When You Are Raised In An Outline

17 Feb

I was raised in an outline.

No, not under a rock. Yes, I was sheltered, but not quite in that sort of way. Rocks prevent you from seeing the sky or the grass or the wind or the stars or the storms or anything, frankly, that isn’t already under that rock with you.

No, I could see more than that. I knew what else there was. I saw the stars and the storm and the lust and the poverty and the decisions and the choices and the birth and the death and the lifestyle and the beliefs and the very different ways of breathing out there. From my own little prescriptive outline, I could see all these other formats. Most I considered mere variations on the theme and format my limbs were propped up against. While I made my points in A-B-C some other person with really the same main header even if they said it differently was arguing for it as I-II-III. It was all right. We were really writing the same essay. We just said our oh so neat and oh so powerful five paragraphs differently. But we each still had our patterns, our expectations of our personal rise and falls and the great shape that our lives and humanity were supposed to take.

Everything else, the remainder of non-outline chaotic confusion, I just assumed was a deviation. An outlier. Those were not-even-essays where the structure had gone horribly, horribly wrong. They clearly didn’t work. They babbled. Said nothing. Destroyed their own sentences or tripped up their points later. There was no way anyone could consider them valid. There was no structure. No logic. No empathy. No – anything. No, this could not be a sufficient response to what the world, I assumed, expected of us all. This, as my outline out-dolers had told me, was unacceptable.

Imagine my shock and utter confusion when I discovered that these rules and regulations, this structure, this expectation I had molded myself to and excelled at filling – that it was not the norm.

I was the outlier.

I was the deviation.

My expectations were wrong.

The world was easier to get by in than that. It was crueler, more inattentive, it cared not for courtesy or protocol or forethought for one’s fellow humans.

Get your words out on the page; it matters not how.

So many babbling idiots – I understood then why the world so often wrote in blood.

But still – my ink, it glistened so.

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One Response to “When You Are Raised In An Outline”

  1. Morgan February 17, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    Writing structure is a really interesting metaphor here. I can see a wide array of possible interpretations to what you are saying here. I will respond to the one that leaped out at me (in a much less poetic fashion), even though I might be missing the mark.

    Every Monday morning I get about two hundred to two hundred and fifty resumes. I can’t possibly interview every one of these people, but somehow I have to take this enormous wall of text and turn it into a list of 5-10 candidates I can interview. I only have a few hours I can afford to spend on this task. I have to use heuristics to get it done.

    It’s literally impossible. Study after study have shown that the wall of bias is too thick. The best managers in the world are worse than chance at this. Not slightly better than chance or equal to chance. I know I am worse at this than a coin toss. My rubrics are arbitrary because as hard as I wrack my brain for non-arbitrary filtering criteria … I just can’t and I have no confidence yet that I’ll ever find them.

    This rule based part of it, the raw “meritocracy” part, is the part that strikes me as cold and lacking empathy. It makes me a little sick because I am acutely aware that this is actually a stack of 200-250 human beings with lives and stories, who are probably in difficult transitory moments in their lives and I have no choice but to reduce them to their resumes and a checklist of criteria. And I know that for every 5-10 people that I contact I am statistically likely to be passing on 3-7 people that are more amazing.

    Now … when I meet someone at a conference or in a social context and we talk about careers and life and goals. Now there’s a person there in my mind. A narrative. And when their resume comes in I know that that one missing criteria from the hard and fast list is not really relevant for them because I know them and I know some other part of their story covers that requirement or at least what that requirement was intended to select for. This isn’t fair to the people who will never find a way to speak to me personally, but its more fair to the person that I’ve met. And I suppose I would prefer to elevate fairness and humanness in at least one small space even if other spaces must be neglected.

    I suppose this particular story is too specific to function as a broadly applicable metaphor. But I view the structure, the rules, the checklist as the inhuman and unfair part and the human connections that can transcend those rules as a step closer to empathy and a way to to touch the person beneath the paragraphs.

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