Today I received a slightly early but unusual and also unintentional birthday present thanks to my job. For a variety of reasons, my immediate supervisor and I (who are the two members of a small team called the Excelerators because of our work with reports), have been discontented with the state of some of the databases that we have to deal with on a regular basis. Serendipitously, I received a question about whether I wanted to take half a dozen classes on database management over the next few months, which I agreed to rather rapidly. I must say that I have no great knowledge of database management, but given that it relates to what I do for work and is close to some areas of competence of mine, I was quick to take advantage of opportunities to learn.
In general, I have a very large hunger for knowledge that is not particularly systematic. Nevertheless, there is a strong sense of logic about the way I operate. My love for knowledge and its manifestations in my life exist as the balance in a tension between two very strong and somewhat counteractive tendencies. On the one hand, I have a wide openness to just about every aspect of human existence and a thirst for knowledge that is insatiable and essentially limitless. This pull, obviously, tends to lead to large amounts of academic interest, including the massive amount of books I review for scholarly journals  as well a heavy burden of student debt from an undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees . As it happens, the six classes being taught about Database Management are being offered by the local community college here, and ironically enough for all of my education I’ve never taken any technical sort of classes from a community college before, unless one counts my performance in the Saint Petersburg College’s Community Orchestra during 2009-2010.
On the other hand, I have a extreme amount of caution when it comes to my behavior, moving very timidly one step at a time. Over and over again this has been a brake to my extreme caution, only moving just barely beyond what I am already comfortable with and competent in, and not racing ahead. Examples of this tenedency in my life abound, whether one is looking at the glacial pace in which I publish books relative to writing material, at the very belated and private decision I made to study military history , at my decision not to start college at fifteen when I had the opportunity to do so, and even as far back in life as the way I learned how to walk (according to family) holding on to furniture after walking for six months, only at about a year of life making a tentative step to get a beloved toy, only to realize I could balance myself after all. This is the way it has been in all walks of life, whether one has dealt with my studies, with love, with areas like music or writing. Progress in any realm of my life has depended on little victories that over time build great success. Rather than being the sort of person who has succeeded in large and massive tasks, I am someone who has succeeded best when there has been measurable progress one step at a time, building a better world brick by brick like the lego blocks I enjoyed playing with as a child.
One could say that my characteristic approach to life is a balance between openness and caution, between curiosity and fear, and between expansiveness and timidity. The specific terrain of my knowledge and competence has been the result of small successes built upon each other little by little, expanding in some cases to very wide realms, in other cases to modest but respectable achievements, and in those areas where success has been lacking, to extremely meager results. The disinclination to make a giant leap without achieving repeated small successes has made the price of initial failures rather heavy in some parts of my life. Like my walking, though, a long period of status only awaits a small positive circumstance to change dramatically, even though it is impossible to predict exactly how those small successes will come, or when, or from which direction. I am certainly not skilled enough as a prophet to determine exactly what nature my life will take; just like everyone else, I am along for the ride and aware that small circumstances will continue to play a huge course in the shape that my life takes as has been the case in my life so far.
So, not only do I have good reason to thank my supervisor for being willing to ask me if I was willing to take classes (even if they start next week and I do not have the logistical details on how and when I will be able to take the classes), but also, I appreciate the experience for allowing me to gain some small insight at least into how I operate as a person, and how wide-ranging my consistent patterns of behavior are. My caution and disinclination to move to fast has meant that my life has from the outside had a great deal of continuity and also has been less exciting than that of many of my peers who have been quicker to expand their interests because they have had far more confidence than I have. On the other hand, my essentially unlimited desire for progress and achievement has given me the constant energy to keep pushing, to keep growing, to keep maturing, to keep developing my life little by little based on the opportunities that have been readily available around me. It may be the strategy of the tortoise rather than the hare, but the sort of race we are running is not a sprint but rather a marathon. I, for one, am glad for that.
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