Sometimes we do things against our better judgement . Oh , maybe you don’t ; but some of us do . In my case , several examples come to mind : Agreeing to go to Vegas with friends of ours on the busiest traffic day of the year ; renting our little canyon house to a guy who I had a very strong sense from the beginning was a total flake ; volunteering to solicit donations from every house on our block for a cancer charity ………………..
The subject of our study today is something that happened way back during the last century . It’s another example of going against my better judgement ; but , sometimes in life we compromise . This example is no big deal , really . It’s just that the memory came back to me and I’d like to share it .
I had graduated from UCLA by then but I had no overall career plan . My mother was concerned about me. She had a friend who told her about a project at USC where , for free , a guy could get some help to develop a career plan . You go over there and take a test , my mother said , that might help give me an idea about what to do with my life .
I had taken one of those aptitude surveys in high school . The entire class answered several written questions and then we were given suggestions about what we should do when we grew up . I said somewhere in the survey that I liked working with people . I don’t remember much else about the thing , except that one of the recommended suggestions for a career for me at the conclusion of the whole thing was : undertaker .
Likes working with people .
I turned down my mother’s suggestion about the USC gig at first . I told her about that old high school aptitude test , about the undertaker idea , about how I would rather not go through that again . I didn’t want to be a mortician , after all . But she persisted , and I figured I’d do it for her because she’d worry about me a little less . It was against my better judgement , of course , but I called and set up an appointment . There was no cost , after all .
On the designated day and time I showed up at an office on the USC campus and checked in . I’m here for the aptitude test , I told the secretary .
Soon I was escorted into another room by a young woman . She walked me into a white room that was covered walls-and-ceiling with acoustical tiles . There was a large mirror on one wall . Two armless chairs were placed facing one another in the center of the room . There was nothing else in the room .
” Sit down ,” she said .
I sat and she sat on the other chair . Ours knees were inches apart .
” I’m here to take the test , ” I said .
” Tell me about the test , ” she said. I told her that I had expected to take a written test . ” You appear nervous ,” she said next . ” Tell me why you are nervous”.
” Look at this room “, I said . ” Look at how these chairs are placed. Our knees are almost touching . I just came here to take a written survey . Yeah , I’m a little nervous . Aren’t you ? ”
” Why do you feel you need to take a written survey ? ” she said .
” That’s what I was led to believe by my mother who is the reason I’m here “, I said .
” So you’re here because of your mother “, she said . ” Tell me about that “.
This woman and I were about the same age . She was a student of psychology , no doubt , practicing Rogerian therapy techniques, I suppose , and I was today’s guinea pig . I didn’t think that she was very good at it . I imagined that her professor was on the other side of the mirror , watching . She continued on , asking probing questions , offering no information . I pushed for the written part of this and she probed my apparently intense need to have things in writing . I mentioned the fact that I was here only at my mother’s urging , and she probed my deep-seated need to please my mother . I could almost see her psychology-student heart beating faster : Ah ! Mother issues !
She said something about my living with my mother and questioned my being overly influenced by her . I think that she thought she had hit pay dirt —- momma’s boy —- the source of all my problems ! She pursued this theme for quite a while after she got off of the need- to- have- things- in -writing theme.
” I don’t live with my mother “, I said then , and her composure suddenly collapsed . It was a very subtle collapse , granted , but she couldn’t hide it . Her body language told the tale . Her practiced- professional smile wavered . Maybe she was instantly aware of the observing professor on the other side of the glass as her instantly devised theories in this case were suddenly undermined .
And then the hour was up . I didn’t see her check her watch . She stood up . I looked at my watch and saw that it had been exactly an hour since we began this little verbal undertaking . I don’t know how she knew exactly when to finish . She thanked me .
” Next time you can take the written part “, she said .
” Oh , there isn’t going to be a next time “, I said . She seemed genuinely surprised by that comment .
” How did it go over at USC ? ” my mother asked me later .
” Undertaker “, I said .
” So , it didn’t help “.
I decided eventually to become a teacher .