Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

So I looked up self-aggrandizing in the dictionary...

I read a comment in a friend's livejournal that annoyed me at first but on reflection it mostly amuses me, being such a prime example of the "I'm special" adolescent mindset that many adults I encounter seem to delight in holding on to. It has the potential of becoming a shorthand catchphrase.

My friend, who was at the LISA conference with me, is going through a sort of career crisis and not feeling particularly passionate about his work as a system administrator. He's been writing about this, quite articulately, in his journal. This yields many supportive and interesting responses because the issues he's dealing with are ones that I think most of us deal with -- either continuously or sporadically. The LISA conference itself brought a lot of his concerns into the forefront, because at the LISA conference you are living in a world where the folks seem quite passionate about system administration. (I, myself, felt more at home than ever this year because my first year at my new job has brought me so very many more ranting topics than I've had in a while, at least in technical areas.)

One respondent offered some advice about finding meaning in your work, which is quite useful and reasonable. This, however, is how he chose to express this thought:

Very few people realize that there are two kinds of sysadmins: the ones like most at LISA, geeking out over the nuts and bolts, and the ones like you and I, who want to contribute in some way and this is just how we can.

I don't believe this is meant to criticize those who "geek out over the nuts and bolts", although in context that's an easy impression to get. But it definitely draws a distinction between those who don't want to contribute in some way and those ("like you and I") who do. Um, sure -- all those folks working on the presentations, all those folks arranging their work and lives and budgets so that they can attend the conference -- all of those folks don't want to contribute in some way, nope. They are entirely about "the nuts and bolts". Later this commentor describes the same "you and I" as system administrators who care about their users. The rest of us, by contrast, are "uncaring" -- and I'm forced to include me in that category, although the entire point of me going to the conference is because I care very much about my users, who are the sysadmins.

It is fully possible to make the point of finding meaning in your work and caring about the people you work with without going on to make the "we're better than others" distinction. I'm sure there are people who don't particularly care about their job or consider making a difference to be an issue, but you pretty much don't find them at the LISA conference.

This is all Holden Caulfieldism: Me, I'm so special in a world of phonies. Of course, Holden was a fictional character meant to epitomize the self-involvement of an adolescent -- if a particularly hurt one. I don't really think he was meant to be a role model for a mature adult.

As for the catchphrase: You and I, we want to contribute. Try rolling that around on your tongue. Doesn't it make you feel you are better than everybody else? Doesn't it make you want to revive the phrase "hoi polloi"?
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