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Hufflepuff Tradeoffs

I’m really Hufflepuff. Enough for it to be blindingly obvious to most people I know.

And yet… Once in a while I get the very un-Hufflepuff thought that “wait, I could’ve been a physicist. That would’ve been easier.” (If I’d had programming on my radar at age 15, I might have thought of that too–it fulfills my other criteria of being a steady, dependable career better.)

I think anyone who knew me in high school would’ve pegged me as a Ravenclaw. I read books really fast. I was frequently bored in class. I remember reading ‘The Selfish Gene’ under my desk in biology class; it was technically biology, just more interesting. I’m still Ravenclaw enough to excitedly read Up-To-Date articles on my patients’ conditions, and sort of try to hang out around the nursing station when the staff doctor is quizzing medical students and then try really hard not to interrupt when I know the answer.

In high school, it’s not like math was easy. But it was straightforwardly hard. People were hard hard.

People are still hard.

I’m not amazingly good at nursing. It might (gasp) take me more than five years to get really good at it. Right now I’m okay. My patients often remember and like me–that feels good. I get excited about things, which helps me to eventually get good at them. I’m still pretty rubbish at putting in IVs. I’ve almost entirely gotten over the anxiety involved in making and answering phone calls at work. On a good day, I’m probably a pretty good person to work with–on a bad day, I want to hide in a corner and not talk to humans and I really just want to have intubated patients because my social-anxiety-module has decided they don’t count as humans…but I can generally still provide my patients with safe and competent care.

There are parts that aren’t natural to me and probably never will be. Time management was hard. My younger self lived in Maker time, and learning to deal with interruptions and time pressures and more interruptions and nothing going as planned ever was really hard. (And I think I’ve permanently lost some of my Maker-time ability–writing, at least the sitting-down-and-focusing part, is a lot harder than it used to be. I could also attribute that to the existence of Facebook.)

Even the attention to detail required is hard for me. One of the things other nurses still complain about concerning me is that my patients’ rooms aren’t tidy enough at the end of a shift. They are obviously perfectly fine for me, and other people’s mess has never bothered me. By default, I don’t see it. I’ve had to slowly, painstakingly learn how to see it, and obviously I’m still not succeeding completely, since I’m actually at a loss as to what exactly I should do to make the other nurses happy.

When I was 15, my parents had a friend, a mycologist at a university. He was your stereotypical absentminded professor–brilliant, messy, eccentric, happy as a pig in mud all alone in his lab. My mom said I’d make the perfect academic, like him.

Needless to say, that isn’t the person I grew up to be.

When I started to become more involved with the CFAR community, one of the first characteristics people attached to me was good at logistics. If I’d gone back in time and told my 12-year-old self that was going to happen, she would’ve have believed me. Not because it sounded bad, but because it was so implausible. Me, good at a thing that requires attention to detail, organization, and having to talk to lots of people on the phone?

Being a programmer might have been easier. I could have sat in my little bubble and banged my brain against problems that were straightforwardly hard. I might even have been an above-average programmer, in a way that I’m not an above-average nurse. Danny Reeves said I seemed to pick things up quickly. I’ve probably got an IQ a couple of standard deviations above the average, and that’s more helpful for programming than for nursing, where as far as I can tell it’s not helpful at all.

Every once in a while, the part of my brain that doesn’t like hard things will stage a minor internal hissy fit over how now I’m stuck being the person who’s good at logistics and has to answer phones forever, and that’s not fair why can’t I just be a programmer and always get to sit in a corner?

But there’s a reason why that isn’t the life I picked. There’s a reason why, when I was reading Tilda Shalof’s A Nurse’s Story, it resonated so hard as the life I wanted to have. (Note: if you find it hard to understand why I became a nurse, you should read this book.)

I didn’t start out with Hufflepuff skills–I wasn’t initially any good at being the person I wanted to be in. I’m still not especially good at it. I guess I didn’t start out with many skills period–no one does. At age fifteen I was above average at writing (which is no great praise when you’re comparing yourself to other 15-year-olds) and I had a good memory for stuff I’d read in books.

But I still knew what person I wanted to be.

So I guess I’m “stuck” doing the thing that’s hard for me, forever, and gets frustrated when other people pick it up faster, and when I have to keep doing the thing day in and day out and it’s still hard, every time, it never stops being hard. Being around people when you’re introverted–more than that, learning how to model social dynamics and play status games when it makes about as much sense to you as monkey being insane all the time. Having to keep your Attention to Detail turned on when your native state is wrapped up in the plot of a novel that you’re writing in your head. Lapsing back into that state the moment I get home, and thus living in even more of a pigsty than I would otherwise. (I haven’t done dishes in a week.)

But even so, I chose this and I’m still choosing it, every day, and I’m pretty damn proud of the progress I’ve made. You’ve got to be pretty Hufflepuff, to do that.