Sunday, October 6, 2013

Normal curves and networking nerves

It's been a while, friends, and that's because I've embarked on a mission to become a real planner, getting a piece of paper that declares to the world that I KNOW ABOUT CITY STUFF. It'll be good to have in the end, and I am unbearably happy about all these other cool kids in my cohort I get to hang out with, but the day-to-day deal can be a drag. I have to learn about statistics, for instance.

I know it's important, for, um, something, but my kind of planning is convincing folks they want to pay tax money for a bus system, and normal people don't respond as well as you would think to normal curves.
From this picture, calculate the likelihood that the libertarian neighbors will raise their pitchforks against a randomly selected bus.

All that jazz. I learn these relevant, useful things, but for each one I learn something I'll probably never use again in my career, except when I'm fancy enough to go to cocktail parties. No, what costs several thousand dollars' tuition is that signalling device, that all-important bat signal sent out to future employers - and of course, the people I meet in the process.

When we learned about different moral philosophies throughout the ages (case in point..?), the debate frequently reoccurred of whether or not it was okay to use people as means to an end, or whether people had to be treated as ends themselves. I tend to go with the latter, which makes me, uh, a Kantian, right? Of course, this puts me at odds with the real pillar of my profession, possibly the pillar of everyone's profession, and the factor that has already led to some of my successes:


I can't say the word without shuddering. And the community organizing side of things can put it in a positive light - you're building relationships, you're sharing your mutual strengths, you're leveraging your power. And sometimes that's exactly what happens. But I hate it that I've been conditioned to meet someone and not think "That's a cool person who's making the world better, and I should get to know them because they're cool," but, "That's a cool person who's making the world better, and I should get to know them because they might get me a job someday."

Putting aside the problem that some people are shy or weren't the popular kids at school or came to the party late or don't have as many cultural and physical commonalities with the current badasses as the rest of the room or just REALLY hate the word SYNERGY --

-- you still come back to my old-fashioned Sisters of Mercy-embedded theory that people are people and not tools of your career. Maybe, if we're being practical, they have to be both.

To finish, I would like to tell Marian, the amazing Spanish painter who saved my life, that she was right. I couldn't have relied on grad school to make me comfortable in my skin. It's not the same naive magic as undergrad, and it contains way too much math. I had to do it the hard way instead, and I'm doing it more all the time, and along the way it's fun to have new friends who think the municipal structure of Michigan is interesting conversation.

Seriously, guys, it is.

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