Saturday, November 1, 2014

what are you?

me and my brothers (August 1976)

Nature ID is my learning tool to help me find answers when I take pictures of little living things, here and there, plants, butterflies, what have you, and I ask, "What are you?" The funny thing is, I get asked this question all the time of me. Even when it's not Halloween. By complete strangers.  "What...  are...  you?" in a loud, slow, measured way, as if I can't hear (uh, yes, I have a hearing impairment, but that's beside the point).  I get asked as if I were somehow not human.  As if I were a chair, or a dog.  "What are you?"  I've been asked so often in my life that I count down, 3, 2, 1, for the follow-up questions that are sure to come in rapid-fire succession, "Chinese?  Japanese?  No?  What are you?"  It used to piss me off.  Okay.  It still pisses me off. I have yet to come up with a witty reply, because so often I'm stunned into silence by the sheer surprise of the question.  Any suggestions?

Andy has been lamenting that I haven't been posting to my blog very much recently.  He's been extremely supportive of this hobby I started over 5 years ago, which is now a huge part of my life.  After a couple crappy job interviews this past spring, I decided to use what I love about Nature ID and what I've learned and direct all my energies into something new, something yet undefined, something of my own creation.  And, it's scary.

I'm now asking myself that same funny, pissy question, "What are you?"  Haha.  I'm in one of those awkward developing and gangly growing stages, and more than ever, I'm afraid of looking like an idiot.  Am I merely one of those annoying people who asks far too many inappropriate questions?  Am I a naturalist?  Am I a lepidopterist?  Am I a botanist?  Am I a phenologist?  Am I a citizen scientist?  Am I an actual scientist?  What does that even mean?  Where will I be in another 5 years?

So, I don't know how to proceed with this blog.   I've learned a lot this year, and it's difficult to translate that as a continuing process in an online format that gets forever saved in time by RSS feeds and search engine spiders.  Hey, as I find errors on Nature ID, I've gone back and corrected them.  And, there are a lot of errors.  Eh-hem.

Time and time again, I've seen how misinformation gets spread around by people who act like they know everything.  I think we all fool ourselves at times, some more than others, even though I'd like to believe I'm self-aware and forthright when I don't know something.  It's been called to my attention that this gives off the impression that I don't know much of anything, especially among folks who apparently know even less and who actually advised me to shut up and blindly defer to the old guys.

This does not sit well with me.

There were a couple years or so while I was learning English, when I could understand what people were saying, but I could not speak it.  My mother told me that I was a chatterbox when I first arrived, but as soon as I figured out that no one around could understand me in my native language, she said I went quiet for a very long time.  Quite frankly, I was scared silent by the strange, slow monster speak coming from these fair-skinned giants with big, blue eyes.  Once I got the hang of English, she joked that she could never get me to shut up again.  Ha!

I've discovered I'm in a similar situation now, in that I understand a lot more than I have the vocabulary to express.  It's frustrating as hell.  However, just like when I was a kid playing with the big boys, I can stand up for myself, even if I can't speak the speak of all the -ists out there. Yet.  Watch out, guys!

ps - It's National Adoption Month, btw.

pss 01/15/15 - For those still hung up on the question "What are you?" that I purposely did not answer, please refer to this New York Times article on adoptees returning to their home country.  It's not an easy question to answer when you've lived it like I have.

pss 05/18/19 - The thoughts and words I typed out here were completely my own in 2014.  Imagine my surprise to find people's comments about Keanu Reeves and their own experiences regarding the ridiculously offensive question of "What are you?"