now, it really needs a follow-up for full effect: “Even if they aren’t, if you pick one and do it long enough, you’ll tend either to start liking what you’re good at, or to get good at what you like.”

  18. There’s too much creative potential in unstructured time, and creativity is a privilege reserved for the High Ones. You can tell by what they consider art.

    • Also, there’s whining about being bored.

      There are entire generations of parents who grew up with cable TV and other constant sources of external stimulation. Leave them alone with their own thoughts, and they get downright irritable about it. Then they pass this trait down to their kids, but in concentrated form because now there are even more opportunities for distraction readily available.
      When all this goes away, even temporarily, they aren’t prepared to deal.

      My kids are pretty well broken of this tendency, but my wife can be rather set in her ways.
      I cringe every time she suggests “going camping”. She was horrified when we went camping on the beach, and I actually planned on sitting there and enjoying it. She had her own plans, none of which involved sitting on the beach and reading a book, or watching the kids dig holes. It wound up being the least relaxing vacation ever.

  19. William O. B'Livion

    I was shocked to find that they were talking about kids finding themselves. In college. At that price. “You might come in with an undeclared major.”

    This isn’t 1900, or even 1960.

    There are about a bazillion different jobs out there, most of which do not require any education beyond what Highschool used to give, and require anywhere from 1 hour to 6 months worth of the sort of training you won’t get in college (

    I am the other way around, I’m *stunned and amazed* that in todays vastly more complex workforce we expect 17 year old kids to know how they want to spend 40 plus years of their lives.

    My career (Unix Administrator) did not *exist* when I left highschool barely existed when I was starting college, exploded by the time I left college and will probably be *mostly* gone before I retire. Any 18 year old right now who wants to be a Unix Admin is going to be in a WORLD of hurt because the job as *I* knew it is almost gone and those who want to keep doing it that way are holding on to what they have with both hands. Those who can make the transition to the New Way are doing so.

    In 1995 there was no such thing as a “social media consultant”. In 2015 you can make a living as one.

    The idea that a 18 year old has the understanding and depth of experience and self-awareness to decide their life before even setting foot on a campus is nuts, and it was nuts 100 years ago. The difference today is that we expect every kid to go to college, and we fluff our children up to expect that they *can* be anything. 100 years ago you sort of had to prove your academic chops *before* setting foot on campus, or have a rich family footing the bill (which automatically ruled out a life of labor, and indicated a certain level of education). In 1915 you went to college to be narrow (relatively) range of things. You didn’t go to be a machinist (of course “machinist” as my father knew it is almost dead, which again is part of my point).

    I could *NEVER* have been a professional basketball player, being white, of average height and with a lazy eye (well, it wasn’t just the eye that was lazy). I could also have never been a neurosurgeon, engraver, or dozens of other careers, but MOST of them could not have been ruled out until I was in my late teens.

    • The thing is, college exists for three reasons, and pretty much always has.

      1) Scholarship. A luxury good in any society, but a worthwhile one. Involves amgreat deal of work. Most academics these days don’t care for it much.

      2) Daycare for the near-adult children of the wealthy. That used to be primarily the Aristicracy, but our culture is so rich that it extends to nearly everbody.

      3) A place to stash “intellectuals” (not necessarily scholars) whose musings were pleasing to those who funded or otherwise controled the college. This is why Ward Churchil had a job; the people who controled that college liked his yappings. People with such college positions are not necessarily qualified as Scholars (Churchill certainly wasn’t), but this is a feature, not a bug. If they come to the negative attention of a group more powerful that that which hired them, they can be cut loose with justification.

      Once you understand this, you understand most of what is “wrong” with college these days.

      • William O. B'Livion

        “Pretty much always has” is a long time.

        College in the 1700s was vastly different from the 1800s. The early 1900s (pre WWII) was vastly different than post 1960.

        Pre-WWII College might have been a finishing school for “the wealthy”, but not nearly what it has become today.

        Historically (pre-WWII) it was not a place to go to get job training[1], it was a place to go to get *more education* about the world and how it worked, THAT got you a better job. Today we send our kids there because we don’t want them to be plumbers and mechanics.

        [1] Well, except for Doctors and Engineers.

        • Pre-World War II, college was rare, too. I’ve read a work where a romance is doomed: the boy’s a high school senior, and the girl’s a high school junior. One day his mother quietly explains to him that it’s impossible, by the time he’s through college and embarked upon his career and ready to marry, she will already have had two or three babies in her marriage. Because even though the girl leads her class, there’s no expectation she’s going to college.

          And I’ve read of a WWII womanpower propaganda story in which an aunt silences her niece and nephew’s objections to their mother working by pointing out that she not only graduated with honors, she actually went to college for a year. A fact which inspires deep respect in the kids.

          • Problem: all of the women on my dad’s side went to college; the one I’m descended from came back and got married afterwards, and they had a baby before WWII even broke out. And that was in Nowhere, NoCal. They were well off, but it wasn’t uncommon enough to get outrage.

            Perhaps it was doomed because even if she went to college, she wouldn’t be expected to be established strongly enough to financially support a family before marrying?

    • “My career (Unix Administrator) did not *exist* when I left highschool barely existed when I was starting college, exploded by the time I left college and will probably be *mostly* gone before I retire. Any 18 year old right now who wants to be a Unix Admin is going to be in a WORLD of hurt because the job as *I* knew it is almost gone and those who want to keep doing it that way are holding on to what they have with both hands. Those who can make the transition to the New Way are doing so. ”

      In most technical careers you need to be constantly learning and reinventing what you do if you expect to survive.

      My parents were musicians, but I was interested in electronics. As a kid I “played with” recording and sound reinforcement at the churches my parents played organ. Went to college to study electronics, and on the side worked at a recording studio fixing their gear. I recorded albums, and designed chem lab equipment used by places like NASA and IBM.

      I spent a year in radio broadcasting, then worked for a firm designing tape recorders and duplicators. After that I built the largest recording studio complex in Chicago. Worked for a number of recording studios, recorded award winning albums, and ran my own firm building recording studios. Had a diversion into the TV world, and designed broadcasting equipment.

      After that I spent some years designing telecommunications equipment for the stock brokerage industry. After that I became an audio/acoustics consultant designing systems for everything from city councils to churches to the US Senate. Then I went to work for a firm that developed some ground breaking new digital audio technologies.

      Now I am back as a consultant.

      My point is that while my career has mostly involved audio and acoustics in some form, the specific field has varied greatly. I grew up in the heyday of the large professional recording studio, most of which are now out of business, killed by the digital home studio revolution. If I had tried to stay in recording my career might have ended many years ago.

      This old dog is constantly learning new tricks.

  20. Interestingly I saw somewhere on the Intertubes recently discussion of “The Land” – a play ground where kids can actually do dangerous things while not very supervised. Apparently it works wonderfully and I bet the kids at the end are much more clueful

    see e.g.

  21. ” (Hence people with masters in puppetry shocked – shocked – they can’t make a living.)”

    That poor schmoo. Lots of people made fun of him at the time (and since), but I felt outraged on his behalf. When did college become to default preparation for EVERYTHING?!?! Puppet-boy was only doing what he was told was The Right Thing. He got conned so that a bunch of academics could draw a salary. It never occurred to him that the way to become a successful puppeteer was to hitch-hike to LA, get a job fetching coffee for Jim Henson Studios, and edge his way in.

    I sympathize with HIM. His TEACHERS should be beaten, comprehensively, with bamboo canes.

    • When did college become to default preparation for EVERYTHING?!?!
      When aptitude tests were ruled discriminatory and illegal.
      At that point, a college degree became a proxy measurement that you could handle most math, have good reading comprehension, and work unsupervised.
      Of course, modern college has been getting away from that…

      • Which is why companies now have to administer aptitude tests to applicants, because yes, you can graduate college and not have a basic grasp of the Three Rs. Even without being on a Division I athletic scholarship.

  22. Depends on what being yourself details.

    I still get insults a mile from folks on both sides of just about every spectrum possible. Artists, wiccans, “christians”, conservatives, liberals, etc etc.

    “YOU’RE A WITCH, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO SUPPORT GREEN PEACE!” <That one comes from a lot of people you wouldn't expect….

    …..the hell I am or do!

    *Points to the corner where she's taken up lurking* Hence why I like here… I don't stick out. By the way, stay away from the blue bin. One of Sarah's dragons did a coyote style dive into that yarn bin and….yeah…

    • was that what the commotion was? Yeeps.

      I was informed some time ago that I was one of 10 intellectuals in [town]. I managed not to fall over from derisive laughter, but it was hard. And of course I’m a Progressive adn environmentalist because of my PhD field.
      {Sorry, am typing around a cat. Is awkward.}

    • Can relate. I’m a middle aged overweight cat lady (only two but anyway), a childless spinster and a witch. And I am NOT a leftie. 😀

      But everybody always automatically seems to assume I am. Can be fun sometimes, most times it’s just aggravating.

      Perhaps says something about how leftist women are seen…

      • Dear Beloved Gods… You’re last sentence love…

        I can report, with some happiness, many pagans in the US are finding that to be less than willing to NOT take crapp has increased. There was a tendency towards “left-cry-because we’re the wrong color-weepage-guilt” that was common… but many are learning the hard way.

        Price for following Gods like ours eh? 😉

        • And yes, I can feel rather pissed about it sometimes. Especially when it comes with something that looks like “You’re pagan/witch… how cool. What? How can you think THAT? You’re a pagan/witch, those two just don’t go together!”

          All forms of paganism and witchcraft have pretty much been taken by the left as theirs here (I don’t really know about USA, but the general impression I have gotten seems to point to something similar) (I usually say I’m a pagan rather than say I’m a witch, I practice witchcraft but witch is a bit more loaded word, also in Finnish, so using pagan is usually easier in general conversations. Less risk of hassle) and that assumption has spread also to the general populace.

          Can lead to occasional fits of mild snarkiness. 😀

          • The issue in the US is we have a large number of people who are Pagan of various sorts who are Pagan by rebellion or to be trendy, which skews the sampling badly.

            • Indeed. Once you add in the pagan-by-prison-gang, the sampling has skewed out the door, and was last seen warbling down the street like a bowling ball mortar.

              I have friends who are Asatru. I like their belief’s structure, even if I can’t believe it myself, and that small sample size of Alaskan Asatru gives me warm fuzzies of good-hearted curmudgeons who don’t take crap from anybody. On the other paw, they get hysterical hand-waving from idiot leftists who think they must be bleeding hearts (heh), and narrow-eyed twitchiness from cops who’ve had to deal with the Aryan Nation (poor bastards.) *facepalm*

          • The ones I know personally generally tend to be politically Left. But, like many people I know who are, their personal statements about how the world should work are FAR more conservative or libertarian. Then a political point comes up and they spout the leftist mantra, and my head wants to spin around on my neck.

            • Yep. One BIG problem seems to be that the left knows how to advertise for the feel a bit more than think people way better than the conservatives. The ones who work more by feel than by facts – and I think most of us do at least half of the time because it is a lot faster, thinking takes time – get caught by the advertising which can be very compelling. You start to see the holes if you dig into it and think about it, but how many bother? It often sounds solid enough on the surface.

              BTW, there is a Finnish saying which translates more or less: Many a cake looks good on the outside, but is sawdust (or any other tasteless substance) inside. I got this feeling that I have seen some English language saying very much like it, but can’t remember what exactly it said. Help?

              (And that is one of the big problems when using two languages. Sayings are often quite similar, but not exactly similar, and remembering them… well, since Finnish is my mother language those of course are the ones which always come first).

              • It’s easy for me – my “feelings” are always wrong (or 80%, anyway), so I have to think things out, in order to reduce the number of humiliating events I accumulate.

                • I go by them, but even if mine seem to be right somewhat more often than wrong I never trust only them because of course they are never even close to 100 % right. So I always try to dig at least a bit, and then think.

                  And if something sounds kind of glib it often is wrong.

                  • “Any philosophy that can fit on a bumper sticker is wrong.”

                    “Hey, wait, that fits on a bumper sticker…”

                    • But is it a philosophy, or a rule of thumb?

                      Example of a rule of thumb: if someone calls up a radio station and opens with a statement about how that phrase is sexist because it’s about “the law” that let men beat their wives with sticks as big around as their thumb, they’re going to spout further nonsense.
                      (It’s a mangling of some ’70s word play and old commentary, of which we only have two judges in the 18-hundreds referring to an ‘ancient law’ while they were finding husbands guilty of assault for beating their wives; no other source found, so it may have been a folk-tale itself.)

                    • There’s a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker. Charles Schultz

    • I actually read a comment once by a guy who thought that the Amish not conforming to his stereotype was a joke.

  23. Ah, so that’s what the elves are for. I saw some here just a little while ago. Now where did they get off to? When you don’t need them, you trip over them. Now that they need to get to work, they’re nowhere to be found. Typical.

  24. *nods*

    To be yourself as hard as you can, you’ve got to find out who you are– and choose what you will be, because everybody changes, even if they choose not to do anything.

  25. “This sounds ever so much better than “I was writing so they got away with tons of carp.” ” Hard to move that many carp, and hard to hide them and keep them from stinking.
    Ah hydrazine. The Titan II used that 50/50 with unsymmetric dimethyl hydrazine for fuel and nitrogen tetroxide as the oxidizer. I visited the one remaining site (museum) south of Tucson.
    Charles @ 6:05, Lovecraft and creepy–I like Nyarlathotep, the crawling chaos. I just HATE it when he gets to running.
    Bike Helmets: Wish I’d had one when i was about ten. Got tossed off my bike, hit head on curb, out for an hour or two. I’ OK no,elhbkznxcf,.sdamjfl;sakerf

  26. I started wearing glasses at seven. By the time I left home and went into the Navy my eyesight was bordering blindness. Still the Navy took me because of my brain. After leaving home, I have wandered from job to job, until electronics, which lasted the longest. I think that my life experiences have prepared my underlying ability to write. I just wish I didn’t have to experience more pain… Isn’t being isolated because you are an Odd enough? and have a disease?

    About the eyesight – I had laser surgery when i was in my early 30s (33-34… I think). It changed what I saw btw. I didn’t have peripheral vision up to then. My hearing up to that point had always been stronger. With the eyesight better, the hearing became more normal…

    As for free-ranging, there was a summer (when my mother was pregnant and slept a lot) that my sisters and I rode ponies to our neighbors in a five mile (more like fifteen mile) area. It was the best summer. I still remember it with a golden hue. 😉 I was ten that year.

  27. Ferret Buehler

    Ah yes, the joys of unrestrained boyhood experiments. I’ll just point everyone to a fun and funny book about that:

  28. Pingback: The Story of a Bad Boy by Thomas Bailey Aldrich | Read a Book, Write an Essay