Underneath my yellow skin

Private and personal

I was reading some old Ask A Manager posts and came across one that was from a manager who was curious about their report, Adam. The letter writer (LW) said that Adam never volunteered anything about his personal life despite having worked on the team for six years. Two months before the LW wrote in, they noticed a ring on Adam’s left third finger and wondered if he had gotten married. In the past, whenever he put in for time off, LW would casually ask if he was going on vacation and he would say yes. Nothing more.

The LW, while emphasizing several times that it was fine that Adam was private, really, really wanted Alison to give them a way to pry. No matter how many times they said it was fine that Adam didn’t want to talk, the undercurrent was that it was very much not fine. Not in a ‘it’s bad for the tieam’ way, but in a ‘I really, really want to know’ way.

Which, I get. If you’re around someone eight hours a day, then it’s natural that you want to know something about them. But, I’m on the other side because I’m the freak. If I were in an office, I would have nothing to talk about. I don’t hate the snow–I love it. I hate the summer and the heat. I don’t watch movies or TV shows. I haven’t read a book in quite some time. I really need to start that up again, bu even that would be me just reading Asian women writers. Which, I can tell you, is not ‘normal’ at all.

I’m not partnered and have no kids. I don’t take vacations. There was a weekend thread asking for small talk questions. The ones people were suggesting were right out for me as well, such as food. What’s your favorite food? What my favorite food is and what I can actually eat are two very different things.

I am not religious. I do not want to talk about religion. At all.I am agender, not into monogamy, marriage, or anything like that. Someone in the commentariat said that they would be more inclined to go the extra mile for someone they knew something about. People argued, but I got what she was saying (I don’t like her in general). I don’t necessarily agree with her because you can have a warm relationship with someone without it being personal (so many people think I’m their best friend when I tolerate them at best), and a big part of it is listening. Most people want to talk about themselves so it’s a good way to seem engaged. Asking a few well-timed questions can aid this process.

In addition, my hobbies are writing (currently struggling with a memoir about dying twice), FromSoft games (video games in general, From in particular), and Taiji weapons. The first in general is a suitable topic, but then I have to explain the background if I want to talk about why I’m writing about it. Which I would not want to bring up in a workplace.

K likes to remind me that my dying (twice!) is a big part of my life story and that I should be ok with talking about it. Which, yeah, but in a work setting, it’s way too heavy. I guess if it’s one I’d been in for years, they would know what happened to me. At least the basics. It’s weird, though. I was up and walking in less than two weeks of the initial incidences. So in theory, I could have been back at work within two weeks. I would have been a hot mess and could not do anything for more than five minutes, but I could have been there. In a month, I would have been back to ‘normal’.

Side note: I’ve realized more and more how the stroke has affected me in small ways. My short-term memory is dodgy. I can take in some information, store it away, and then promptly forget it. It happened in my last private Taiji lesson. I wanted to learn some Bagua (a different internal martial art), so we’re walking the circle. I already knew how to do it with the DeerHorn Knives, but she’s teaching me the basics.

There is the Single Palm Change and the Double Palm Change. I’ve done the former and assumed the latter was, well, changing the palms twice. It’s not. It’s hard to explain, but single and double palm changes are called that because they have the palms doing one thing and two things respectively. One turns to the inside and one to the outside.

I was following along as my teacher showed the Double Palm Change to me. It was not a problem for me to grasp and to do. I tooke a few notes, but not good enough, apparently. The next day, my mind was blank as to what to do. I tried to puzzle it out, but I also wrote an email to my teacher to ask her to write it out when she had a minute.

I did manage to figure it out myself before she sent me the details, but I’m not confident that it’s completely correct. I’m not freaked out about it because we’ll clean it up at the next lesson. But it showed me that I needed to write things down in more detail. I can’t rely on my memory because it’s shot.

It’s funny. My father has dementia (that’s not the funny part, obviously). He’s been having a hard time dealing with the fact that his memory is gone. He used to have a stellar memory, which makes it doubly hard on him. My mom has always had a terrible memory so the natural effects of aging haven’t been as hard on her.

I have always had a great memory, too. You would think that having my short-term memory take such a hit would be traumatic to me or at least something that made me mournful. Nope! I’m so grateful to be alive, able to walk and talk, and with my brain intact, the short-term memory hit is….ok? Fine? Neither of those, but something that does not bother me so much.

Look. Would I like to have my memory be the same? Of course I would. Would I like to still do simple subtraction in my head? Yup. But, I couldn’t do either of those if I was dead for real, anyway. I’m not usually a ‘look at the positive side’ type of person, but this experience completely changed me. I literally died twice and came back twice–and I am better than I used to be in almost every way. So, yeah, if I take a few hits, I’m down with it.

Back to small talk. I have learned that it doesn’t really matter what I say. If I pay attention and ask questions, that’s all that matters. When I was in Thailand for three months in college, I was not the best Thai speaker of my group by far. But, I listened to people talk. The native people of Thailand, I mean. And they said I was the best speaker (of Thai) of my group.

This was not true. By far. There were at least three people who spoke better Thai than I did, but I listened. So people thought I spoke the language better than I actually did. That’s my secret for communication, by the way. I listen more than I speak. It works every time.


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