Sometimes on the way to your dream,

you get lost and find a better one.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

sometimes my brain is a fog of bewilderment

I sometimes wish I was "Big Bang Theory" smart.
I'm not.
Most of the time I'm happy enough the way I am.
But I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

When I was very young, I was constantly praised by my parents for being clever.
To the point where I was convinced I was practically a genius and would someday be someone very important.
After all, I did learn to read when I was three.
(I've since realised that I was being compared to my older sibling.)

Looking back on this now, I know that I learnt to read, not by picking up a book and having the squiggles called letters suddenly form themselves into words that I could understand, but by listening in and watching the words, as my mum spent hours and hours every single week helping my older sister learn to read. My sister is three and a half years older than me, and was born retarded. Use whatever politically correct term you wish, the meaning is the same.
I'm told that one day, after my sister once more broke into tears because she could not read the first page of Dick and Dora, I picked up the book and read the whole first chapter to show her how easy it was.
From then on I read everything I could get my hands on.
Starting school was a disappointment since we had to learn to read Dick and Dora and I already knew them.

So, I was convinced I was clever. And for a while, school reaffirmed this for me. Primary school work was easy for me, I coasted through it.
High school was a shock. I had to learn to pay attention, something I'd barely bothered with before. Homework was expected to be handed in. On time!

My dad didn't agree with homework, as far as he was concerned, the teacher taught us in school, if she couldn't get through the lessons, we shouldn't have to finish them at home in our own time.

He didn't realise and wouldn't be told the true purpose of homework. He said I didn't need to do it. So sometimes I didn't, especially if it was French homework. I hated French! More correctly, I hated the French teacher. Naturally, I failed French, so got bumped down to the B grade class in the second term. Where I discovered I still had to learn French, but I'd lost my favourite Latin.
Ho Hum.

I knew already that I was only going to school until I was old enough to leave, so didn't bother trying too hard. But even without trying too hard, I was good at several subjects. English, History, Science, Math.; consistently scoring in the 75-80% range. In Math I was even top of the class a couple of times, in the end of term exams. This reinforced my "I'm smart" belief.

But, once I'd left school, at 15, I was expected to get a job. (I was also expected to get married and raise babies. Because that's what girls do. According to my dad.*)

Working was a whole different experience! I was in an environment with people who had gone further in school, and who had worked for some time. I felt like a fish out of water. I'd lost my comfort zone. Senior workers were asked to train me in whatever position I was learning and because they'd done this work "forever", they knew the job inside out and showed me what to do without really explaining how and why things were done. I felt stupid when I didn't pick things up immediately, and even more stupid when I made mistakes and they'd sigh heavily and show me again.

Once I'd learnt something, I was okay with it, so if I was in any job for long enough I became quite skilled, and felt comfortable doing my work.

Fast forward to my present job. I've been a checkout chook for 8 years now. The first year was hard. I'm not really a people person, and wasn't comfortable having to make conversation with customers. (Possibly my hearing loss may have something to do with this.)
Add to that my scanning and packing skills hadn't yet developed enough for me to be comfortable, I was forever anxious that I'd make a mistake and the boss would come breathing down my neck.
Several months into it, I realised things had changed. I knew what I was doing. If I made a mistake, I knew how to fix it, without calling for help. I began to relax into the job and it became fun for me. I even discovered that I could talk to the customers without breaking into a clammy sweat.

Fast forward again to my current predicament. I'm unable to do the checkout work, so I'm being employed as a "floater".
Filling in and helping out. In different departments. Where I don't know the work well enough.

I'm being shown what to do, by people who are in a hurry to get back to what they are doing, so it's a case of do this, this, then this, and off they go, leaving me to try and figure out what the heck they meant. A lot is easily worked out, but sometimes I have to go looking for this person. Asking what have I done wrong? Why is this machine not working?
Feeling stupid because I haven't understood. I know it's wrong to feel this way, but there it is. I do feel it, then I'm pissed off at myself.
Yesterday, for instance, something was explained to me and another girl, fairly quickly. She understood immediately and the two of them carried on while I pretended to understand and learned by copying what they were doing. I didn't want to ask even more questions and appear stupid.
This morning, I remembered what I did yesterday and the work went without a hitch.
But tomorrow if they throw me another learning curve, I'll feel the fog closing in on my brain again.
I'm left wondering, am I stupid? Or have I just not learnt how to learn? I avoid new things because I'm afraid of appearing stupid.
New information seems to just breeze on through without sticking. Unless I go over it and over it. Once I've learned it, I tell myself how clever I am. But am I really?

I see people around me who are able to assimilate knowledge of a large range of things, more than one at a time and much faster than me. I'm envious of this ability.

So I go home and read. I lose myself in fiction novels, because sometimes the real world just seems too hard.
I watch TV. I watch The Big Bang Theory, because I "get" that the jokes are funny even though I don't always know why, so I laugh in the right places, then I feel clever.

* I was raised by my dad, because my mum left home when I was seven.


  1. I love 'Big Bang'. Tom1 his downloading the new series so we watched a new one last night.

    I wouldn't worry about the brain fog stuff. No one likes being out of their comfort zone, and you've obviously proved that you can adapt and learn new skills.

  2. The Brainfog you experience is not yours alone, River and I know why you hate it so much, especially right now, trying to heal your shoulder and be thrown in as a 'floater'.

    I learned that I could play up being blonde and *did* ask questions. It was embarassing at first, but I then started noticing that there'd always be someone else in the room/around the meeting table/campfire/dinner party/shopfloor who looked relieved because *someone else* had asked.

    Even when it's clear that I'm bothering someone or they're busy and think that I should have got something the first time, I'll still swallow my pride and ask. I'd never say it to their face (well, not unless I was justifiably angry) but they too have a responsibility to me - if they're training me or explaining something they have to make sure that the message is understood and that they can spare some time to make sure that it is.

    As for French, I HATED it too!

    And The Big Bang Theory is delicious and you don't have to get the physics references - I sure as hell don't - or all the pop culture ones - and I wonder if it's Penny who despite being more of the 'straight man' is the one who represents us, the viewer? She either is open about saying 'I have no idea what you're talking about' or seeing the guys for what they are - lovable misfits.

  3. all what Kath said, from me too.
    I even have brain-fog on blogs and miss the point and leave dumb comments.
    I am stunned by your mother's story. Working so hard for your sister and then cracking-up. She must have agonised over her decision. I am always saying to Coppy that everybody has a saga behind them. Mine is in front of me as well, and that's why I have the laptop on my chest in bed reading blogs at 8am.
    I am always impressed by the endurance of checkout people, and often say "I hope I am the worst customer you have to tolerate today".
    peace and love from Ann O'D and Marshall Stacks too

  4. River, on the radio last night they had Fabian Dattner explaining about leadership and she stated (with plenty of callers backing her up) the best thing anyone can do is admit they don't understand or ask for clarification as not only does it show others you're prepared to admit you don't know but it encourages others to ask for help/guidance in things, too.
    So, don't feel stupid asking, it's the best thing to do, management consultants say so!
    If anyone gives you a hard time, just laugh and say "It's better that I ask now than interrupt your lunch break later, hey?" ;)

  5. I so hear you on almost every aspect of this post, chook.
    I also often feel fogged in and a bit like I'm-the-only-one-who-doesn't-get-this. I put it down to the fact that people have different learning styles.
    For example, I have a clever talented friend who CANNOT learn to use Photoshop from reading my instructions -- she needs to see it done, whereas I need the written instructions.
    I agree with Jayne. My husband is in a training position right now, and he LOVES it when his men ask questions. It shows they WANT to learn and they want to do the job properly.

  6. Frogdancer; Big Bang is the BEST thing on TV, my daughter K is downloading episodes of season 4 for me, I'll be watching them Friday night. No brain fog today thank goodness.

    Kath; one of the reasons I have trouble asking for help goes back to childhood, when I somehow got the message that if I couldn't manage things on my own I wasn't much good was I? How I ever arrived at that conclusion, I'll never know. I've been independent (struggling alone) almost all my life.
    I love Penny! I love how she's dragging the boys into real life when they'd prefer to stay just as they were, and I like how they're helping her be a little different too.
    It's nice to meet someone else who hates French. Are we the only two on the planet?

    BwcaBrownie; welcome. My mum took my sister with her when she went, also my younger brother who had epilepsy, she knew dad wouldn't be able to cope. I was left because apparently when asked if I wanted to go I said no. At the time I probably thought she was just making one of her many shopping trips to the city and I didn't realise she wasn't coming back. There's more to that story....
    Thanks to Ann and Marshall.

    Jayne; I've learned that the best ting i can do is ask for help, but it isn't always easy for me, like I said to Kath earlier. Depending on the situation, I'll say straight away if I don't understand, or I'll pretend I've understood, then ask questions later under the pretext of clarification. And I HAVE interrupted lunch breaks....

    Toni; It's not only different learning styles, it's different teaching styles as well. I clearly remember our History teacher who droned on all day with dull facts, when we had a substitute teacher later in the year, she really made the history come alive for us! As for instructions, well, sometimes I can follow written instructions, sometimes I need to see it done and write my own version of instructions in words that I can understand when referring to them later. Other times I can watch something done once and have it stick forever in my memory. And thanks for reminding me that I need a new photoshop program, adding it to my list right now.

  7. I lost my mother too when I was seven, the government took her away from me. What a stupid little country.

  8. The brightest bulb in the chandelier is destined to burn out first! And how is 'clever' actually measured? Now I'll bet you ANYTHING you like (with the possible exception of my super) that the people who 'catch on' faster than you at work don't have your writing skills! I don't think I've read anything quite so evocative as your post about the first coffee of the day ...

    Happy travels!

  9. R.H. the government took her?? Why would they do such a thing?

    Red Nomad OZ; for some, clever is measured in IQ points, for others it's how quickly you "catch on", some people measure clever as how many things they know as opposed to being able to do only one or two things really well. There isn't any real way to measure it, since it means such different things to almost everyone.