Wednesday, January 31, 2007


"The people who cast the votes don't decide an election, the people who count the votes do." - Joseph Stalin

Well, the results of the occupational poll have been up for several weeks now. I was quite surprised by several things:

First, 9 people voted in my poll! That means that I have 7 other readers (besides myself and my fiancee, who is required to vote : ). Thanks for reading!

Second, the results of the poll themselves were surprising. Apparently, 33% of those polled think I should be a Housecat Trainer.* This was followed closely by 22% voting for both the Sociologist and Professional Sleeper. Figurehead Monarch of ________ and Counselor (with an M.S.W.) both got 11% of the vote, and unfortunately, Housewife** and Public Health Something or Other both lagged behind with 0%.

What do I take from this? Despite my joy at having people respond to my survey, it was probably more beneficial for me to think about my career goals than to get the actual feedback. Unfortunately, I can't be a Professional Sleeper, no matter how much I might like to - I'd just get too bored after awhile. However, I really appreciate all of you who have helped talk me through this very minor crisis in my life.

The talking, and this little exercise, have helped me to clarify what I really want in my life. I want a career that makes me happy 75% of the time. I don't want to make myself do my job. I always loved to learn until I came to graduate school, and I think that's a good sign in itself that something is wrong (no matter how much I still love sociology). So, we'll see. Right now I'm thinking of pursuing an extra master's in counseling, and then seeing where my combined strengths in sociological social psychology and counseling can take me. It's a wide world, and I'm still young. I also feel pretty lucky...I'm coming closer to figuring out what I want, and making a new door:

"I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door - or I'll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present." - Rabindranath Tagore

*I love the expression on this cat's face. Also, this picture beats this, which also came up in Google Images. Poor cat!!!
**I'm actually grateful that nobody actually voted for this option, but it had to be there as a reminder to myself of what I could so easily be.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rainy Day

"Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain." - Anonymous

Today is the best type of day. It is drizzling, there's a chill to the air, and I'm tucked up nice and warm in my office observing it all. It's beautiful and calming.

When I was a child, my mother used to say that I was "sunshine and thunderstorms." This was due to my proclivity to get really angry, go to my room and let it out, and then come out smiling again. Thankfully, I outgrew that phase, but I feel that I've been this way lately, despite my 28 years of experience here on the earth. However, I'd like to turn my mother's metaphor on its head, primarily because I like the rain more than the sunshine. So, here goes...

Lately, I've been like the peaceful rain that suddenly shines blinding light* on people around me before becoming placid once more. I'm not proud of it, but there's something deep inside that keeps bringing out the harsh light and overshadowing the gentleness. Perhaps it's the career, perhaps it's something else, but I need to figure it out, before I blind the people I love the most.** And for the rest of you:

"May you always have walls for the wind, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you and all your heart might desire." - Irish Blessing

I would also add: "May you have gigantic puddles for jumping in, and a warm cat to periodically land on your lap."

*Mind you, I would like to think that I haven't been as "blinding" as this fine tool.
**This is especially pertinent to one particular person right now, and for that I'm truly sorry to him.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


As you can see, I've just added a poll so that you all can help me determine what to do next. Please keep in mind, however, that this is mostly just a flight of fancy, so please don't take it personally if I don't follow your suggestions.

Reality Check

"Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest, without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort. Then he feels his nulity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness." - Blaise Pascal

Today, after receiving my first rejection from a journal, the feeling that I've chosen the wrong occupation is only getting stronger. My rational mind knows this is just a temporary setback, and that I wasn't able to beat the immensely steep odds of actually getting an article published; thankfully, the editor was also quite nice about the rejection, which amounts to the sugar-coating of a sublime English accent (think Mary Poppins delivering the news). My rational mind also knows that this setback does not mean I am a terrible sociologist. I just got offered a tenure-track job that had decent pay/benefits a week and a half ago that I decided to turn down. So, the rational mind (and my fiancee), says to pick myself up and try to get it published somewhere else. This is all rational, but there's the problem of the heart and the head not agreeing right now.

The problem, at its root, is that I feel about my job the way Pascal described idleness above, and I've felt this way for a very long time. I'm good at pushing it away, trying to hide it under the carpet, but ultimately that sense of lethargy is what got me here in the first place: nulity (check), loneliness (check), inadequacy (check), dependence (check), helplessness (check), emptiness (check).

However, I do not feel such lethargy at other times, like when I'm doing traditionally feminine activities, and sometimes when I teach. Otherwise, I feel like I walk through my sociological life in a fog.

I know that I do not desire to be a housewife, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that neither do I desire to be a sociologist. Science is a noble pursuit and leads to important conclusions, but I'm just worn out. I'd like to have the enthusiasm to carry out Mandino's call, and perhaps tomorrow I will:*

"Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity, but with it you can accomplish miracles." - Og Mandino

*Come on, now, my moniker on this site is Practicing Idealist, after all.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

An Amusing Gastronomic Anecdote

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating or drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." - Voltaire

My junior year in college, I traveled north in the spring from the Southland to the Northland to visit my good friend, Hulda,* at Vassar. For the most part, it was quite an enjoyable time (despite the cold).** One of the most memorable bits occurred on a jaunt into "The City" to enjoy a Broadway play and see another high school friend of ours.

After the play, we stayed in Times Square long enough to grab a bite to eat at an Italian fast-food joint. This place was interesting in that you ordered upstairs, but then went downstairs into a caffeteria-like space to eat. I don't remember what I had (and you all are probably not all that interested), but I do remember Hulda ordering pasta.

We ate and chatted for awhile. At some point, Hulda consumed all of the pasta she could, and pushed the plate away. I, happily, kept eating whatever it was that I was eating.*** Out of nowhere, a grizzled, unkempt man appeared, picked up Hulda's half-full plate, growled "Mmm, spaghetti," and was gone before we could register our surprise. It took about 30 seconds for us, and the couple sitting at the next table, to burst out laughing.

This was quite a surreal experience (especially given my lightheadedness due to the previous lack of food), but years later the sociologist in me still finds it interesting. We talk in sociology about subtle cues that people in a particular society understand and outsiders don't - this is what makes it so hard to travel to foreign lands sometimes (more commonly referred to as "culture shock"). The interesting thing is that we're often not aware of such cues unless they are broken, or breached. Thus, my students always get a kick out of my descriptions of sociologists sending students to try to barter for their food at the grocery store, pay too much, or pay too little. Why? Because it's not done. Here's another one: try going to a crowded place and do nothing - don't read a book, don't look like you're waiting for somebody - nothing. It feels incredibly uncomfortable.

Obviously the homeless man in this story breached expectations, causing us to laugh because it's not done. Beyond that, however, that man used his powers of social observation to survive in a world that was likely quite hostile for him. He also helped Hulda to avoid what the following author seems to have most feared:

"Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it." - Author Unknown

*Of course this isn't her real name. Who would name their daughter Hulda in the U.S., unless they were immigrants from Sweden? Hulda's parents are immigrants, but they come from Korea, where they (thankfully) don't name people Hulda.

**The Southland is quite pleasant in the spring, as the Indigo Girls eloquently describe in their song "Southland in the Springtime."

***For those of you who know me, I should premise the word "happily" by saying that I hadn't had the opportunity to eat for about 8 hours. Perhaps the "happily" would then refer more to my friend...

Monday, January 1, 2007

Another Year is Here

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." - Benjamin Franklin

New Year's always starts out with good intentions that sometimes fall by the wayside. Given this, Ben Franklin's utilitarian approach appeals to me. Strive for peace, honesty, and love, and slowly but surely we become better people. In other words, the search for the New Year's revolution is constantly evolving. I prefer this view to Twain's below, although Twain's more closely resembles my normal experience with New Year's (and from what I can tell is the norm for most):

"New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." - Mark Twain

Whatever your appraoch to New Year's, I wish you a happy 2007!