What doesn’t kill you:
- Makes you stronger
- Makes you wish it had
This set of questions derives from a comparison Howard Thurman made of humans to jack pines, a tree species that usually requires a forest fire to free its seeds from cones. From the destruction, a new stand of trees arises phoenix-like. So here we go.
- Appetizer: What did you think of the
- The 1960s cartoon series was one of my favorites. I watched it almost every morning before school on Channel 13. The 1990s live action series was OK. Not one of my favorites, but it had the advantage of airing adjacent to Xena: Warrior Princess.
- Soup: Are you generally more optimistic or pessimistic?
- I vacillate. I believe we have to take the bad with the good, so we might as well get the most out of it. I also believe we need negative experience to appreciate (or even comprehend) positive experience. Life is like a black and white photo; without contrast, everything is indistinguishable. So, I guess I have optimistic tendencies. I believe that everything always works out for the best—even if we can’t see it at the time. Regardless, it all contributes to who we are. If things happened differently, we would be different people.
- Salad: Which event in your life made you stronger or a better person for having survived it?
- So many to choose from! Each one was incredibly painful and yet shaped who I am today. So, I’ll talk about the death of my brother Bill. It was traumatic for my family. He was younger than I am today, still in his prime. You don’t ever recover from that, but you can assimilate the experience, embrace the pain, and move forward.
- Bill’s death shocked me out of my complacency. It freed me from a need to keep climbing the corporate ladder and pursue money and power. Until then I thought that if I just had more, I would be happier. I worked insane hours, and I neglected my family and my own health. There would be time in the future for happiness.
- I awoke to the reality of my own mortality. I eventually left the corporate culture that was killing me. I took a job at a university to wind down. It paid barely enough to survive, but it was enough for awhile. A friend once asked me what I had planned for the day. I said I was going to hang out at the lake and then go into work. “Don’t you have chores?” she asked. I nodded. “The lake will be there tomorrow,” she chided. “But I might not be.”
- I make more money than I did then, but I believe my work is about more than making money. While I still help big companies make more money, I also help the people who work for them do their jobs better. I know that in some cases, the training I designed has helped people keep their jobs and provide for their families. I have found a balance that I might not have found if my brother’s death hadn’t forced me to reassess what was important to me.
- Entré: Given the choice, would you skip it if you had a “do over”?
- I would rather have all of my siblings be alive and healthy and with me. I don’t know what the consequences of that might be. Perhaps I would have been the one to go first. I am also really annoyed at myself for writing this question. I don’t believe in “do overs.” We are who we are because of our experiences. Change the experiences and we change who we are.
- Still, I miss Bill. And Edwin. And Mom.
- Dammit! Now I’m all teary. Human beings aren’t a fire species. We’re just all fucked up, born to suffer. And we try to justify it by saying it makes us better. Even if it does, it still sucks.
- Dessert: Does adversity build character or reveal it?
- I believe adversity builds character only if the foundation is already there. But I also believe that we can go through our whole lives without knowing what we are capable of if nothing ever tests our mettle. Wouldn’t that be nice?