data points

by Kristen

I feel—scratch that, I know. Case closed.

I reach for the data. I put numbers in a spreadsheet. I key in formulas and watch the results appear before my eyes. I double- and triple-check my work because, well, the cold hard numbers are right . . . though they tell a different story than the one I thought I knew.

But that’s okay. I can add more data. Two data sets will validate my point.

Until they don’t.

The results show my anecdotal perception from deep in the midst of the evidence to be incomplete. I had a point. My feelings were valid. But they weren’t comprehensive. Stepping back and looking at stats lets me see a broader perspective. It casts my feelings and perceptions in a fuller light.

So I stack my perceptions against the evidence. I still feel the same emotions, but the edge is gone. The sharp corners that needled me seem blunter. My frustration at how my view wasn’t considered is tempered by new compassion for those on the other side of the data whom I wasn’t considering.

The numbers remind me my vision isn’t always clear. And, even when it is, I may not see the whole picture. The story is bigger than my bit role.

If my perceptions are this skewed over a track-able work situation, how off target do they get in everyday settings?

I have no spreadsheet for life. I can’t dump details into rows and columns to check every moment and emotion. But I can remember the scope of the narrative exceeds what I feel, what I perceive, what I know. And maybe, just maybe, I can let grace ease the tension of my imperfect knowledge.

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