Monday, January 10, 2005

Allison and Fun with Organized Violence

shToday we had RA training. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but RA training is the single most painful and repetitive experience known to man. You can ask me sometime about spring training last year, and I will be able to recount to you the countless (8) (consecutive) hours of imprisonment in Von Canon wherein muttering various platitudes about the value of diversity was seen as a job skill. It was enough, I would tell you, to make you want to seek out and destroy everyone whose skin color varied from your own by two or more shades (I am, of course, being shallow. Diversity is not only represented by skin color, but by gender, sexual orientation, economic background, cultural traditions, and a varied palette of factors. All of these factors should be accommodated as thoroughly as possiOHMYGOD THEY GOT ME).

However, this year the Powers That Be have decided to take a different tack. Rather than having RA training be about training to be RAs (clearly a ludicrous and impossible idea), it is now about leadership skills – resume writing – IMPROVING yourself as a PERSON. (Comments that my inherent superiority clearly precludes improvement were not well-received.)

This is why we had a motivational speaker today.

I think ALL of us here know my opinion on motivational hacks. I mean, losers. I mean, speakers.

Now, I’ll be fair. We had the same speaker come to us last night and I learned quite a bit. I chalk this up to the fact that his speech had nothing to do with motivating and everything to do with tips on how to get a job, which I sorely needed. He seems to be a reasonably intelligent man. He clearly loves his work. He’s kind of cute, in a dorkily endearing way. He is madly in love with his wife, with whom he co-presents and who is as nice and enthusiastic as he. For all of this I give him much credit. It’s unfortunate that his career choice leads me to automatically knock off 100 points on my RespectOMeter (other examples: psychologists, college admissions workers, Ayn Rand)(she’s evil).

We got to the gym this morning having been told only to wear comfortable clothes and no heels. We said good morning. We stretched. We did really stupid icebreakers (the only thing I hate worse than icebreakers is RA training that includes icebreakers). I was good. I participated. I was on my very best humoring-you behavior. I was very proud of myself.

Then the dude got into the middle of the circle and explained the purpose of the jeans and the sneakers.
“Today, before you leave this room, you will all have broken a board with either your hand or foot.”

…would anyone be surprised if I said I switched very quickly out of humoring-you mode? I started jumping up and down. “Jeannie! We get to break stuff! Jeannie! I get to break a board! Yay! Jeannie! Let’s break some stuff! Yay!”

So we divided up into pairs and they passed us each a board and a crayon. The guy started talking: “Now, on the front of your board I want you to think of something that is holding you back in your life. It can be anything you want – but this is going to be the barrier* you are going to break* today when you break that board.” (* - keyword) I snickered and saw that Tyler, sitting in front of me, had written a note to his partner: “Your friendly neighborhood APA representative would like to remind you that cathartic therapy is very silly and does not work”.

I turned to my board and purple crayon. My finely honed analytical mind told me that to get to the breakage of stuff, I would have to play along (convincingly, even). I thought for a second before sneaking a look at my partner’s board. She was drawing stars on hers. “Oooh!” I thought to myself. “She’s using a metaphor! This must be a very deep and painful piece of personal history. Maybe we will have a breakthrough here today!” I figured if she was doing something serious, I should at least be half-serious about mine. I waited another minute and giggled to myself before writing I hate people in sprawling letters.

We turned to each other. “You hate people?” she asked me, puzzled.
“Yeah, well, sort of. I’ve always been really shy, and I hate meeting people, and I always assume that other people hate me.”
“You don’t seem that shy.”
“I’ve spent the past ten years trying to beat it out of myself. So, what’s yours?”
“Oh! I, um, couldn’t really think of anything. So I drew stars. I like stars.”
“Ah. Right.”

The mike guy came back to the center of the room. “Now I want you all to flip your board over and write what you will have for yourself after you break that barrier. What will make you happy? What will you be like? What will bring you joy?”

“Umm…” I thought. “Family Guy! Family Guy brings me joy! Wait. You can’t put Family Guy on a motivational board. The Simpsons? Umm…” I started to draw a spiral. It turned from a spiral to a snail…a snail with a speech bubble saying “Don’t worry, you’ll still hate people” coming out of his mouth -The Oracular Snail of Doom, as I aptly named him.

We spent a couple of minutes going over some basic karate skills and got into groups to BREAK our BARRIERS. I was screaming my lungs out, of course, because the only thing more awesome than breaking an inch-thick plank is watching someone else break an inch-think plank. My partner had to try a couple of times to break hers (it is much harder to palm heel strike a board than it is to kick a board), but then it was my turn. I positioned my foot.

“Wipe out all doubt from your mind,” said the dude. “Think only that you can do this.”

My thought process was something more like “I did this when I was thirteen. I know I can do this. I’m gonna make the AWESOMEST karate scream EVER when I make contact”. Apparently, when my board was on the cinderblock waiting for its judgment day, Terry saw the “I hate people” and burst out laughing. Ah, Terry – no longer my boss, so he can think it’s funny.

So I broke the board with accompanying scream (inaudible among the other groups’ cheers) and went back to my spot, reveling in the euphoria of just having kicked something’s butt. Then Jeannie went up and kicked HER board’s butt. With her HAND.

“Damn,” I thought, still screaming and cheering. “I should have tried it with my hand. I wonder if I could have done it with my hand. Damn! I want to try it with my hand!”

After a little more of the touchy-feely crap, we were dismissed for lunch. I made my way up to the guy. “Hi. Can I have another board?”

“Oh, did you not break through your barrier the first time?”

“No, I broke it pretty good…I, um, just did it with my foot and think I could do it with my hand and wanted to try.”



“Go sit over there and I’ll be with you in a minute.” He left. I picked out a shiny new board.

When he came back, I tried to lie my way out of things. “See, my barrier was, um, always being too shy, and so I figured that coming up here and asking for another board was, you know…not…shy?”

He shot me a look while setting up the cinderblocks. “Right. So, what’s your barrier now?”


Except the problem is that


And that, my friends, is how organized violence put me on a ridiculous high. I palm heeled a large object and won. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to bed so I can get up in six hours to have breakfast with the East Campus facility managers. I want to be FULLY RESTED.

(PS. Jeannie, dude, doing the handbreakage was completely awesome. You are my hero. Also hot and cultivator of plants. <3 you.)


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