someone recently asked my why i do what i do. it's easy to come up with just-so stories. for all i know, i could just as easily have ended up inventing new ice cream flavors for tara's ice cream (i still haven't ruled it out). and if i had, i could probably make up a story about why it was always meant to be. narratives are deceptively easy to construct, and amazingly convincing after the fact. it would be especially ironic for a self-knowledge researcher to deceive herself about why she studies self-knowledge. so i mostly try to resist giving an explanation. but then there's this:
this is a note from my best friend, written when we were 15. (i have honored her request to remain anonymous -- she undoubtedly has much more embarrasing material on me.)
a few excerpts:
'at miriam's birthday party, i got the idea that you wanted an honest evaluation from me about you.'
'i think you are very good at understanding people, but sometimes a little too harsh in your judgment.'
this has little to do with my career, but i think my friends, colleagues, family members, students, neighbors, acquaintances, and penpals will be somewhat relieved (horrified?) to know that i was always this way.
'if i had to rate your personality on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the best, you would be a 9.'
also, my mom thinks i'm beautiful.* [note: i feel i should point out that there is no evidence for a general factor of personality. and the scale really should have a midpoint. why aren't i a 10 again?]
'you're always learning about yourself and growing. [...] you're very perceptive and it helps you to understand yourself well.'
this is a polite way to say i was already irritating people with my obsession with self-knowledge at age 15. seems like a trend. then again, i was also obsessed with reggie miller (i was young and naive. also, rondo** was barely alive at the time) and koko the gorilla (i'm still trying to outgrow that one).
of course, it's easy to see the signs in hindsight. if i had become an nba referee,*** i would be telling you about all of the kindergarten basketball games i refereed in high school (if you think that's an easy job, you have not met palo alto parents).
so, do i believe that i was a budding self-knowledge researcher at age 15? no. but it seems i was a pretty annoying friend.
*actually, she's not the type. the other day, she said of my banjo playing: 'tu fais des progres quand meme'. i'm not sure there is an adequate translation, but it is something along the lines of 'you don't suck quite as much as you used to.' i was pretty excited.
**i strongly recommend against watching the first 2:15 of this clip. the rest is magical.
***wouldn't it be awesome if an nba referee had a blog called 'sometimes i'm wrong'?