Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What is Your Background?

This is a question that I get asked a lot in my line of work. I’m a contractor at a DoD site that provides IT and Security training/education to the government and military. The majority of people have a laundry list of experience that range from military IT work to the Pentagon. Then there’s me. I’m the technical editor/writer; I make sure that all documents are edited for content and I also work with the Subject Matter Experts to write reports and articles.

My background to back all this up? Well I have an undergrad degree in Anthropology and am working on my Master’s in Geospatial Science. My technical background is in web design, programming, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). At my previous jobs I have played multiple rolls but all come back to technical writing. 

After I explain that to people I tend to get the head tilt followed by “So all that and you’re an editor?” My response usually is: yes; I’m a techy who can write, so this job is perfect for me. The reality is though there is no justification. To some this job might not seem glamourous, but to me it is. Not only do I get to use my editing and writing skills to “clean up” all the documents (classified and unclassified), but I get to read all this incredibly cool material from all IT and Security disciplines. I’m never bored with it. Sure there are times where I get frustrated (a lot of times my “grammar lesson” posts on my Facebook are blunders I see at work), but that can be said of any job. 

The follow-up to the “background” question usually is “After you get your Master’s will you get an analyst or more tech-heavy position?” I’m open to that but it’s not what I’m shooting for. Sure I could make a butt-load of money sitting in front of a computer all day developing databases and maps for the NGA or a similar government agency. That though isn’t necessarily what I want. In the end what I want is to be able to use my knowledge of GIS, IT, and Security to write about it. One of the things I pride myself on doing, as a technical writer/editor, is taking these incredibly tech-heavy disciplines and writing about them in a way that anyone can understand. At my job one of the best compliments I received was from the division chief. He pulled me aside one day and said “This is awesome; even now I can understand how to do [this].” 

In the end am I using my undergrad degree? Directly, no. Am I using my Master’s knowledge (and eventually degree)? Directly, no. However, the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way about the tech field, writing, and even how to interact with people has shaped me into the technical writer/editor I am today.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Virginity is like a piece of paper…

“…the more times you tear it, the easier it is to tear again.”

Yes, these were actual words, spoken in an actual classroom, in an actual Sex Education class. This was a class that yes, was at the Christian school that you all have heard so much about. It’s a story that to this day sticks out in my head.

We were learning about female anatomy and sexuality. In the process of that the teacher held up a piece of paper. She told us that this was representative of our virginity. She tore it in half. Then she tore that half in half again, again, and again until there were about 10 scraps of paper. She went on to tell us that each time we have sex it becomes easier and easier to have more sex, and in the end we are left with only a scrap of ourselves.

I sat there trying to pull into my mind any kind of retort to this logic, but my fifth grader mind couldn’t. So what did I do? I accepted it. I accepted that my virginity was sacred and that waiting until marriage was not only a good thing, but something you should brag about because you were still “whole.” This followed me through middle school and into high school: I would tell anyone who brought it up that I was waiting until marriage to have sex.

Then somewhere around when I was 16 I really started to think about that piece of paper. If I were to have sex why would it tear me in half? Was it because spiritually I was broken? Physically would it cause me harm? So I did what I do best: I researched. I researched statistics of virginity loss, of STDs, teen pregnancies and the like. I researched about protection and how to perform different sex acts in a safe manner. It struck me: why was I always told that sex was wrong? And when I wasn’t told it was wrong, I was told that it was between a married man and woman to make children.

It was around this time that I was questioning my sexuality so that threw an even bigger wrench into the works. Eventually I realized that I didn’t belong in Christianity anymore and my mind became clear to what sex really was. For me though I was paranoid; I was paranoid that it would hurt a lot, that I would get pregnant, that I would be scarred forever if I had sex. Then came college: where I was able to explore my sexuality with both men and women and did “everything but” as I used to put it. I remained solid in my decision to avoid actual sexual intercourse.

When I was 22 I lost my virginity; it hurt, sure but I didn’t really feel any different. I didn’t feel dirty like those Sex Ed classes made me think. I didn’t feel broken emotionally or otherwise. In fact I felt dare I say, good? Fast forward to now when I’m married and having the non-sinful kind of sex. Do I feel any different? No. Do I suddenly feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do? No.

Point of all of this is no matter what you go through, there are things that stick out in your mind. By teaching kids from a young age that sex is dirty, bad, and you’re going to go to hell for it, you’re scarring them for life. Even now in my adult, married brain who understands that sex is a pleasurable act that bonds two people together, I still flash back to the piece of paper being ripped up.