My desk phone rang around 3pm.
I started off telling Wes and Jessie this story last night in the same fashion and Wes said, “That’s a pretty dramatic beginning to a story…” I felt like I was about to let them down. The story wasn’t going to be that dramatic. But if it makes you feel better, you can read it in your best film noir voice.
I’ve been in a “Wah! I don’t wanna be productive at work! IT’S NICE OUTSIDE!” kind of mood, so I pondered pretending I wasn’t here. I mean, it’s plausible thing. I could be in the lab doing very important scientific things or not so important scientific things (like analyzing glitter or something). But then I thought, “No, no, no. The minute the lab is unresponsive, everyone gets all up in arms about it and there will be a meeting and I just don’t want another fucking meeting…unless there will be pizza…which there likely will be tomorrow.”
Side note: I don’t know about you, but I remember how the faculty at my middle school totally manipulated us with pizza parties. When you are 10 or 11, there is seemingly no greater prize than the pizza party…and they always ordered Dominos! We were so young and naïve. I mean, Domino’s? Their whole ad campaign right now basically says, “We know our pizza is awful, but we acknowledge that and are really trying to improve! Artisan crusts!” But back then, if you were the kid that jeopardized the class’ chance at that party, you were screwed. I have an entire story about the time I was that kid, actually…seems like an excellent way to talk about indoctrination on here. BUT I DIGRESS. The point is the meeting will be acceptable if there is pizza, but otherwise, fuck it.
So, not wanting yet another meeting about how the lab responsible for everyone else’s irresponsibility (bitter!), I picked up the phone.
It was a coworker with whom I had shared a bit of information about my upbringing. I had lunch with her months ago and as I was engaged at the time, the subject of my changing my name (or in my actual case, not changing my name) came up. One thing led to another and I explained that I was raised by an independent, feminist, strong woman who also believed in a lot things in the sphere of astrology and numerology. Long story short, one of the reasons that my mother changed her name from her married name to her maiden name was because her maiden name was numerologically preferable. I don’t remember how that worked, but the lesson that I took from it was that you don’t have to change your name when you marry. But what my coworker got from this story was that I knew a lot about astrology.
One of the problems with being a good public speaker is that you can convince people that you really know what you’re talking about while only espousing a few facts. I’m not saying that I do this all the time, but I think I have led people to believe that I know a great deal about things that I don’t, simply because I have more than 5 minutes of knowledge about them. It could also be that I simply know more about astrology than a lot of people…but that doesn’t mean I know a lot! As my boss would say, I know enough to be dangerous. In our business, that usually means that you know enough to get into trouble but not enough to get out of trouble.
Anyway, I pick up the phone and she starts off by asking, “Your mom is really into astrology right?”
“OK, well, I was reading this thing and apparently on my birthday (which was earlier this month), the planets aligned in exactly the way they were the day I was born and…(something something something) it’s called a solar return.”
She wanted to know if I knew how to interpret solar returns and if I knew anything about them. I attempted to look up information about them on my work computer, but the internet filter here blocked them as websites about “alternative spirituality/belief”. Sure, I could go look on my phone, but I’m not going to.
“No, I don’t know anything about solar returns. I haven’t spoken to my mom about that stuff in a long time and I don’t think she ever mentioned them.”
“The website wants a bunch of personal information before it gives me my predictions and I don’t want to do that.”
“It’s probably just gimmicky…”
Yeah, I know. I should have taken the opportunity to say something stronger like, “YES, IT IS MOST CERTAINLY A LOAD OF HORSESHIT!” or, even better, I could have started talking about The Dark Crystal and how if the planets are aligned just right, the crystal shard will illuminate and bring peace to the darkened valley. Then throw out a little strained “I am still emperor!!!” and “TRIAL BY STONE!” and no one would laugh because neither Peter nor Shaun would be around.
This whole thing got me thinking about the fact that the belief systems surrounding your upbringing follow you, no matter how little you subscribe to them. By no means was my “leaving of astrology” cathartic or dramatic. My parents just know that at some point I fully embraced a skeptical, scientific view point on the ugliness and beauty of the world. But my mom still says astrological things very matter-of-factly to me and, well, I don’t really argue.
But regardless of how little influence the actual beliefs had on my morality or point of view, they were still a very large part of my life as a kid. The knowledge is there. The mindset is understood. Much like someone raised in a classic religious setting, I understand how people in that setting think (in terms of their spirituality anyway. I do not claim to be able to predict, say, how they feel about broccoli or Walmart).
When you are raised around the New Age, you find yourself replacing the word “god” with “the Universe”. Instead of saying “God will provide” you say “The Universe will provide you with the things you truly want and need”.
When you study chemistry at Drexel University, you are required to attend Physical Chemistry I through Physical Chemistry IV. In that time you are introduced to quantum mechanics/quantum theory and the wonderful concept of entropy. When I learned about these things in depth (and I say that relatively tongue in cheek as you could study quantum mechanics for a life time with my particular brain and never truly learn about it depth.) the “Universe” made considerably more sense to me.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to suddenly reveal that I am a huge believer in “The Secret” or Deepak Chopra. No. Just no.
I didn’t combine the concept of the New Age “intelligent Universe” and the Universe in terms of quantum theory. I replaced the New Age concept with the scientific concept, with all its chaos and disregard for what kind of guitar I want to find at the used guitar store today. (When I would find exactly what I was looking for on the first try, my dad would say that the Universe knows or something. I liked the idea but I didn’t like it enough to incorporate New Age faith into my life any more than classic religious faith).
Of course, I wouldn’t expect anyone I’ve talked to superficially to be aware of my journey from knowing about astrology and somewhat buying it to rejecting it and not giving a crap (now THERE is a subtitle for a book). But clearly knowing this particular piece of my history really stuck with this person, even though we discussed it almost a year ago. Belief systems tend to leave indelible labels. I assume that people here who know this about me just lump it in with my “free spirit” and “off the beaten path” persona. People are probably much more comfortable with thinking that I obey the stars than knowing that I am an atheist.
I guess that’s fine for now…as long as I don’t get any calls asking about what I know about crystals.
*Working on witty scientifically obscure responses…NOW*