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Realizations about paths in society - Sara

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March 20th, 2015


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10:31 pm - Realizations about paths in society
I thought I'd write down some thoughts so that I can have a (quasi)permanent record of them.

I've realized lately that there are some channels that are open to me and some channels that are closed. There are social norms that govern our lives, which prohibit certain actions and activities in certain places and contexts. For example, on the street in Winnipeg I am unlikely to meet a person who will smile and nod at me or say "Good morning".

You can fight those social facts, or you can acquiesce to them. If you acquiesce and "go with the flow", you will use up less energy and be less frustrated. If you fight, you will get worked up, angry, and no further ahead.

There are definite channels through which each of us, dependent on our social position, can express ourselves and find satisfaction. The channels open to me depend on who I know, what I have done for a career, organizations I interface with, and so on. Those are the opportunities I have in life.

I can't just dream of a random goal or opportunity and have it manifest itself by dreaming. There are only so many options easily open. The unopened options are like roads that simply don't exist for me. If I was driving a car down the street, and had three roads I could turn onto, it would be irrational to drive on the sidewalk or boulevard instead. I would look at the three roads and follow them. It is not only easier, it is more sensible. Perhaps what others would call "sane".

The people I know, my friends and family, are my roads. The French class I'm taking and enjoying, as well. The Toastmasters. The music lessons I've started. The editor at the CBC who has published two of my pieces. The people at the community radio station who enjoy working with me. The people I've met at the Museum while working there, and the concrete experiences I've had for my resume. The experience I'm getting as a volunteer EAL instructor. Past jobs.

I've realized that there is no road forward with the Museum, because of my lack of French skills (the Musem Educator type positions are nearly all bilingual). I railed against this for a long time, but now I feel it would most gracious to just move on. This is an example of a structural constraint in society that I cannot change simply by being angry. My term position is almost over, I've had a good year and a half of employment with them, and it's time to move on.

I got permission to take a 2nd year sociology course this spring. I am now reading Durkheim. Durkheim's essay on "social facts" has inspired this. The prof and I had some interests in common. This could be another one of those openings, another road for me.

No use to wish for some abstract future road that doesn't actually physically exist. There are some things I want to do and hope to use to affect the community, like an idea for a gathering in the park behind my apartment, to bring neighbours together. But only a certain amount of innovation is within my power. As Durkheim says, innovators have to fight against the existing status quo. And it's a hard fight, not one I should feel pushed to make every day of my life.

I'm going to start regarding situations where I question the norms (e.g. everyone keeping to themselves on the bus) as an opportunity to gracefully glide in the prevailing social winds, as opposed to frustrations of or affronts to my personal needs. The nature of social facts is that they impose themselves upon us, externally, without us willing it. This is the nature of living in society. I've been dealing with way too much anger the past few weeks, and on and off for a long time, and I've decided that raging against things I cannot change is not the best way to direct my energy. I have plenty of friends, plenty of channels open to me. Let me accept what I cannot change and enjoy the chances I do have, which are considerably richer than they have been in the past. Through those already open channels, life will blossom and grow. Just like the plant grows from a root, then a stem, then enjoys the fresh air, my life has to keep growing in the directions it's already headed.

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