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C10P06 – That would be silly

C10P06 – That would be silly published on 15 Comments on C10P06 – That would be silly

You’re a pretty terrible liar, Mizha. Also, when thought about logically, what an odd stereotype to have. If every single Timu could just call up and chat with the god of knowledge on a regular basis, I imagine Itsuri history would have turned out quite differently.

It’s fun to play the “What If?” game with history. What if X technology was invented by persona A instead of person B? What if Famous Battle Q was won by the other side? What if person Z had survived a particularly perilous encounter, or if a person that survived had died instead? Looking at the ripples that a single event could have made makes us realize how important even small events can be.

I was struck by this idea one day when we were teaching the class about rights. We were talking about different kinds of rights, dividing them into categories. Health and Safety, Education and Play, Basic Survival Needs, and Participation and Expression were the four groups. The kids were supposed to come up with one right they thought they had, and to place it on the board. At some point, one kid asked the teacher and I what we would have put down. I said, “I have the right to be educated the same way as everyone else in my classroom.”

I started describing to them my mother, who often told me how she wanted to be a biologist when she was growing up, but since girls in her country (at the time she was growing up) were not permitted to learn math past roughly 6th grade, that was never an option for her. As I started talking, I found myself getting inexplicably emotional. The teacher and I talked about it afterwards, and I explained, “My mother was always so bitter about that. I wondered how things might have been different, if she hadn’t been given a cause to be so angry about at such a young age. Maybe she would have been just the same, but perhaps she would have been a happier and more fulfilled person. And it made me wonder how all of our lives could have been different.”

How might your life be different, if one small thing had been changed?

15 Comments

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I think about things like that a lot. Education-related, I also got held back in math between 7th and 8th grade because I was a new student at the school. Even though I had gotten an A at my old school, the principal was worried that it would be too much for me having just moved. I wasn’t really confident enough yet to advocate for myself, and my family wasn’t very involved in my education, so it meant that I was set back a year on math and science. I wasn’t able to take the honors classes I would have needed to to get into good colleges.

I would have liked to have had the option, or feel like someone was involved enough to speak for me in that. But overall, I don’t like to dwell on “what ifs” that made my life worse, but the ones that were blessings in disguise. I didn’t need to take out any student loans to get my education because my options were limited to the inexpensive schools. And it really opened my eyes to the concept that college wasn’t the only deciding factor in my direction/success as an adult, which was an important lesson to learn.

…Small thing? I dunno. There’s a big thing I think about a lot, but maybe it can be traced back to a small thing.

The one I think about far too often is, “What if my dad didn’t go crazy?” He’s not committed/diagnosed, probably won’t be in the near future. Doesn’t seem crazy when you talk to him. Is perfectly capable of making a good impression on people.

Makes terrible financial decisions, the same kind of thing over and over again. Doesn’t provide for the family he used to be so proud of. Is semi-homeless and semi-jobless and keeps being surprised when people insist he either pay his bills or go away and never come back. Is sometimes weirdly overconfident in things he should not believe so easily, or should not believe at all.

My mom told me recently that he started to get odd after his mother died. I’m his eldest child of four, and I have one memory of her, from when she was already deathly ill. So I wonder, what if his mother had lived longer?

My mom says that before my dad’s father died, she asked him if he understood what was happening with my dad. My grandfather didn’t know, and he was desperately sick himself at that point, not able to really look into it. What if my grandfather had lived longer?

Both my grandparents died of lung cancer. Both were smokers. Both had tried, halfheartedly, to quit, several times in their lives. What if they’d quit for reals?

My father once told me that they’d sneak out to the backyard to cheat on their “quitting” attempts without screwing up their spouse. But really, is there any way you wouldn’t know your spouse had been smoking, as your body ached and yearned and you smelled the fresh smoke on their clothes? What if they’d been better at hiding their slips?

…But that’s the smallest I can make the cause of all this, and I’m relying on a lot of assumptions to do so. If I try to trace it further back than that, it just gets bigger.

What if they’d never been introduced to smoking? That would require the entire social world of their youth to change. What if the pressure on them to quit had been stronger, and earlier? The whole culture around smoking would have to shift decades ahead of when it did.

What if… my grandfather hadn’t hung out with a certain group of friends? He wouldn’t have married my grandmother. What if he’d been less rebellious, acted out less, and eventually been less authoritarian with his own children? Well, maybe if his mother had actually cared for her children instead of handing them off to her relatives. What if my great-grandmother had been the kind to bond closely with her children, or to not have them if she wasn’t going to keep them? She’d have to be someone else entirely than she was, and my grandfather would never have been born. I would never have been born.

It sounds like you’ve had to deal with a lot of painful “What ifs” in your life. You make an interesting point about how far back to trace the thoughts. I’ve looked back at my own family legacy of ugly truths and wondered at how it could lead to where I am now. I hope that I can be a positive force to turn that legacy away from a negative path. I hope that if I ever have children, I can be in control of my own fate enough not to pass on the worst of all that to them.

Then again, to Mizha, contacting a god is probably almost normalized because of her and her mother’s worship of the Rainbow Goddess. And her father is the High Sage. It’s probably weird to her that anyone doesn’t talk to gods.

I do wonder about education a lot. I went to a religious school, so we had science education on alternate Wednesdays. (The other Wednesdays were for musical theory.) It wasn’t all creationist, but it also wasn’t very thorough. I remember learning about volcanoes and maybe the water cycle. As such, I went into high school not knowing much of anything about science, and high school didn’t help. When I got to college, it was like my whole world opened up because I could take intro science courses, but at the same time I was already so far behind that I had developed other, more important interests.

I mean, I’m happy to be a writer, and I’m happy with the direction my life is taking, but I also wonder what my life would have been like if I had been introduced to science earlier–if I could have actually developed an interest in a scientific job.

I agree that Mizha’s perspective when it comes to gods is very different than the average person. In part due to the family life you outlined, as well as her isolation.

As for the occupational elements — speaking as a person that’s done a 180 on career paths — if your heart ever leads you elsewhere, you have more time than you might think to follow it.

I often think if my folks hadn’t split when I was fifth grade, I wouldn’t spend so much time working on my various fantasy stories instead of doing math homework. 🙁
‘Course, there are a lot of other factors going into that, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time using stuff from my Psychology class this year to analyze what was probably going through my head back then. Root of the problem: give a ten year old a very stark portrayal of evidence that her father doesn’t care about maintaining the family, and what do a few math assignments matter against trying to stop mom from going off the deep end?
Over six years later, and that’s still an issue.
At least I have plenty of plot-fodder for my books.

I have one big what-if I enjoy playing with. I wouldn’t make the change given the ability, probably, I’ve learned a lot from my life and I wouldn’t throw out any of my experiences no matter how miserable for that reason. But I had a major decision point with long-term impact when I was around five years old.

That was when my mom asked if I wanted to take ballet or Kumon (which was an early-learning math program).

Seems a silly thing to make such a big difference, right? I picked Kumon, because I craved learning and I already thoroughly enjoyed math. Alas, thanks to Kumon, that didn’t last. Not the love of learning – I still go batty if I don’t get education on a regular basis – but the love of math.

Kumon based their assessment of a student’s readiness to advance on timed tests. I write rather slowly even now – I was pretty well glacial, then. So the only way I could pass the test and be allowed to learn more was to master the arithmetic to the point where I literally didn’t have to think about the answer. Just write-write-write as fast as I could with no time to think, looking at the next problem before I’d finished writing the answer for the current one.

I was only in Kumon for a couple years, but after that, I only really enjoyed that math I knew well enough to be really easy. If I had to THINK about it, I got really frustrated and hit mental blocks left and right. I have that problem with no other subject, even ones that use that part of the brain. And I have an unusually good natural feel for physics for a woman, and I thoroughly enjoy science – until I get to the point where it involves advanced math.

So I often wonder – if I’d chosen ballet instead, where would I be now? Without Kumon in my past, might I now be a physicist instead of an aspiring artist? Or might I have discovered a talent for dancing, and have a career in that now?

It’s impossible to say, all I know for sure is that decision had a big impact on my life.

It’s a shame that the teaching style put such a strong block on math for you. Since entering the education world, I’ve learned very quickly that there is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to learning. Forcing children to perform in one way can be so damaging to developing their actual strengths.

And as a side note, since this particular issue is a hot button one for me, there is no such thing as “unusually good natural feel for physics for a woman.” There is just having a knack for physics. Period. As someone that graduated with honors as an Engineer and who is friends with some absolutely brilliant female physicists, I can attest to the fact that gender has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether or not a person “gets” physics. And if anyone has ever made you feel as though men are somehow mystically, genetically, inherently superior in that field, they are, quite simply, wrong. Both from an empirical and logical standpoint. /rant

….that is a perfect opening to one of my favorite debates, but I shall refrain from getting started because it sounds like you’re invested enough in the topic for it to be too emotional to be a fun mental exercise ^_^()

And I’ll point out that I don’t let that block keep me from learning math in the long run. I never sell back my textbooks, so I still have my calculus one, and periodically I sit down and start doing the assignments in it from the beginning again. When they start getting fun, I know I’ve really mastered that part, and move on to beating my head against the next chapter.

It is definitely an emotional issue. Math and physics in particular have always come to me naturally. And I’ve had to deal with 10+ years of men looking at me, seeing I’m a woman, and immediately assuming I’m too stupid to understand even the rudimentary elements of those subjects. I have sat down in calculus classes and had male students take it upon themselves to explain “the hard maths for the pretty lady” as the teacher was talking. I’ve had men argue the only reason I got good grades was “affirmative action.” And I’ve had those same men complain that there were “no worthwhile women” in the school, to my face, on the grounds that I wasn’t “hot enough to count.” Of course, they also claimed they’d “seen a hot woman once in the library…but she must have been lost to end up there.”

So yes. It’s an emotional issue. It’s also a complex issue even on a scientific ground, as often studies either fail to account for cultural/educational influences, or vastly overstate/represent the differences in their results. But that’s statistics. If you make the right assumptions and you narrow your data to the right points, you can make the “results” say pretty much anything you want them to.

I used to be bothered by that sort of thing too – I am prone to sticking my head in traditionally male-dominated fields (I didn’t start out as an aspiring artist, I only figured out that was where my passions were a few years ago), and gotten similar reactions. Then I turned my head around on the matter, and most of the time it doesn’t bug me anymore – I treat as competition instead. And take a great deal of pleasure in the reaction when a prejudiced guy realizes he was just ‘beaten by a girl’.

The one thing on the matter that still really bugs me is when they deny my femininity as a result of my interests and preferred hobbies – one incident in particular still bugs me, in anime club in college. I was one of two women in the club, and the other wasn’t there that day – they started discussing showing some hentai, and I pointed out that there WAS a girl in the room (the rampant fanservice is one thing, I can ignore that, hentai is another matter entirely) and got treated to a rousing chorus of ‘You’re not a girl, you’re a guy with boobs!’. -.-() I wore skirts for a month after that, just to prove I was female.

Admittedly, I only had the ‘trying to explain things while the teacher’s talking’ happen once, and that was readily solved – we had an exam the next day, I scored twenty points higher than he did, and he shut up after that. As I said. I thrive on competition.

And yes…I agree that statistics have problems in that regard. Now that I think about it, that does make it just about impossible to really do a study on the subject – there are far too many variables involved, since no-one’s going to stand for the sort of human experimentation needed (take a large group, a few thousand or so, as babies, raise them all the same way, give them the exact same educational opportunities, test them for IQ, various aptitudes, and knowledge of various subjects every few months, well into adulthood…).

This question is something I think about a lot. It’s interesting, because every good thing in my life right now can be traced back to a single, isolated point in time – a single incident, something so small and miniscule that it’s insane. Nothing I have, do, or like right now that came after that instant would be in my life at all, if that instant hadn’t happened.

It’s kind of terrifying.

Fanfiction.net’s review servers were down, so I sent a private message to an author to review their work.

Such a really tiny, inconsequential thing, to be a life-changing event. Most people think of life-changing events as fires or car crashes or wars, but to me, it was a website’s feature being down that changed my life forever.

That guy that I reviewed is now my ex-boyfriend and one of my best friends. His support helped me leave an abusive friendship. He introduced me to almost all my current hobbies and the love of my life. My hobbies introduced me to all my current friends. I’d never have left home, or at least would have left for a very different place. I’d be much worse off – but who knows what friends I might have met or been introduced to? All the friends I had before that point in my life have moved on or grown apart. I wouldn’t read Leylines – or maybe I would, but I wouldn’t have come to it the same way. It’s so strange.

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