I was the child who read the encyclopedia. Played trivia games. Watched Jeopardy. Read every book I could get my hands on. Once, I wrote a report on the Bubonic Plague in 4th grade. For fun.
This, in part, was due to my parents. When all of the other children my age went to amusement parks for vacation, we went to museums. This is probably because of my mom’s fear of rides and my dad’s hatred of crowds, but also because of their passion to make sure that Chris (my younger brother) and I loved to learn. They definitely succeeded. (Especially with Chris. He is a music and math major, who is going pre-med. Yes. Figure that one out)
My favorite places to go when I was little: Living History Farms and the Iowa Historical Society. When we would go on vacation, I would read all the guide books, learn how geographical features were formed, research all of the animals we would see (remember those books that you could fill with animal fact sheets? Chris and I were obsessed.) I also loved going to the zoo and learning about the animals. My parents scoffed at the families calling the lions, tigers, etc. “big kitties”; that wasn’t allowed in our house. They were Bengal tigers or snow leopards.
In the car we did not watch movies. We read books (or listened to books on tape like Matilda and Harry Potter). Played the “alphabet game” (First you choose a category:animals; The first person says the name of an animal: Jaguar; the second person must then come up with an animal whose name begins with the last letter of the previous word: Rhodesian Ridgeback, then Kangaroo, then Orangutan, etc….endlessly entertaining!). Played Brain Quest, which is possibly the greatest children’s game ever! Just tons of random facts. Questions were on the front, answers on the back. YES.
Now, from all this intentional learning I have gained two very important things. Number one: a lot of useless, although intriguing, information (I know more about the Battle of Little Round Top than strictly necessary). Number two: an obsession for gathering facts.
At work, we keep track of our “strengths.” My top strength is “input.” Now to be honest, before taking the strengths finder, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, one of those “career-path-finder-what-should-I-do-with-my-life” tests told me that I should be a plumber. Not something I would excel at; once my dad drove over an hour to fix my toilet (in two minutes. Thanks, Daddy!). However, I was surprised at how well my strengths described me.
This is how input is described: “People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. They like to collect and archive all kinds of information.” Truth. I collect data like its my job (it’s not). As a point of clarification however: Data entry=awful. Hours on wikipedia=awesome.
Now, what was the point of this entry?…Oh! Yes. Transitioning into a work atmosphere from an academic atmosphere has been an interesting journey for me. In school, spending hours researching in the good old reference room was useful. Even if I didn’t include every bit of information that I found, I always thought that the background information informed my paper. But work. I don’t work in a job where research is a primary focus (although I do get to do some and our organization is always doing cutting edge research on volunteerism!). I don’t spend all day collecting information; I spend a lot more time talking to people, thinking about ways to expand membership, marketing on social media sites, advertising for volunteer positions, etc. I do like people, too :).
But, somehow, I always find ways to collect data. I wrote an article for our newsletter. It was one page long and included interviews with six people. I had to do research for it. I did more than necessary. 4 hours of unnecessary. Well, I did end up using three very great pieces of data and finding out some fantastic things about AmeriCorps.
Also, Twitter. Have you ever been on Twitter? It is like a goldmine of interesting articles and facts and names and dates. I have to update our Twitter page and look for “retweets.” Woof. This is just a productivity stopper… but has lead to some great and informative finds!
I do want to say a few things. First of all, I LOVE my job. This is not an exaggeration. I mean, I get to spend all day focusing on volunteerism. I LOVE volunteerism. I love the work we do. I believe in the mission of our organization and the innovative knowledge we produce. And the other part of my job? I get to work with kids. YES. Secondly, I do get things done at work, mostly because I am pretty darn good at multitasking. Why yes, I can write a report on my research findings, reply to emails from volunteers, brainstorm ideas for fundraising, and listen to Ira Glass at the same time.
So. Surviving in the real world. Away from text books and lectures, late night studying and academic discussion, I find myself a little lost. A little lonely for my data. But I’m learning to adapt. I am learning to apply my data mining techniques at work, as I sift through resumes of potential interns, finish up research that I conducted, and continue to learn more each day about volunteerism. I am learning to take advantage of educational opportunities within my job and outside of work (I went to two trainings last week!). I will forever be a data forager and hoarder. I like that.
My ultimate brain quest: collect as much data, information, and ideas as possible and use my archived facts to create lasting, effectual, and just social change. Probably through volunteerism.
Much slub love,