There's a lot of truth in my life (that's the one thing that has always come in crystal clear and 20/20) and all the people in it have never held back. I remember when my cousin came to visit and after she met me (eleven years old at the time) she asked grandma "Why is their family so ugly?" More truth I suppose; kids tell it like it is. Just recently someone I was helping asked me, "What is your degree?" (I assume they were impressed because I'm smart). I responded "English." They immediately said with disgust and contempt, "How did you get this job then?" I was amused because even a person that doesn't have a job can have contempt for me. But you know what? I am smart. I have an above-average IQ, and I'm thankful for it.
Maybe I could have gone to an Ivy League school. I'd like to think that had I been given the opportunity, I could have been on the Dean's List of my choice of major at Cornell. But I went to Sarah Palin's alma mater, i.e. the University of Idaho. And as soon as school was done, I packed up my things and just drove home to try and struggle with the big question of what to do with an English degree that my father said is useless? Well, I can say from experience that as useless as it was, living in Idaho Falls, Idaho (population 50,000) made it even more challenging to find work that wasn't minimum wage. It's a right-to-work state so there's no unions and the "job creators" there believe that profits should be made off the back of slaves. Because of living in Idaho Falls, Idaho, I will always be a democrat. I've seen economic injustice first-hand. I spent years working retail, sometimes holding three jobs, and trying to build a resume so chock full of experience that I could land a career.
But this post is not specifically about me or the challenges I have in my life. It's not supposed to be about whether or not someone chooses to mock me for trying to showcase credentials I feel I've earned through study, trial and error. Nor is it about how people misjudge me all the time because they think my life is easy when in fact it's the opposite, and I hide it really well.
This post is about Melissa Harris-Perry and what she had to say to graduates of Wellesley College in May of 2012, and it's every bit as great as what Steve Jobs had to say to Stanford grads before his death, because it holds nothing but truth. For those of you who don't know, Melissa Harris-Perry is a political scientist and MSNBC television host and she urged the crowd of students to be ignorant, silent, and thick. That sounds awful, right? Well, not so much.
Here are a few choice quotes:
"But even as you accept your hard won degree, I encourage you to embrace the reality that you know almost nothing."
I personally feel that I know almost nothing. I just wish others felt the same. I try to explain things that I do know and more often than not, I get cut off mid-sentence by someone who acts the expert and then the conversation is ended. Days later I find out they actually knew nothing and just didn't want to learn from the likes of me. In every single case, I want to point out that all of these people that cut me off have been men.
"Standing in a library reminds us of our own limitations. It encourages us to remember that we don't know everything, can't predict every outcome, and don't even know all the right questions to ask. I will never fill a cavity. It is pretty unlikely that I will ever speak Mandarin. I am certainly not going to decode anything in the DNA chain. But thankfully, graciously, the universe provides an interdependent web of other fantastic women who will. Remembering our ignorance, embracing our ignorance, allowing ourselves to accept a posture of ignorance compels us to keep learning."
"So remember, ignorance is not your enemy, only complacency with ignorance is to be resisted. Never become so enamored of your own smarts that you stop signing up for life's hard classes. Remember to keep forming hypotheses and gathering data. Keep your conclusions light and your curiosity ferocious. Keep groping in the darkness with ravenous desire."
I don't understand why people get to an age where they choose to stop learning. I've actually heard, "I know how the Earth came to be. This is what I believe and you're not going to ever change my mind." All I've got to say to that is "Wow. You learned everything before you were twenty and now all you want to know is how to save money for retirement and pop out some kids." I've never stopped learning. Each day I try to fill my mind with something else. I ravenously read newspapers, read science articles, and search out anything and everything about stocks and the financial market. I guess at the age of 41, I know enough to say in the humblest of ways "I actually know nothing, but I'm willing to learn if you teach me."
"Silence can help to soothe one of the voices that you would actually like to be quiet more frequently. It's what Jay-Smooth would call your 'internal hater.' That little hater...the hater sits on our shoulder and tells us, 'sit up straight,' 'omigod, you have a lisp,' and 'why are you talking?'
"Thick is the only thing worth being. Thick women make fools of themselves all the time because thin women stand on the sidelines. They're critical; they're removed; they're barely committed. Thick people pitch tents in a park with the belief that social action can change an entire international global system of economic injustice."
"Thin folks believe every critic is a 'hater.' Thick folks can hear critique without crumbling. Thin leaders stay the course no matter what the evidence sat. Thick leaders listen, learn, and correct."
"Thin women look great in bikinis. Thick women look terrific in history books."
I love that last line more than anything.