Friday, June 16, 2017

It's all about the Puzzles

Suppose someone asked, "What aren't you?" How would you respond? Now I don't mean the obvious.   I mean the things a person might reasonably assume that you are if they observed your life, but that don't really fit the internal you. They are the stereotypes that you can get easily placed within. They aren't necessarily negative, they just aren't you.

I ask the question, because it occurs to me that I have spent a lot of my life saying what I'm not. When I was in finance, I used to protest that I'm not really a financial person, never mind that I had years of experience and lots of credentials. You could be forgiven for assuming that I was a financial person.  But that was the point. Just because I appeared to be something, didn’t mean I was.  What I was saying with my disavowal was that I was passing through, I don't really live in a financial world. On some level, it didn't really matter to me in the way I assumed it did to those who seemed so immersed in it. Perhaps they might have felt the same as I did, but were just better at concealing that part of themselves. Now that is not to say that I didn't work hard or want to do the best job possible. I lived as if it were important, but at the end of the day it didn't take up a significant space in what really mattered to me. I was there for the puzzles.  I liked solving things and finance gave me a world in which to use that skill.

Today I often find myself saying "I'm not a religious person."  In terms of religious practice, I'm not, but I am engaged in exploring my heritage and understanding the impact of religion on it. That can create a misperception of who I am.  It is no surprise that I got drawn into this trying to solve a puzzle, that of family history as I delved into genealogy research around my family. That led to artwork, study of Yiddish, travel to ancestral towns, creating websites on those towns, exploration of the Holocaust, interviewing, a book and lots of writing and public speaking. This blog is called Layers of the Onion because I am constantly peeling back layers in my search for understanding.

So, if that's what I'm not, what am I? I have no difficulty saying I am an artist, a writer and a genealogist.  There was a time when I was still wriggling into those skins, but now they fit me quite comfortably. I like the multiplicity of roles, I am many things and I bristle at being placed in a narrow category. In my pile of detritus from my career life, I have a document that my former employees once filled out anonymously. It was a survey from a mentoring group I participated in, one of those tools designed to give us insight into how others see us. I have always been intrigued with the ways we try to better understand who we are, whether it is the Myers-Briggs or astrology. In fact, after I finished my MBA I took an astrology class as if to cleanse my palate between courses. It too was a denial of sorts. I may have an MBA, but I'm not an MBA.

What I found interesting in this survey is that each person identified the same trait in me, curiosity. They had all witnessed my enthusiasm for solving puzzles. Now, I am hoping that when they said I was curious, they meant inquisitive rather than the other definition, strange. The multiple definitions of curious aroused my curiosity so I looked at the derivation of the word. The Latin curiosus is akin to cura or care. Curiosity does imply that one cares about understanding. Old French lumps together both inquisitive and strange, perhaps finding it a bit strange that one would care.  

It is that curiosity that takes me in many directions. I have always resisted being categorized and thus stereotyped into someone else's version of who they think I am, but curiosity I'll accept as a descriptor. I have indeed always been curious. Curiosity seeks a subject with mysteries to solve. The world at large provides that with its complex web of interrelationships. Change one thing and it affects something else. Systems are a universal puzzle. If we can understand them in all their complexity, we can make sense of politics, economics, organizations, families or people, maybe even ourselves. Curiosity is the key to my personal puzzle, what makes me tick.  As always, it is all about the puzzles.

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