Just the other day I accomplished something that had been nagging at me for the past year. I went out and purchased a memory upgrade for my iBook computer and actually installed it myself, with nobody there to help me.
Now I realize that on the surface this may seem like a minor and insignificant event, but for someone like me, who has always lived in fear of making mistakes and as a consequence, relinquished responsibility for my actions by relying on others to take care of things, doing this with my own two hands was a huge undertaking.
Computers (especially Macs), after all, are expensive machines and should not to be trifled with. If there is a problem and ignoring it is no longer an option, then leave it to the professionals. As far as upgrading the system, forget about it! Just save up and buy a new one.
I use my computer all the time, mainly to write and surf the Web. While I am reasonably competent at installing software or downloading attachments, I am not a techie, not by a long shot. I count on the fact that when I push that power button, my computer turns on without a glitch. If something goes wrong, I’ll simply turn it off and try again.
So for me to take the initiative and actually modify the hardware was nothing short of a revolution. This, of course, got me to thinking – what exactly was I so afraid of? Why am I always making such mountains out of molehills?
Well, at the root of it all is fear of the unknown, coupled with the fear of doing something wrong, not to mention the dire consequences that I’d been conditioned to believe were awaiting my every mistake. Whether or not I actually made the mistake was irrelevant.
So rather than assert myself and take control of the situation, and thus my life, I generally choose to defer responsibility (and thus the blame for any problems) to someone else. Namely an “expert.” What constitutes an expert is often times anybody but myself, regardless of their level of expertise.
When I look around me, I get a sense that I might not be alone. After all, entire industries have sprung up around this concept of fear. It seems to have become socially acceptable to be afraid and, as a consequence, turn to an “expert” for guidance and advice on how to do just about everything.
Bear in mind, I fully acknowledge the importance of an expert in certain areas. I go to the doctor when I’m sick, and when I need legal counseling I talk to a lawyer, even though he’s charging me two hundred dollars an hour.
But I think it’s fair to say that things have gotten a bit out of hand, and in the grand scheme of things, it seems like we’ve simply given up on just thinking for ourselves. This need for expertise has invaded all aspects of our lives, including how we interact with our loved ones, what foods we’re supposed to eat, and which clothes we’re supposed to wear. We even turn to experts to tell us how to be happy.
And of course, let us not forget about parenting.
Marketers have shamelessly targeted the vulnerable parent, praying on their fears, fanning the flames of their anxieties to induce them to spend their money on goods and services that make unfound (and often times ridiculous) claims while undermining their confidence to do even the most basic things. I read about a mother and father who went so far as to hire a professional to teach their son how to ride a bike because they didn’t think they could do it right. And they were both doctors!
What is that all about? Where does it all come from?
While I can’t speak for everybody, I can say that for myself, my fears were instilled in me at a very early age. They was subsequently promoted and nurtured (mostly by my parents) throughout my life so that as an adult, it was firmly embedded in my psyche and ultimately served the purpose of keeping me in line.
Unfortunately, it also bestowed upon me a wealth of irrational fears in many areas of my life. As a consequence, I have trouble taking making big decisions, avoid taking chances and live for my routines. Routines, after all, have predictable outcomes (at least most of the time), and give me the illusion that I am in control of my life because I am deliberately choosing to maintain the status quo.
Routines encourage me to shun adventure by eating the same foods and visiting the same places, not to mention keeping a job I can’t stand because I fear not having an income and health insurance. While these are perfectly reasonable concerns, the reality is, if I were to actually lose my job, which has happened on more than one occasion, I could most definitely find another one. Maybe even one I liked, and yet, I scrape and claw to stay employed at a place that leaves me uninspired.
Now this is all fine and dandy if your goal is to simply plod along and get to the end of your life and die. But to really experience life, to immerse yourself in true spiritual and emotional growth, you really have to remove yourself from your comfort zone and face your fears, which includes taking chances and even (gulp!) making mistakes.
To coin a sports analogy, while it’s true that you’ll never strike out if you never come to bat, you’ll also never hit a home run.
Which brings me back to my computer. Truth be told, my life didn’t depend on a memory upgrade, but it sure would have been nice. My applications were moving at a snails pace, and checking my email was akin to watching paint dry.
Of course, my first reaction was to find someone who would do it for me, preferably for free. When I asked my egghead friends, however, they all told me the same thing: Macs are notoriously hard to work on, so take it to a professional. Even the “experts” in my life were telling me to take it to an expert.
So I took it to an expert, who must have sensed my ignorance from a mile away. I’m guessing the fact that I didn’t know the difference between storage and memory were dead giveaways. Just for the record, I now know the difference. Either way, he quoted me an outrageous price, not just for the memory, but for the labor, which amounted to sliding a chip into it’s slot.
Incensed, I resolved that the time had come for me to be a man and do it myself. Working up the courage, I started with what I thought was the easy part – ordering it. Unfortunately, buying memory is almost as complicated as installing it. The choices are overwhelming and in the end, it required some professional help (once again!). In my defense, it wasn’t actually a person but a program that handled all this.
When it arrived, I began the delicate task of dismantling my computer. Keep in mind, this is not for the faint of heart. Since laptops are designed to save space, the actual machinery is packed in there like sardines (a marvel of technology, mind you) and to access it requires removing assorted pieces that look important, remembering that they were going to have to be put back in the proper order.
Once I got the memory in, I methodically replaced all the parts and, breathing a huge sigh of relief, booted up my computer. I figured that one of two things was going to happen. Either I got it right and my applications would now run at blazingly fast speeds, or I got it wrong and the computer was finished.
Well, neither happened. My computer worked fine, except it was still slow, and when I checked the system status, I saw that it was not recognizing the memory. So while I hadn’t destroyed the computer, I had nevertheless done something wrong.
Trying my best to ignore the flood of childhood insecurities yelling at me, in my mother’s voice, “I told you so,” I did the next logical thing. I called technical support, where I was pleasantly surprised to hear that what I was experiencing was their most common problem. Misery sure does love company.
Except that I was going to have to go back into my computer and reinstall the chip, this time using more force. Now I don’t know about you, but when I accomplish something that has given me a great deal of anxiety, the last thing I want to do is go back and do it all over again. However, I had come too far to give up now.
So back in I went, feeling not unlike Bruce Willis’ character in Pulp Fiction when he went back to get his watch. I did what the tech service guy said, using more force, and lo and behold, it clicked right in. Feeling empowered, I gave it an extra push, just for good measure, closed up the chassis, and booted it up.
And you know what? It worked. Not only did I not destroy my computer, but I actually improved it and saved loads of money. I had hit my home run.
More importantly, however, was the fact that I came to bat. I had overcome the irrational fears that seemed to prevent me from doing so many things in my life. Granted, I got some help, and I did make mistakes, but I lived to tell about it.
Besides, it’s like my daughter is always telling me, “People who never make mistakes don’t make much of anything.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.