“WHY do you always have to learn everything the HARD way instead of LISTENING to others? WHY do you have to do it yourself?”
My mother was ANGRY.
So was I. But she was completely right: My life is a study in DIY/LFE – Learning from Experience vs. Learning from Elders.
My 60s-bred dad taught me to Question Authority.
I tend to Question Everything.
Case in point: Thimbles. They exist for a reason. I discovered this, not by trusting the wisdom of the ages and wearing one before embarking on a sewing project that involved thick brocade, but by going footloose and thumb free.
I ended up with a broken piece of needle imbedded beneath my thumbnail. I ended up in the dr office for an extraction that ouch, yuck, ai yi yi, ooh, will cause me to testify to the masses: YES, thimbles, use them! I heartily advocate thimbles! I’m a thimble fan!
Meanwhile, my mother rolls her eyes in exasperation. “DUH,” she would say, if she were me.
Now, this is just one example of me just foregoing the Usual Procedures of Things, ignoring Conventional Wisdom, because I don’t see the obvious need. I’m suspicious that society has unnecessary habits. I get annoyed when people follow the rules blindly without understanding why…
Other instances involve not wearing underwear, not checking the oil in my car, art projects (some successful, some not), and other large-life things where my attitude was, Heck, I can do this my way; it can’t be that hard; why not?
This attitude is exactly what makes me excellent at analyzing processes at work and streamlining them – finding better, faster, quicker ways to do a job, because I question the current procedure in ways others just wouldn’t, because they go along with This is The Way It’s Done and Always Has Been Done. I have been valued for this capacity for critical judgment. I honed it doing critical theory papers in college and grad school.
What hurt when my mother yelled at me was that I don’t do this on purpose – it’s like there’s some instinctual Try it Yourself and Prove it Right/Wrong instinct in me that sends me riding bareback over the plains of experience – sometimes toward disaster; sometimes toward brilliance.
Of course, for my mother, her role is to protect me – not to let me test the Fire is Hot and Burns rule by searing my flesh over the stove, but to teach me to listen and to trust her to avoid that kind of pain. Obviously, somewhere along the line, as happens with all kids, I think, I discovered that one of mother’s rules or laws wasn’t as true as she had advertised.
So then I had to question everything she said.
Some things were very true. Some not. And how else to know but to test them? Good old trial and error?
But of course, this can take a lot more time and pain that necessary. We read history in order not to repeat it.
So when exactly should I test authority, and when should I trust it?
How do I decide and discern?