“I wonder if this approach is stifling”

It is for me, or at least – when I’ve tried to learn the traditional way, it never worked. So rather than fight it, I just did something else – found some other way.

When I was younger, school always seemed strange. So much time was wasted calling attendance, disciplining the students, keeping the order, following the protocols. It seemed the actually “learning” we did took up a very small portion of the day, while following procedure took up most of it.

I was 18 when I enrolled in some community college classes. It just seemed like the thing to do. What else was I “doing” with my life anyway? Not knowing where to start, and not wanting to take a load filled with mind numbing prerequisites like math and english, I signed up for things that interested me: intro to interior design, photography, psychology 101, pilates (ha!)

That lasted about two weeks before I dropped all the classes and gave my dad his money back. It was just a waste of time and such a stifling experience. There was no room for humanity, no time for individuality. It just didn’t make any sense.

A couple of years later I read a book and came across the description of a birth doula and I thought, oh hey – I could do that! I AM that. I went to a weekend training because that was my social programming – find a class, take it, and then maybe you can call yourself a professional one day. The training itself was okay, but served more to connect me with other women who were beginner doulas than to really teach me any “skills”. Even though being a doula is all about emotional support and tapping into the innate wisdom that we already possess as natural, empathetic humans – there’s still this stigma around “getting certified”. I started going to births right away and noticed I was the only one. Every other person was scared, not ready, felt like a poser, assumed no one would hire them, that they couldn’t do it. I didn’t understand the problem. It’s supporting a woman in labor. You just make it up, it’s an on-the-fly sort of thing. My first birth was easy, the second one easy. I lost count and they were all easy. I later let my certification lapse because, in hindsight, the whole thing was a racket to begin with. Doulas don’t do anything medical or anything that specific. The certification was just to feel cool, to feel like I’d done something. The certification was for other people, not for me. All the certification really proved was that I could compose essays, fill out forms, and write checks to organizations.

I’ve always been self taught though.

Graphic design and web design are two things I am self-taught with, and I wonder how much time I saved myself by only learning the things I need to learn in the moment. Versus learning a standard protocol of things, most of which will only serve to confuse me and I’ll probably never use anyway. It’s like how you always hear people talk about high school math and how it didn’t apply to what they ended up doing as adults. Or people go to workshops and conferences only to have a small percentage of the information apply to them individually.

If you teach yourself something, it’s all 100% relative. No time is wasted and it’s all specific to you. And I wonder, with being self taught, if it’s a whole lot more simple. Because right now I can look at a $10,000 website and easily replicate it using my super resourceful, simple skills. Maybe schooling would over complicate it, or give me tunnel vision, or not inspire me to think outside the box. Maybe I would’ve been overwhelmed in graphic design school and quit. Whereas if I learn at my own pace, if I learn skills as I need them, if I learn what’s specific to how I’m designing, if I learn based on what I’m inspired to know – that’s so much more effective. It makes me want to keep learning more about it forever.

There are just so many different approaches to things and it seems the most efficient to learn according to your unique needs, even if you have to teach yourself.

The other day Kris and I went to IKEA and bought a lamp shade to replace our broken one. We got home and the connector piece that screws the shade in place on the base was too narrow. Kris found a metal dowel-like instrument, wrapped a piece of sand paper around it and started sanding the shit out of the plastic opening in an attempt to widen it so our new lamp shade would fit. It didn’t work, even though he tirelessly wrenched on it for several minutes.

I looked at it the next day and ended up taking the blade of a sharp pair of scissors and carved off slivers of plastic until the whole was big enough. It took about ten minutes and worked like a charm.

I feel like institutionalized teachings don’t leave a whole lot of room for multiple options. How could they? They’ve got a lot of fucking people who want to learn a lot of stuff and they’ve just gotta get er done. It’s just the medical industry. We’re all whiny about how impersonal and robotic (western) medical care is, but what the hell are we expecting? They’ve got a lot of unhealthy people to see and there just isn’t time for personalized care. They have to follow a protocol and apply general solutions. What else are they going to do? If you want individualized learning or individualized medical care, you have to curate that for yourself.

You have to take control of your own life and map out your own plan. Empower yourself with information and solutions instead of looking to and waiting for someone else to do it for you. And then complaining when it’s not good enough or what you wanted. Nobody knows you better than you.

I’ve found a groove within our health care system where I research ahead of time and walk into a doctor’s office simply asking for what I need. Maybe I have specific tests that I want or specific questions that I have. And I view the doctor or provider as an equal part of my team. I don’t view them as God. Yes, they have an incredible skill set that I don’t have, but it doesn’t mean that they’ve seen everything or know everything or know me better than I know myself. They’ve been taught to problem solve using very specific solutions – sometimes they work, and sometimes there’s another way.

I had a placenta encapsulation client the other day vent to me about her OBGYN not being on board with saving her placenta. And I thought, well yeah – why would she be? She’s a medical doctor. She’s not taught about placenta encapsulation in medical school – why are you faulting her for being out of the loop?

It’d be like going to a vegetarian’s house with a steak and being peeved when they didn’t know how to cook it. Yes, they may be a chef – but that doesn’t mean they know how to cook all food, you know? Their dang focus is vegetables. Meat is a whole other fucking thing so lay off.

Going after things in life in a non-standard way is hard though. We’re only shown the main roads and they’re presented to us as the only way. The back roads, the side roads, the bridges, the tunnels – we have to find those ourselves. We have to carve the path that feels right to us. Even if there’s no clear direction or plan. One step at a time and one day we’ll arrive at ourselves, only to continue arriving at ourselves each day we choose to show up.

Jena Schwartz “for other people, not for me” — those six words encompass so much of this thought-provoking post. I love the vegetarian/steak analogy, in that it peels away judgment and shows the plainness of different orientations and skill sets. This is everything: “The back roads, the side roads, the bridges, the tunnels – we have to find those ourselves.”

Daniel – Katie—you seem to have found a true wisdom here: “If you teach yourself something, it’s all 100% relative. No time is wasted and it’s all specific to you. And I wonder, with being self taught, if it’s a whole lot more simple”…


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