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The Things I Don’t Know Could Fill a ……

So, maybe Melatonin is not my friend.

I tried an OTC sleep aid last night in an effort to get through the night without waking up anxious. I stayed asleep all right, but lived out the anxiety in my dreams instead.

What wakes me up most nights is the realization that life is passing me by and there is so much I’ve neglected to learn. Panic sets in when I realize I have no idea what I should have learned by this point. All I know is there’s a lot I’ve refused to study because I couldn’t sit still and focus long enough on something that had no discernible point. When I was diagnosed at age 35 with adult ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and was eligible for special work accommodations according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), I decided to TKO (Technically Knock Out) my WTFI (Will To Fit In). You can give me the quietest workspace in the world but I’m still going to want to wander around and chat. There’s no fighting it.

More than 10 years later, what really worries me is that I am no more intellectually superior nor highly educated than a certain former Governor of Alaska who is proud of her unworldliness, and I have far less to show for it. Back in the day when she and I were in our formative years (we are the same age), we had little more than our own small pond to swim around in. There was barely a means to connect with our friends who were only 10 miles away, unlike today when we can communicate with someone in Australia in a matter of seconds. Regardless of the physical size of Alaska, it’s still a small pond in the scheme of things. Clear across the country, my pond was no bigger but I had found a way to take up a fair amount of volume, just as she had. The main difference? She’s hot. I’m not.

So here I am living in Florida, an intellectual small pond but with access to the whole world, where I am at least hotter than Mrs. Palin temperature-wise. Yesterday I learned that Tampa ranks in the bottom ten out of 55 large cities for high IQs and their requisite jobs. Our area also boasts a population of less than 25% with college degrees. So with my 150 or so college credits, none of which combine to create an actual degree, I am sort of a big fish again… one that picks up dog shit for a living because I make more money doing that part time than most of the jobs I could have gotten full-time with my college education. And the commute is a lot shorter. Bottom line: shit is shit, whether it stinks or not. Might as well get paid respectably for dealing with it.

But when I get feeling arrogant about my intellect and the fact that I’m not using it for higher purposes, I remember a favorite quote from the movie, “Good Will Hunting”. With the exception that Will is a genius and I am not (quite), I can relate to him. I think Mrs. Palin probably can too.

“See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you’re gonna staht doin some thinkin on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And Two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library.”

Then Will’s therapist brings home the reality of that particular theory:

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.”

I learned yesterday that the story I wrote for the 3-minute Fiction contest on NPR didn’t win. I didn’t expect it to, and in fact it would be highly unfair if it had since I was being entirely cheeky about the subject. There are people who pour themselves into becoming good writers as was evidenced by some of the follow-up comments to the winning story. In my usual style of bouncing around and not committing my mind to anything for long, I don’t put much effort into the outcome of my output.

But I wrote about what I knew, about what affects me, and I will continue to do that for the rest of my life because it helps me organize my freakishly scattered thoughts. I could read all the books in the world but none of them would tell me what it’s like to be me.

Maybe someday I’ll publish a book about all the things I know…. but unlike Sarah Palin, I will be ever mindful that the book about all the things I don’t know can never be finished.

  1. Larry
    November 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Ellen, your fans love your writing, not because of your (considerable) intellect or because you’ve won awards. We read your blog because you share stories and observations from your heart. And when you share, it touches our hearts in some way and helps us reflect on our own lives. François de la Rochefoucauld once said “Eighty percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think. I can change how you think, but how you feel is something deeper and stronger, and it’s something that’s inside you.” Your writing has the capacity to change the way we feel, and that is a skill that is rare, indeed. Thank you.

  2. Leahan
    November 15, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Ellen, you are NO Sarah Palin!!! You have more talent in your little finger than she has intellect in one brain cell!!! I am in awe of your way with words and your incredible ability to turn paint into murals that make you want to walk right into them…OUCH! Your words make me laugh, cry, reflect and look at my own life! Oddly, the more you describe yourself, the more I find we have in common! Although I haven’t had the honor of meeting you (yet) I feel like I know you and I look forward to the day I do! Thank you for being you (I know…like you had a choice!)

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