Today I was engaging in one of my favorite pastimes, listening to a podcast while doing some mindless data entry work. I have mention before my love of podcasts; they are akin to old time radio but for the modern age. This morning I got an extra treat, as I was listening to an interview of Dr. Neil de Grass Tyson by none other than one of my favorite podcasters John Hodgeman; oh be still my nerdy heart!
One of the reasons I enjoy listening to podcasts at work is because they drown out the noise my coworkers constantly make; coughing, sniffing, eating, gum snapping (my least favorite noise) and engaging in loud bitch fests. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate with all that noise going on, it’s like working in a human zoo. Having my headphones and listening to a monotone conversation cuts everything else out. Hell, listening to a dentist drill would be preferable to office noise.
In his introduction Hodgeman was describing Dr. Tyson’s work and his many hats, from Director of the Haydon Planetarium, to host of PBS’s Nova Science Now. He ended his intro noting that above all else, Dr Tyson is an astrophysicist. He then asked Dr. Tyson if that was correct, did he see himself primarily as an astrophysicist? Dr. Tyson replied that “astrophysics was the lens in which he viewed the world”, in other words this is how he primarily sees himself. This statement struck me as very profound, so much so that I stopped what I was doing and wrote the quote down.
It struck me as profound because for the last year or so, ever since my son moved out to attend college, I’ve wondered who I am, how I should view myself now that I am no longer a mom. Okay, yes I am still technically a mom, but when you child moves out, it no longer feels like it. So, if not a mom, what?
Starting in my late twenties I saw myself first and foremost as a mom and viewed the world from this lens. Every decision was based on a parental point of view, from what kind of car to buy to where and how we lived. Even my decision to go back to college was based on a parental desire to see my son succeed. How could I ask him to tackle higher education when I had not?
Now that my son is gone I am at a loss as to how to describe myself. Not that I need a label, but as a person who is now free to do and be whoever I want, my prospects are scary without some type of guidepost. Something to use as I navigate the world around me.
I thought about what Dr. Tyson said all day as I felt this quote about a lens made more sense than trying to place a label on myself. The question now became “how do I view the world”?
If I had to give a one word answer it would be critically. Not as a cynic, but as a person who does not take anything at face value. When I see an ad I wonder what it is they are really trying to say, and how are they saying it? The same goes for everything I read and hear on T.V. I question motivation and content. Is what they are saying true, or are they merely trying to push their ideology? As a critic it is important to me to uncover the truth. In other words, I have become a smart consumer.
This does not make me popular with my co-works, who love nothing more than to forward e-mails that either have really bad photoshopped pictures or the latest law passed by the dreaded Obama Administration. Just the other day I was sent a picture of “Chinese” women with painted dogs. The caption talked about the stupid things the Chinese do now that they have our jobs. The office was buzzing about this until I said “anyone notice the women in the photos are white”? Only one was Asian and for all I know, was born in the US. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicion; the photos were colored in and sent out because apparently we now are bashing China.
Now this story does not illustrate how I view myself, rather it shows you what I go through every day, and because of this, the question I ask about myself becomes, what the hell am I doing here and how do I get out?
So dear Readers, how do you see yourself? What lens do you use to view the world around you?