Saturday, January 25, 2020

Just some boring stuff

I'm not very good at keeping secrets.

At least, I'm not very good at keeping my own secrets. I can't help it! I just get so excited about things. I'm not very good at surprising people because (a) I'm either really boring or (b) I just get so excited about things that I can't not talk about them. Or (c) all of the above, I suppose.

I don't know if this is a boring thing or not. Maybe it is.

It's not boring to me, so to that particular's not boring. But I'm afraid it might be boring for other people, so then perhaps it's just boring.

But sometimes the boring work is the important work. Hear me out.

I'm doing some boring research right now for a different boring project, not the one I'm excited about (even though this research could be classified as boring as well, even though it's not necessarily boring to me) and I've recently been reading a paper by Thomas Röhlinger, who joined the democratic party in Germany (more on his history later) and teaches students that "democracy needs democrats that work for and defend it," though he doesn't use the party name in his lectures. I'm not sure how he manages that, but whatever.

I suppose he simply says that he has chosen to be active in politics because the moral of the story is "that party work is indeed boring, time-consuming, and bureaucratic...and yet it is meaningful" (p. 160-1) He explains to his students "that democracy is indeed often 'boring' and sometimes exhausting," but that "this is a good training to strengthen frustration tolerance...patience and the ability of compromise" (155).

Frustration tolerance is "the ability to overcome obstacles and withstand stressful events." It is also something my children could probably tell you that I need to work on.

Anyway, all that is to say that boring things are worthwhile. So I'll take my boring things.

(And I'll try to be patient with Benjamin when he takes 25 minutes to solve one simple math problem (like, this wouldn't be an issue if the problem he was attempting to solve was remotely complicated because these questions are, like, 50 + ____ = 100 and he knows that forwards and backwards and just won't do it was a bad math day, okay?)

So this project that I'm excited about might seem boring or meaningless to some people, but it's something that I feel is rather exciting and something that will be valuable.

Anyway, to introduce the project I'm being so vague about, I'll continue with Röhlinger. He says that he uses his life story when he teaches because that's...what people do. He references Luhmann (I should probably look up who that is) who said that "the biography of a person is a medium in itself" (p. 160). Then he tells some really cool stories from his life to illustrate what he's trying to say in his paper (in short: he grew up in East Germany and was part of the movement to bring down the Berlin Wall and many other cool things). He says to share "aspects of one's...childhood and youth, personal achievements and failures, and events that can" lend "relevance and authenticity" (160).

But enough about him. Let's talk about me.

On Christmas I realized that another year had come and gone and I hadn't done any presents for our siblings. Gift giving is...not my forte (ask anyone). I mean, I've managed a few good gifts in my day but on average I am...not great at it. It's fine. I have other skills.

Anyway, as I was thinking about this (and about being so far away from everyone and/or spread out across the world in general) I got to thinking that it would be boring-fun to compile a book of memories from my siblings (and from Andrew's siblings) about our (and/or their) growing up years.

So I set up a form to collect the data and made a list of questions to send out to them every month and emailed(/messaged in some for or another) them all and, because I figured the project would be met with much resistance/reluctance, warned them that I was going to be super annoying and persistent about this (but that's okay because likely they all pretty much know that I'm a super annoying and persistent person by now, anyway) so they may as well cave in early and fill the thing out.

And then I waited. And waited. Annnnd waited.

In fact, I'm still waiting today, but it's a year-long project so I'm just getting started.

Anyway, I printed out a copy of the email I sent to all of Andrew's siblings and mailed it to Sarah, which is the first communication I've had with her...for a while. Like, probably since late 2018. And there are reasons for that, one being that I simply didn't know what to write to her without just, you know, ripping into her. But this was safe—impersonal, a form letter almost.

And she wrote back to me with four pages of beautiful memories.

I typed them up and now Andrew's family has 14 lovely memories waiting to be added to (hint, hint everyone else who continues to ignore my nagging emails/texts/instant messages).

And then I decided to check in on how my side of the family was doing, although I knew that it wasn't doing well. I hadn't gotten any notifications that anyone had filled out my form, so I knew that I had submitted a few things and I knew that I had borrowed some memories from some chat groups with my siblings and submitted those as entries. But other than that I knew there wasn't going to be anything there.

So why was I checking? I don't know.

But I pulled up the spreadsheet and it was full* of memories submitted by a couple of my siblings! I had sent them the wrong link and sent them directly to the spreadsheet rather than the form, so I didn't get a notification that anyone had submitted answers to my form because they'd submitted answers manually!

Seeing their memories there made me so, so happy!

(I don't like to be ignored; just ask my kids (they're very knowledgable because they like to help me develop my frustration tolerance).)

Now I just need to gather more memories and somehow squeeze them out of my more unwilling participants. It's for them, in the end, and hopefully good for them.

* I suppose a spreadsheet can't ever be full since those rows will keep on generating seemingly forever, but the front sheet was pretty darn full and it was a beautiful sight.