At times, my profession, interest, and
expertise are unfulfilling and infuriating.
This post is real talk, from me to you,
one-on-one. This is from the depths of my being. It’s a problem that has been
plaguing me for a few years now, and the way it affects me has only gotten
worse over time.
100% welcome to look at this wall of text and “nope” on out of here. That’s
I’m honestly hoping that talking about this
and explaining this will help me move past the parts of these things that crush
my self-esteem and worsen my depression and anxiety.
Maybe it won’t help. Maybe you’ll think I’m
being selfish or stupid or petty. I don’t know. But I’m tired of not talking
I’m generally a strong person. I consider
myself a professional. This post deconstructs one of the biggest issues I’ve
had since starting my Master’s degree in 2013.
Let’s look at a related concept before I
get to the meat of the matter.
want to be a carpenter, you need to know things about wood, right?
- You need to know what trees produce what types
- You need to know what properties each of those
wood types has: color, texture, longevity, strength, density, growth rate,
moisture content, slope of grain, knots, shakes and checks, decay, stains, molds,
bacteria, spacing, hardness, rupture, elasticity, and probably more.
- You need to know how long it takes to create
various wooden items, such as chairs or desks.
- You need to know how much wood (and/or other
material) is required for any given product you intend to make.
- You need to know how to visualize a final
product when you only have a big piece of wood.
- You need to know how to handle complications any
type of wood can give you.
- You need to know what tools are used for
different types of wood and products.
- You need to know how to whittle, sand, cut,
pain, carve, clean, and finish a variety of wood types.
And that of course only scratches the surface
of what it means to be a carpenter. A
carpenter can’t just know things
about wood. They need to know tool safety, measurement techniques, and how
to market themselves, among many other components.
If you look at the above statements, you would
see that there is a lot that goes into becoming a carpenter. It requires a lot
of study and a lot of practice. I think we can all agree on that.
If you were a carpenter and someone who knew
nothing about woodworking tried to tell you that you were wrong about, say,
cherry wood, you would get annoyed, right? You would tell them that, no, you’ve
been studying this stuff for years and that you know what you’re talking about.
The same thing goes for doctors. Your doctor
is paid to tell you things about health, because you didn’t complete medical
school (or maybe you did but you need help anyway).
cases, your doctor knows more about any given medical topic than you do. If
your doctor says you have the flu, would you argue with them? Would you tell
them that you don’t have the flu, even if you have every single symptom? (If
you really do have the flu, you most likely aren’t strong enough to argue like
this, but humor me, okay?) You are asking a doctor for their medical opinion,
one that has been informed by years—often more like decades—of study, research,
Yeah, there are plenty of cases where doctors
fail us. I know it happens all the time. It really does. There are plenty of problems with misdiagnoses,
refusal to treat, and more. But for the average person, there is almost no
reason to argue with a doctor, unless something is seriously wrong and the
doctor just isn’t listening—which is still a major and unfortunately common
But if you are sick and need help, you’re
there for their educated opinion.
cannot look at a chair and sit on a chair and then say you are a carpenter.
You don’t know the first thing about woodworking just because you have used
wooden objects before. That would be absurd, right?
You can’t check your temperature and decide
you know more than a doctor. It would be unreasonable to assume that you know
more about medicine than your doctor does just because you correctly guessed
you had bronchitis that one time.
and doctors, while their professions may seem to be infinitely different,
require years and years of study before they can consider themselves to be
carpenters and doctors. Your one shop class or health class back in high
school doesn’t make you qualified. You don’t know more than a carpenter or
doctor if you haven’t done any of the studying.
In this vein—yes, I’m getting to my point
now—I am a writer. I am an editor. I have a Master’s degree in English, focus
on creative writing and poetry. I became an English major in 2009 or 2010 (I
had a total of 5 different majors when registering for classes and such; I did
2 pairs of double-majors and registered for college with a different one). I
graduated with my Master’s in 2015.
don’t have a doctorate, I am, more or less, an expert in my field. I have
done a lot of different types of work. I have diligently studied the greats and
not-so-greats in my trials. I have taken a ton of classes and read a lot of
books. I study. I work hard. I’ve been dedicated as a writer since I was 9
had become a writer just last year, I would not be an expert. I wouldn’t
know the things that I know. If someone who had become a writer just last year
started trying to correct me on something, I wouldn’t be wrong to be skeptical
of them—annoyed, even.
So why is it that people who have only taken
general-education English courses—and struggled with them—seem to think that
they should argue with me about language?
experience. I work professionally in my field, the same way that a doctor or
carpenter does. I study my butt off so I can understand language and culture
and literature to the extent of my ability.
So why the heck do people doubt me? If you’ve
written papers for school, great. So has everyone else. It doesn’t make you an
saying I’m always right. I’m not. I promise. But why is it so difficult for
people to accept my answers when having a friendly discussion?
it so incredibly difficult to respect me and my knowledge?
When other people have more information than I
do, I generally defer to them and ask questions.
would be heinous for me to walk into an IT workplace and start bossing people
around. I know a lot about computers and technology. I really do. But I
would never, ever be so bold as to think that I know more than people who have
a degree in it.
degrees aren’t the ultimate way to say you’re an expert in something. I
know. I really do know that. But someone who has spent hundreds, if not
thousands, of hours studying something and learning about it—that person knows
more than someone who has spent negligible effort.
A person who has spent years reading and
writing—whether it’s for an English degree or not—knows more than someone who
has only taken basic English courses.
never tell a carpenter that they are doing their job incorrectly or argue with
them about the qualities of wood. I wouldn’t tell a doctor that they clearly
don’t know the symptoms of the flu.
They are qualified. They are often experts.
The whole point of studying something is that you know more than most people
random person can’t just climb onto a roof and become a roofer. You need
safety training and equipment, among many other things.
a writer if you write. You are a reader if you read. If you do these things
because you’re interested in them, good! That’s the first step.
don’t necessarily know as much as someone who has an English degree, just
because you like to read. Studying and working hard are how you become an
expert, how you become qualified to talk about something in your field.
point is that I’m tired of arguing with people. If I explain what I mean
and even show you logical proof of it, I shouldn’t have to spend an hour going
around and around with you until you believe me. I know more, because I have
studied it more. I don’t mean that in a mean way. I simply have more knowledge
on the subject, the same way a random person can’t walk into a doctor’s office,
put on a white coat, and start treating people.
I’m so, so tired of arguing with people who
like to read and think they know as much as I do. I know a lot of stuff, but people treat me like I’m stupid. I’m so
tired of feeling useless and stupid, even though I know more about language
than the average reader or writer.
It’s good to have discussion. It is. But
discussion with me always devolves into petty arguments about the meanings of
words that have clear definitions and can be proven as such. They get
distracted with trying to prove themselves, even though I would never spend
that much effort pretending to know more about their field of interest than
respectful. Just be respectful, okay? If I have studied and worked hard on
something, don’t get caught up in pedantic crap. I’m so, so tired, guys.
I’m just so tired.
want to have to defend myself every single time language gets discussed. Exactly
one time, I brought up my degrees in a discussion of something that I had
extensively studied. I was told that it was not cool to bring that up. Why?
If I’m talking to a random person, and we
disagree about something related to carpentry, and they inform me that they’re
a carpenter, then I’ll almost certainly defer to their expertise. They’ve done
the studying. I haven’t. I haven’t put the time and effort into learning about
wood, because it’s not something I’m super-interested in.
interested in computers, but you’ll never find me arguing about the purpose of
So why don’t people respect my professional
information? I am a professional in my field. But if it’s not someone I’m
working with (and occasionally, it is), why is it so difficult to trust me and
to trust my knowledge?
I live in a world where people don’t trust me, despite how hard I have worked
to get where I am?
Having these pedantic arguments with people is
exhausting. I’m just exhausted. I can’t do it anymore. I don’t even know what
I’ll do the next time it happens. But I cannot take the exhaustion and the hits
to my self-esteem.
me feel stupid and useless. Like I wasted my time working to get here. It’s
hard to have confidence or self-esteem when I’m constantly being told I’m wrong
about something that I eat, breathe, and live every day.
I don’t know anymore. When you see this post, I’ll have had time to sleep this
crap off. Maybe I’ll feel better. Maybe I won’t.