I have had a longstanding fear of straight lines. This is ironic because my life has followed quite a traditional linear trajectory: school... job... house... marriage... kids... grandchild. Can a line get any straighter than that? Yet, straight lines and my inability to draw them have long been a personal bugaboo. In school, if given the choice between making a graph and eating a cockroach, I would have ordered the little guy medium rare.
My incompetence with technological instruments knew no bounds. Rulers and protractors and slide rules were implements of intellectual torture to me. As I matured, typewriters became my nemesis. In college, it invariably looked as though a thousand ants pooped Whiteout on my papers. By sophomore year, I eliminated white from my wardrobe because of my tempestuous relationship with carbon paper.
But all of that occurred before Statistics 102 in the spring of 1973. In the spring of 1973, for Statistics 102, I met my first computer and realized my experience with technology up to that point had been a cakewalk. I named the computer Fred, and it was loathing at first sight. Fred was bigger than me. He was the size of a building. In order to communicate with Fred you had to punch holes into keycards in just the right places. One misplaced punch and Fred would clam up and refuse to cooperate. No amount of Whiteout could help you if you annoyed Fred. Before meeting Fred I had thought of myself as a rather intelligent young woman. Fred played me for a fool. Any shred of self-confidence I brought with me to college evaporated as I futilely attempted to make sense of the formulas and codes that would enable Fred to turn my rough data into mathematically pristine results that I would find meaningless. In three days Fred became responsible for a lifelong terror of technology far worse than the mere anxiety I had known in the past.
Fast forward a couple of decades. Computers became smaller and smaller, yet they became no less threatening to me. While others were exploring the digital universe and going absolutely app-shit (sorry), I was content (and dare I say proud?) to email and... well, just to email. Old phobias die hard, and I found excuses both creative and banal to delve no deeper into cyberspace than the AOL mailroom and Amazon.com. Eventually I sacrificed my yellow legal pad for Word Perfect and later Microsoft Word, but that is where I stagnated.
I understood my fear of technology was irrational, but most phobias are. And it wasn't debilitating, so I found no immediate need to face my fear. Slowly however, I noticed I wasn't going for the gusto anymore, because much of the gusto these days is found online. I toyed with the idea of becoming an interior designer when the kids left the house, but you should see how many straight lines are involved in learning the basics of house décor!
I was on a short list for an editor's job at an online newspaper, but was a bit too honest about my meager computer skills and my concerns about being able to upgrade them at the advanced age of 58.
Not having been raised in the "Face your Fear and it will Disappear" philosophy, I contented myself with life lived as a technological dinosaur. Unexpectedly, however, a job fell out of the blue into my empty lap. I wanted the job. It was an opportunity to bring some light into the world and get paid for it as well, a rare and wonderful amalgam of work and love. Somehow I found the pluck to take it on.
It's been one month. I had no choice, but to flex my learning muscles. I made a graph!! It had straight lines! I can chart things on Excel. I helped create a power point presentation and I posted a survey on Survey Monkey. I'm using Dropbox. I keep an online calendar. I can Skype. I can work from anywhere. F-you Fred, you big lug! I have a laptop and I'm not afraid to use it!
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