I used to compete with men. I’d try to show them that I was the same as them, sometimes in silly ways. I would eat the spiciest food, try the most exotic sushi, move the heavy load, watch the scary movie.
But I’m not a man. I’m not the same as them. I don’t want to measure myself against their ruler, gauge myself as they do. I am equal, but not identical. You could conceptualize this by saying we’re on opposite sides of the fulcrum. However, since most of our societies were built up by men, the instinct is still for women to keep up with men on their terms, like a little sister trying to keep up with a big brother in his own game. We assume that the game is Follow The Leader. Really, I think it is more like See-Saw, taking turns, up and down, alternating who is leading, who is on top. Or at least it should be like that.
I may seem distracted or unfocused at times. The truth is that I see the complexity in things far too easily. It’s part of my multitasking mind. There are both good and bad things about having a mind that works this way, just as there are good and bad things about having a mind that sees the singularity more easily. I like the phrase “it depends” which so accurately describes the interdependence of all things. A thing depends on other things, and other things depend on it. Since I’ve become a parent, I’ve had a new appreciation for my ability to parallel process. It’s definitely an attribute.
But I digress.
In the end, people who can more easily isolate an issue and people who see how an issue relates to other issues need each other. We balance each other on the fulcrum. If everyone on one side of the see-saw tried to sit on the other side, everything would come to a halt. It’s only by being true to one’s own strengths that we can find balance.
I’ve come this far in writing only to realize that what I’m really talking about isn’t men and women, but diversity. The diversity of thinking and problem-solving and being, and how historical paradigms hurt us all by funneling everyone into one set of values. I’m realizing now that the metaphorical see-saw needs more than two seats. Many more. And I’m realizing that it’s not about other people, it’s about myself. After all, the things we say about others are often a comment we’re making about some aspect of ourselves. I’ll try again. Maybe an anecdote about my son will help me push through.
Sunboy has a book that says “No brain is the same, no brain is the best, each brain finds its own special way.” We teach our children to find their own voice, find their own strengths. Yet, the longer we are categorized, quantified and socialized, the more we buy into the paradigm of a singular vision of success, and a singular vision of processing information, thinking and doing.
Sunboy is convinced that the fastest car will always be the best car. We remind him that the world is more complex than that. The world needs things that are slow, needs things that are efficient, needs things that are very careful, needs things that are beautiful, needs things to be innovative. The world needs diversity. So let’s not all try to be the fastest. Let’s not over-value any one trait above all others.
Reflecting on these conversations with Sunboy makes me feel I don’t have anything to prove. I left a competitive environment in which I tried to fit into the typical paradigm, the race to be the fastest. And then I had children. By some scales I am certain I’m perceived as being a failure because I dropped out of the race. Some might see it as an acknowledgment of not being the fastest. I’m sure that by many measures I will undoubtedly be dominated. Maybe I was just on the wrong side of the multi-dimensional see-saw. Maybe I just needed to go where being fast is not the predominant measure.
My brain – like all brains – is finding its way. For me, this sometimes involves doing all of the tasks at once in a multitasking, organized frenzy. Sometimes it means being highly logical, or it might mean being highly creative and non-linear in thought. My brain likes to mix it up.
There’s different types of diversity. The diversity of groups and of the world. But there’s also diversity within ourselves. We cheat ourselves and our partners on the other side of the fulcrum if we cling to external paradigms. Don’t be fast. Be you. And what are you? Well, it depends.