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11 June 2009 @ 08:11 pm
This I Used To Believe  

This is a rather complex meme stemming from friends’ discussions, prompted by a This American Life podcast called “This I Used To Believe”, about changed ideas and philosophies: what people no longer thought or felt, and why.

I thought it was sufficiently interesting to take a stab at it myself.

I used to believe if you could do something you should, perhaps must, do it, particularly with respect to writing. I’m not convinced I’ve stopped believing that about *myself*, but I’ve become a great deal less demanding of other people. Mostly I don’t seem to go in for must (for other people, anyway) anymore, and I just hope they have the courage/insight/chance to do what makes them happy.

I used to believe I could teach a pig to sing, which is perhaps more commonly known as believing I could change people. Somewhere in the past several years I have instead come to believe that people will change themselves–or not–depending on their want and need to do so. The best I can do is encourage them, but there is absolutely no point in throwing myself against a wall repeatedly in the hopes that it will finally give. It won’t. The pig and I are both much happier if I do not try to teach it to sing.

I used to believe it was easier to not take risks. In many ways I got over that when I was thirteen and failed to meet a TV star because I was too worried about being wrong about that cute boy looking familiar, and didn’t want to risk being embarrassed. It turned out he /did/ look familiar, because he was Kirk Cameron of the then-extremely-popular show Growing Pains, but I was so worried about being wrong that I only got to ‘meet’ him as part of a crowd of other teens once they discovered he was there, instead of one-on-one half an hour before the rest of them noticed.

Similarly, I used to believe it was easier to not try and to fail than it was to do the work. It wasn’t. It’s a hell of a lot easier to try–succeed or fail–than to go through the self-loathing emotional wringer of *knowing* I was failing because I wasn’t trying. This largely manifested itself in bombing out of college.

Also similarly, I used to believe success wasn’t scary. Success is in fact completely fucking terrifying, which possibly I knew somewhere in my hind brain and therefore sabotaged myself with regards to school. It is equally possible I was just a dumb teenager who had no well-developed study habits. :) Anyway, I learned success was terrifying when I sold URBAN SHAMAN. I don’t think I’d ever been so scared in my life. It becomes less scary, though, once it’s been faced.

So. What did you used to believe?

(x-posted from the essential kit)
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
-peartreealley on June 11th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
With you on the first and second... the second to the last one I'm still working on.
eclectic_writereclectic_writer on June 11th, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
I used to think I could do everything on my own - fresh out of college, I spurned my parents' offer to contact some industry friends and see if they could find me a job. I was certain I could do it on my own merit, not fall back on "mommy and daddy" to get me a job. I've since learned that it can sometimes take a team to get things done - delegation doesn't mean something won't be done right, nor is networking a sin. Just because I'm qualified doesn't mean I am a better candidate than someone who made a better first impression.

Edited at 2009-06-11 07:38 pm (UTC)
Traveler Farlandertwfarlan on June 11th, 2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Interesting, holding up a two-way mirror for self-examination. Then again, that's part of keeping a public journal, isn't it?

I held a similar belief about talent, actually. I firmly believed that a person with talent was duty-bound to pursue that talent, to enrich the world with it. Then again, I also used to believe that I had some talent worth sharing, so that might have been mere egotism on my part.

Similarly, I once believed that I owed the world to produce genetic progeny. Again, egotism at work. Now, I think fathering kids even by adoption would be more something I'd be doing to the world rather than for it.

I used to believe that God had a plan. I also used to believe that the Cylons had one. I've become disabused of both, though it may be more a case of my certainty of the intelligence of both planners that changed more than anything else.

I used to believe that there was some measure of objective success I would need to achieve in order to be happy. Now, I consider happiness itself my objective, both my own and that of those I love.

I used to believe that everyone needed to live by an external standard of behavior in order to live well. Now, I believe that the only achievable code of behavior is limited to, "Just leave one another alone." Even that would be an improvement over things as they stand in today's world.
Natural20natural20 on June 12th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
I used to believe that my destiny lay in quiet, introspective geekdom, that I would be the one in the background. Then I found my voice. Thankfully this was some number of years ago now.

I used to believe that attraction was purely a function of the physical. Ha!

I used to believe that, ultimately, humans would do the right thing. Sadly, not so much.

There's more, but I suppose that's part of it. I used to believe that I would never find my people, find people to properly communicate with. Then I grew up, went to university, went through university, found that human life is as fantastically diverse as it is.
Gerrigerriwritinglog on June 11th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
I used to believe that everyone wanted to improve themselves, to become something more than they were.


I no longer hold that particular delusion.
Laura Anne Gilmansuricattus on June 11th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
I used to believe that honesty was the best policy. Now I believe that kindness is the best policy, and sometimes that means being indirectly honest (aka the evasion of answer, or the little white lie).

I used to believe that love didn't hurt. Now I know that any deep emotion hurts like hell, even on the good days. If it didn't, we wouldn't have art.

I used to believe that karma had a nasty backhand. Now I know that it does... but that it's also sort of clumsy, and sometimes misses the target.

(and now I have the Blue Collar Comedy Tour's rendition of "I Believe" in my head. Damn you, Kit...)
16:9 1.78:1 OAR: Ryusixteenbynine on June 11th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
I used to believe that if other people were malevolent -- truly evil, actively destructive -- it was because of something that they secretly wanted to do something about and didn't know how.

Now I know there are some people who just get off on such behavior, and the only thing you can do is get the heck out of their way.

That said ... I also used to believe that such people were few and far between. I'm still able to say that is the case.
jennifer_dunne: Ravenpuffjennifer_dunne on June 11th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
Hmmm.... clearly, this points to the false belief, "other people think like I do."

Because reading this question, I'm stymied about how you can remember what you used to believe. I mean, I can get pretty deep about what I do believe now, but what I used to believe? Clearly, it was wrong, or I'd still believe it, so it's been consigned to the scrap heap of memory as something not worth remembering.

I can dredge up a slew of things I *might* have believed, using a little logical interpolation. But I lack the bit of brain function that would let me tell you whether or not I ever *did* believe it.
irishkateirishkate on June 12th, 2009 12:13 am (UTC)
I don't know that I have the nerve to answer this - certainly not at 1am. But I am certain I am impressed that you have the guts to answer it so well
sammywolsammywol on June 12th, 2009 09:20 am (UTC)
Interesting meme. I think most of your life lessons are moer positive than mine.

It all warrants thinking about.
UrsulaVursulav on June 12th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)

Some of them are easy--I was pro-life in grade school, but grew out of it--but the more complicated ones...have to think about that.
flexiblefine on June 12th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
Bombing out of college
I suppose bombing out taught us different lessons.

I used to believe I could do damn near anything, and do it well. Then I went to college. My confidence and ambition have never returned.

I did eventually complete my bachelor's degree online, and I'm on track to finish an MBA this summer. But some lessons really do stick.
Grand High Simiansimianpower on June 12th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Bombing out of college
I had almost the exact opposite experience. My dad always used to tell me I should be doing better in school because I was "smarter than that, and shouldn't settle for less." I thought he was full of it, just blowing smoke up my ass the way parents do. Well, I just finished something like 26th grade with two master's degrees and a PhD, so I no longer believe he's full of it, but I also watched those of my friends who were smart enough to NOT go for the extra decade of school become "successful", as measured by material possessions, while I'm still a starving postdoc. The PhD? Yeah, it's a very expensive member's only club that doesn't have many perks. I should've stayed in industry.