Debt Reduction and “Stretching” (almost snapping)

DD1 = Dear First Daughter
“A sizable part of who we are is ordained by our genes, by our brains, by our nervous systems.  And yet . . . we have free will and can use it to shape our personalities . . . We might call this the ‘rubber band theory’ of personality.  We are like rubber bands at rest.  We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so far” (Cain 117-118).   I used this gem from Susan Cain’s book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking to open my post of March 22.  My focus was DD1 and the “stretching” she had done to avoid debt.  In her case, she had creatively financed a trip to New York City to do some research for her thesis.  She got out of her comfort zone, worked hard, savoured the satisfaction of success – and spent an evening at a karaoke bar singing with fourth year Julliard students into the bargain.  (See Post  “DD1’s Debt-Avoidance: ‘Stretching’ & Living Large”.)
Today I use Cain’s bit of wisdom to set up my own experience in the last week. I’d like to emphasize her last few words:  “We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so far.”  I applied to teach summer school again this year – something I did last year as part of our debt reduction efforts.  The course I took on is truly a great one.  It offers students the chance to get credits by working in employment sectors that they want to pursue in the future – everything from retail to childcare; from graphic design to scientific research.  The teacher, besides leading a few in-class sessions, finds and sets up the students’ placements, and monitors the students’ progress through constant communication with them and with their work supervisors.  So it’s a wonderful blend of education and the broader world of work.
Terrific as the program is, I had a rough start.  I was hired late and had a chaos of paper work to sort out and no time for proper preparation.  But that was nothing compared to the real problem:  In the fifteen years that have elapsed since I last taught the course, technology has transformed it.  My principle method of communicating with students back in the day was via landline telephone.  Students often don’t even have landline phones now, and if they do, they certainly don’t use them.  They rarely use their e-mail accounts.  What do they do?  They text.  Until two days ago, I had never owned a cell phone.


I remember once reading about the rate at which different types of people adopt new technologies.  At one extreme there are the keeners who can’t wait for the next gizmo to come out.  They buy, use, and talk about the latest device with obsessive enthusiasm.  A little further along the continuum are those who decide to jump in once the technology has become mainstream.  Then there are the reluctant users who wait until their lifestyles are negatively affected by not having the now very common gadget.  They grumble but admit defeat and join society in using the technology.  At the final extreme are the technophobes. According to the Urban Dictionary (a useful tool for both parents and teachers who don’t understand what teenagers are saying) a technophobe is “A person who is irrationally afraid of technology.”  These people don’t care how mainstream a device has become or how adversely impacted their lifestyle.  They will not venture into the world of said gizmo because doing so brings on a paralysis of panic that is far worse than any inconvenience they might endure by not using it.
True confession:  I’m a technophobe.  Only the unnerving levels of stress that I have experienced in the last week could have brought me to the point of purchasing a cell phone.  I won’t go into detail, but when I swear, it’s not a good sign.  And all sorts of letter bombs have been exploding from my mouth in the last few days.  It’s been sheer torture.
My students have been gracious with my inefficiency. (“Don’t worry about it, Miss.  My mom is hopeless with her cell phone.  She never uses it.”) My children have been helpful and encouraging in teaching me.  (“Now what did I tell you was the quick way to see your text message?  Good job, Mom!”) And my poor husband has agonized through the whole process by my side.  Over the last few days, I have not been fun to live with.  And I’ve gone through this in the name of debt reduction.  I honestly wanted to throw in the towel this week.  It’s not worth it, I thought.Forget it!  (Only “forget” was not the actual word that came to mind.)
My hope is that by the end of my summer school stint, I’ll be satisfied with a job well done, and I’ll smile at my initial shell-shock.  I’m not there yet.  Right now, I’m an elastic that has been stretched on a dungeon rack – a little too close to the breaking point.

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