Sense of Adventure Scale from One to We’re All Going to Die!

Ngorongoro Crater (picture by Jonathan Dunn)

Ngorongoro Crater (picture by Jonathan Dunn)

I’ve never been comfortable rating one’s sense of adventure. It seems that where a cross-state road trip ranks somewhere near a crocheting injury on the risk scale, swimming with baited sharks is…well…swimming with baited sharks.

While listening to the travel stories of friends and reading blogs of the ever-departing, one begins to invisibly chart that sense. The scale differs. Miles from home, unexpected dining experiences, exotic animal encounters, it all factors into the weight you give their adventuresome ambition.

But why?

Isn’t any adventure simply to stave off complacency?

I realize that it’s inherent to human nature to feel the need to compete. To good, better, best your neighbors and friends. I may not ever be able to rail a successful argument against that need, but as travellists (it’s a word, look it up), our competition should instead be with that complacency.

In my circle there is palpable wanderlust. Each day, my Facebook feed is the equivalent of a “what-I-did-this-summer” photo essay. It makes me jealous. I have gone further than 100 miles from home once  in the last 6 months and that was as an airport chauffeur for someone else’s trip.

This may be one of the reasons why my upcoming trip to St. Louis feels like a bucket list accomplishment. But more than the notion that it is an overdue vacation with my sister, leaving my daily life heightens my sense of adventure.

Wisconsin Polar Plunge

Wisconsin Polar Plunge

I’m a difficult person to travel with if you value things like sleep. I find little point in spending time in a new place doing something that can be done at home. I’ve filled my week in STL with experiences that can happen in no other place.

We are going to eat our way through The Godfather at Tenacious Eats. Sunday will find us at the International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville, IL for a 5k and celebratory Bloody Mary contest afterward. A baseball and, subsequently stadium food, aficionado we will be taking in an evening game at Busch Stadium and I’ve talked my sister into a picnic dinner while watching the Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare Festival.

Oh, and the arch, the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour, Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site, the City Museum, the zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Scott Joplin House, the Cahokia Mounds, Molly’s in Soulard, Calvary Cemetery, Bogart’s Smokehouse, Left Bank Books..like I said, no sleep.

Flying planes off the Astoria Column.

Flying planes off the Astoria Column.

I know very little of St. Louis. I’m imagining Midwest sensibility layered with that certain Southern charm and inland Eastern grittiness topped with a dash of Left Coast hipster. It’s easy to say that you keep an open mind when travelling to a new place, but media, blogs, friends, and research have forced me to cull certain opinions.

I’ve heard STL is “scary” and “rough.” I’ve been told to avoid certain neighborhoods or, in fact, the entire Eastern part of the city. I know there’s a musically rich history of ragtime and jazz, two genres absent from any of my playlists. Growing up in Olympia and now living in New Glarus, I understand brewery towns on a small-scale, but the way beer tycoons can shape a city.

It’s these preconceptions and questions that are the fuel for adventure. I won’t climb the world’s tallest anything or collect passport stamps , but by getting in my car and driving 300 miles, I’ve topped out on that imaginary sense of adventure scale.

I’ll be blogging about my trip starting next week, so check back for updates on our adventure.

Your Complacency Causes my Unicorns and Rainbows

I won’t ever apologize for my beliefs or for putting them into words. However, this post comes with an apologetic caveat. Included are generalizations presented in a far more aggressive tone than usual. I tried to edit it to lighten it up, but couldn’t manage to balance the humor and sincerity of the argument.

I’ve written a few posts now about the pessimism of people who consider themselves “realists.” They hold the idea that by being optimistic or hopeful, we are disconnected. And, quite possibly, naïvely think we are living in a world of unicorns and rainbows. I write these posts for two distinct reasons.

The first being the need. Not the need for it to be said. There have been disciples of these ideas for centuries, but the need for it to be repeated, reworded and read. What’s new is the individual perspective which ignites new theories and ideas on how to instigate the necessary change.

The second reason I continually write about my personal views on subjects like community or the responsibility of global citizenship is because I can’t see the incredulous faces you make when you read and disagree with it. I get those quite often when I choose to share my opinions in person  By posting, I’m getting to share my opinion without having to tactfully pretend I didn’t see the deep creases set in on your forehead.

I get it. I understand that my ideas constitute a certain amount of desire for tree-hugging in a communal neighborhood. Or that they are somehow considered on the fringe. But unfortunately I also understand the disturbing nature of the ability for people to classify issues with the encompassing blase scoff: “it is what it is.”

You’re right, it IS what it is. But it’s because you choose to respond to issues with that clichéd retort that they are. Instead of acknowledging that the situation is not fair or a disgusting invasion of human rights, you are content with complacency. You shrug and recoil back into your own life. While your ignorance is most definitely your bliss, your neighbors are dying in wars against perceived terrorism, drugs, and the economy.

Teaching empathy is difficult. It may be that it is something inherent and can’t be developed, but one thing that can be acquired is perspective. Challenge yourself by responding to issues. Question how it you can change it or what you can do to help, rather than consider it an ugly, but inevitable part of the world.

Beyond developing new perspective, constantly question the point of view you’ve already developed. How many of your established beliefs are a result of direct experiences in your life and how many are inherited from friends, family, or the media? I’m not promoting a decline to paranoia, but consider where your strongly held beliefs originated. It will be uncomfortable to confront these ideas, but the goal in life isn’t to reach a peak of thought and then recline in comfort. Instead it is a constant pursuit of knowledge. The insatiable nature of wanting to know more and to know why.

Tell Me How Much You Hated History Class…or Didn’t.

I never understood the polarizing quality of history. It’s not like you had to have the exact answers like math or science, or English, if you had a Jane Austen-obsessed teacher, who couldn’t possible understand my disinterest. (I will go to my grave arguing the pointless quality of reading Pride and Prejudice AND Sense and Sensibility back-to-back as a 15-year old.)

But history. It was about revolutions and events that created ideas. It was about great people writing heroic stories. Except when it was about June 27, 1880 or Milan, Ohio. Turns out there were right and wrong answers, which is apparently why some people just really don’t like history.

I’m doing a little research on these early notions of history. A short 8 question survey to determine whether a theory I hold about early history education is worth pursuing or simply a misguided resentment at the educational system.

I know we all love to share our opinion. Why else would be blog..or troll blogs to disagree with other people’s opinions…

Help me out by taking my survey here. And look for a future post about the results.

That Autistic Kid: The Importance of People First Language

Occasionally I watch TV of questionable value. It happens when too much PBS or Ken Burn’s documentaries have me fearing I’ve prematurely aged by thirty years. While watching The Voice the other night, I heard a contestant make the statement, “I work with autistic kids.”

Hmmm, do you?

Then you really should know better than to refer to your students as “autistic kids.”  Respecting the different abilities of others requires the recognition that, first and foremost, they are human beings. Special needs or diagnosis are secondary to that fact. People first language is a big step towards creating a culture where everyone is accepted.

Critics claim over-sensitivity or the dangers of rigid political correctness that can cause everyone to be tentative but consider all of the personality traits or mental faculties that you have but wouldn’t want to be your defining quality.

List 10 characteristics about yourself that have a negative connotation. I’ll start:

  • Irrational
  • Indecisive
  • Argumentative
  • Critical

Well, you get the idea…

By making a list of “negative characteristics”, I’m not implying that special needs are a bad thing. I don’t think that and would like to believe that the rest of the world does not either, but the reality is much different.  The goal of this post is to work to change those pervasive ideas.

Go back to your list. Even if you weren’t able to come up with 10 things, if you listed more than one, it is a clear example of the layers that we carry. We are many things, so characterizing a person by a single element, like a special need, is narrow-minded, However, while putting these labels on people is negligent, each person should be defined. By their preferences, morals, opinions, views – defined not judged. We are who we are because of these things and should accept that reality.

A sad, secondary commentary on people first language is when it’s disregarded, because someone sees the need as a means of special treatment. A trendy diagnosis – like autism – can be used to create relevancy. Differences should be celebrated, but these people are doing themselves and their children a disservice in promoting the need. They are discriminating against their child as a multi-faceted person. By doing so, they are giving permission to other people to do the same. Very quickly “my amazing, special autistic child” becomes “the arm-flapping kid” or “that girls who counts all the time.” Children, especially, should be given the opportunity to define their own self beyond their special need.

For more information about the use of people-first language, check out the National Inclusion Project.

“Have you tried…” 5 Things to Avoid When Talking to the Unemployed

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m looking to transition from my work in education into an entirely new sector. While I’m making this transition (read: underemployed, soon to be unemployed), I’ve encountered many people who have suggestions on how I should be conducting my job search. Because these people are so annoyingly assertive forthright and open in sharing their opinions , I’ve been able to develop a concise, but encompassing list of five things you should avoid when talking to a job-searching unemployed.

1. Don’t suggest jobs that are against our morals, or perhaps, our very being.

I hit a bunny while driving once. I had to pull over because I was crying so hard. Suggesting a job at an animal research laboratory?  Probably not. For many people a job is simply a means to pay the bills, but for some of us a job truly is an extension of who we are and doing something  resulting in a glaring conflict with our morals is an impossibility. Suggestion side note: listing the salary as the most attractive job characteristic makes you look shallow. We probably won’t say it, but know that we’re thinking it.

2. Our last resorts are not the same.

The things desperate people do could fill annuls of the strange, but don’t assume that the job that you would be willing to take if bills needed to be paid is the same as the job I would take. I’d become a professional dog shit scooper before I’d work in telemarketing. Remember, this is the job that I will have to suffer through until the “right” one comes along, so don’t bother trying to reason. It’ll get you nowhere but the end of my shovel.

3. Refrain from advice if the situation is entirely unfamiliar to you.

If you’ve never been unemployed, you don’t get a say. If you live on the salary of someone else, shut it. To solely support yourself and be faced with the possibility of no longer having a job is frightening, but can be handled without your opinions on how it should be. Respect that while following a passion that leads to a nontraditional career may seem unreasonable or irresponsible, that passion is inherent. It’s really not our fault that you haven’t found something that causes an insatiable internal drive.

4. Don’t make the assumption that because we haven’t found something, we aren’t looking.

Writing an individualized resume for each job takes research, creativity, and time. A generic resume is a waste of everyone’s time. And while it may look like we are spending all day on the internet (we are), it’s not enjoyable to look at the employment section of 100 websites and find one suitable job worthy of applying for. It’s a daily reminder of how hard the job market is right now (Also, something to avoid saying. We know).

5. Minimize the cheerleading.

Unless we ask for a pep talk, don’t assume we need one. Yes, we may have just told you that we haven’t found anything yet, but it’s because you just asked: “Have you found anything yet?” Don’t assume that since we answer in the negative, that we are negative. These assumptions are frustrating and tend to create more anxiety than they alleviate. When you say, “You’ll find something.” you are reiterating our fear that SOMETHING, not the right thing, is exactly what we are going to have to settle for.