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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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When In Doubt, Let It Out

It’s a good thing I work in science.

Everyone’s different, of course. Some people would enjoy working in a biotech company the same way I would enjoy, say, teaching high school or driving an ambulance. Which is to say, not even the slightest freaking microscopic bit.

Seriously. Even if the lunch ladies have Taco Tuesday in the cafeteria. It’s still unadulterated hell.

A lot of my preference for what I do comes from not really being emotional about things. Sure, there are exceptions. My wife. Fuzzy puppies. Anything Douglas Adams or Berkeley Breathed have written. But otherwise, I’d rather try to reason things out than get all caught up in FEELS about them.

(Which is not to say I do reason things out very often, because often I’m just not that bright. But I like to try.)

So my job — which is roughly eighty percent fiddling with numbers in Excel, and twenty percent trading big sciency words with the researchers who made the numbers happen in the first place — is a pretty good fit. Numbers add up the same way, most times. Usually. Excel only occasionally horks up, shits the bed and crashes your spreadsheets. And so far as I’ve seen, like baseball, there’s no crying in science.

(Well. There’s crying in some science, I guess. Dr. Frankenstein’s lab would be no picnic to post-doc in, for instance. But I haven’t seen actual open weeping in a laboratory since the day I was kicked out of graduate school.

Yeah, I know. Shut it, you.)

Of course, everybody needs an outlet. At least, I think they do. I do, and I basically have nothing to outlet, most days. But some sort of emotional something-or-other must build up — “backwash feels”, you might call it — and it’s good to have something you can dive into heart-first, to let it all out. A safe thing, where a little yelling and hoping and ruing and yearning and unadulterated feeling won’t have major consequences.

“These people shed drama like a tabby drops dander.”

(From what I gather, some people don’t share this philosophy. Those people either hold it all in, until they explode — possibly literally — sitting on a bus some day, because coming up with exact change was just the final. Fucking. Straw.

Or they emote everywhere, all over their family and friends and fellow workers in a huge roving puddle of feels. These people shed drama like a tabby drops dander. Frankly, I’d rather take my chances with the bus-change types.

Neither of these sorts of person has much use for me. That makes me ecstatic.

Or it would. If I had actual emotions about it.)

There are three main arenas in our present society where this sort of emotional outletting seems common, where “feeling stuff about stuff” is pretty much accepted as the normal way to do things. These are: religion, politics and sports.

Personally, I’ve chosen sports. Assuming we’re spectators here, it seems the one with the lowest risk. If I get all lathered up and jubilant/crushed/outraged about some sporting event, it’ll all be over in a couple of hours. No worries. It’s just an outlet.

(By contrast, you might have to hold a good lather about politics for four — or eight — years. That’s exhausting. And religion, depending on whom you talk to, possibly forever.

Or at least six hours, for a Catholic church service. Again: exhausting.)

Now, maybe that’s just me. Maybe some people don’t feel the need for outlets. But there seem to be an awful lot of people angry and frothy about an awful lot of things, and for more than two or three hours at a time. So maybe I’m onto something.

But I was watching sports tonight — because “outlet” — and I saw how terrible it would be if your emotional outlet was wrapped up in something else. Specifically, I was watching the Steelers and Bengals NFL playoff game, which is “sports” — but for the players, it’s also “job”. And those teams don’t like each other. And some people got emotional. Like, really emotional. And it completely cost one team the game.

(I won’t rehash the action here. If you care about football, you’ve been basking in hot takes on the end of that game for hours already. If you don’t, then it doesn’t much matter. Let’s just say there was a lot of foot-stomping and jerkface-calling and very large men failing to use their “inside voice” when asked to. Brouhaha royale.)

I don’t think I could do that. Getting so emotionally wired and churned up about the most important part of the job? Seems like that would be distracting and frustrating and counterproductive. In fact, it seems like it was distracting and frustrating and counterproductive. And these guys just had to keep their shit together — or basically, fail to — for three and a half hours. I can’t imagine doing it for eight hours a stretch, five days a week. Or at all, really.

So I come back to my original thought: it’s good that I work in the area I do. I’m not cut out to mix feels with business. My hat’s off to the people who do — the teachers and EMTs and professional football players on teams other than Cincinnati. Me, all I’ve got to get emotional about at work are those pesky Excel glitches.

And that’s plenty enough. God, I hate them SO much.

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