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Three Decade Run - a blog

What do people thank you for?

Philip Bell

For doing the right thing.

In a job interview when I was 19 I was asked to share a strength and a weakness.  Without hesitation, even though should have taken the question more seriously, I said my honesty.  It is both an asset, and has gotten me into trouble at times when dealing with people who you might say were more politically than factually oriented.  I've had my fair share of moments when I've frustrated people I care about with my bluntness, much less been frustrated myself when my unfiltered speech has gotten me into trouble or been misinterpreted because the music of language escapes me.  The careful placement of each word that most people effortlessly put into conversation is an art that eludes me in the moment of passionate exchange.

With computers I can spread my fingers across a keyboard and commit my ideas into code, and here I am only at odds with the mistakes in the ideas themselves.  The computer never misinterprets what I have told it to do, though at this stage in artificial intelligence it is incapable of discerning my intent, it will do exactly as told and never second guess me, even to its own detriment.  Like Sisyphus, damned to repeat a fruitless task until I can better shape my ideas into a successful series of actions that reach the desired outcome.

With people, there is often an assumption that like so many who have come before me, I must have an ulterior motive, I must be planning or hiding something, I must have an unspoken intention beyond the words and actions I have just put forward.  Certainly I am not the only one who is made to contend with the common mistakes of others that have wronged the person I am currently dealing with long before I was a part of their reality.  But I feel I deal with it more, and perhaps not just because of my lack of skill in communication, but also my lack of intention in it.

While working on monologues in an acting class I took recently, our teacher asked us "how do you win right now?"  Forcing us to fully take on the perspective of our characters, and figure out their motivations and goals in that moment.  This is something I have never done in my own life, I have never stepped back to consider my own goal, my own motivation in a moment.  How many meetings, how many conversations, how many arguments, have I stumbled through without consideration for what I'm trying to get out of them.  One the one hand this has left me with many opportunities to find a new path or novel possibility among the circumstances.  But just the same, there are endless moments that I could have made more of, much less the moments that would have come after the culmination of them.  Romances, job opportunities, friendships, experiences, so many paths less traveled by left completely untouched by my own shoes because I wasn't even considering that I might be at a fork in the road.