October 16, 2014 | 2 Comments | Betsy Woodman
The motto of the class of 1899 at Mt. Holyoke College was:
“Leave all resultings:
Doe ye nexte thynge.”
These lines came from a religious poem of the era; it was widely reprinted in anthologies. “Doe ye nexte thynge” became a cliché, and a “Doe Ye Nexte Thynge” charitable society was formed in New York City.
I generally see the poem identified as anonymous, although a Mrs. George A.Paull gets the credit in at least one book.
I like the word “resultings,” although I’m not sure what it means. Unfortunate results, perhaps? An invention that doesn’t work, blurry photographs, a clunker of an essay, a shopping mistake that hangs reproachfully in your closet?
Maybe not. Resultings could mean successes, too: the book that came together after many difficult drafts. The portrait that captured a person’s spirit. The thriving business. Beautiful gardens, diplomas, certificates of awards.
Anyway. Whatever past failures and successes sit there staring you in the face, the poem says to leave them behind and “doe ye nexte thynge.”
The Mt. Holyoke students who chose the motto were about to go out into the world; they were too young to be leaving too many baggage-y resultings on the pavement.
However, as one gets older, more and more resultings accumulate. Does that sometimes make it more difficult to decide what the next thing will be?
I loved it when my mother decided, back in the early 1980s, that her next thing would be to become computer-literate. She was just past her sixtieth birthday. Her interest in computers was surprising and impressed the rest of us a lot; plus, she was demonstrating a lot of feistiness and purpose in this pursuit.
She wasn’t a college graduate and, according to the self-deprecating manners she’d learned early on, she would often describe herself as dumb, not good in math, etc., etc. Right.
With her brother, she went to a computer course at the nearby community college. It was completely mystifying to both of them; he dropped out, but she gritted her teeth and went to every single class.
Then she decided she would buy one of the darned machines and keep track of her finances on it. Few people owned a computer in those days–I worked in software and I didn’t have one. In the sixty-and-over age group, a computer owner was as rare as hen’s teeth, especially among females.
At her request, I flew from Massachusetts to Florida to help with this purchase. There was one choice of store–Radio Shack, and we ended up with their hottest new machine–the TRS-80 Model 4. It had 64K of memory–these days that would be equivalent to a short email. We splurged on TWO slots for floppy disks (and they really were floppy.)
Photo credit: Rama, Wikipedia Commons
On to software, where we went all out. For her spreadsheet, she bought the original Visicalc. No drop-down menus, no point-and-click; you had to learn a bunch of codes to get around, and to put in the formulas one quivering green letter or digit at a time.
For the word processor, she hesitated between Tandy’s Scripsit and Super-Scripsit. Super-Scripsit cost a lot more, because you could do bold and underline text. Those features sounded like good things to have, so after a lot of deliberation, we sprung for Super.
The printer was a behemoth that sounded like a machine gun; the set-up instructions told us that it required an exactly level surface. My dad ran around looking for a carpenter’s level, and then we made numerous anxious adjustments to the table to make sure it wouldn’t be a hair out of whack.
With Super-Scripsit came a dozen or so cassette tapes with instruction. Over the next few weeks, my mom listened doggedly to them all, learning to use Ctrl-O and Ctrl-S and all those other keyboard sequences you had to know. She mastered the spreadsheet, abandoning the pretense of not being good with numbers.
Boy, did she become a celebrity in her condo community. The lady with the computer–that was cocktail party conversation for months.
My dad was completely awed at her new-found prowess. He never wanted to learn anything more about computing than leveling the table. In the last year of his life, he typed his first and only email, which was to my son, Ben. “Dear B, this is aggravating labor.”
Over the years, my mom went on to computers that had cursors and mice and color and sound. They all required unlearning most of what she’d learned and replacing it with new skills. She left some more resultings behind. Well, that’s life.
My own next thing after age 60, and after earning my living dealing with facts and figures for a couple of decades, was to let my imagination grab the reins. The result was the fictional Jana Bibi series.
What’s your next thing? Pack up your resultings, and go for it!