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Venting: Limbo is Also Hell

I've been writing a lot about how to hold your supervisors accountable, but I would also like to try other forms of self-advocacy from time to time, too. People that know the real me know that I am honest to a fault. It gets me in trouble a lot of the time, since I don't have a "filter". At the same time, however, one of the reasons I like to vent out my frustrations is that I find it to be therapeutic. It is my belief that repressing your frustrations causes a chronic buildup of what I think is unnecessary psychological stress. The problem is, your adversaries can use this against you, and get you into trouble, so repressing is an unfortunate requirement for survival in today's society. That is, unless you do it anonymously.

In any case, I am going to use this blogging medium as a way to get my frustrations out without giving my enemies ammunition. "See? I told you that person is lazy and unmotivated! They're just full of piss and vinegar; we had to get rid of them! The list goes on."

So, anyway, what am I going to vent about today? If anyone has been following my blog up until now, it shouldn't be too hard to conclude that I must be a "whistleblower". You may also remember that I didn't make this decision lightly; I was horrified to death of the negative repercussions of reporting the misdeeds of my supervisor to the federal government. The government is slow and bureaucratic. Yes, there are laws in place that technically forbid discrimination against protected persons, and retaliation for participating in protected acts, such as whistleblowing, but the fact is, if you're employer is breaking the law, they realistically don't care about the consequences. To some extent, your employer will acknowledge there is a slight, albeit unrealistic risk that they might get in real, legitimate trouble. Depending on how long their history of abuse and mistreatment has gone on unimpeded, it is likely they grow complacent, or even downright arrogant. "I got away with it several times in the past, and I can do it again!" It gets to the point that they dismiss any possibility of getting into serious trouble as random, statistical noise. Very few things in life are 100% certain, but we tend to take "chances", with anything that has an extremely high probability of success. In fact, we almost consider it an impossibility that the alternative scenario can happen, if the odds are high enough in our favor. 99.9% is close enough to 100%, right?

This can be a dangerous way of thinking, however. Yes, a 0.1% chance of anything happening, seems at a superficial level to be extremely unlikely. However (and correct me if I am mistaken), many statisticians and mathematicians would agree that these odds are not that unlikely at all --- stranger things have happened. I just finished reading Jurassic Park with my son, and one of the main characters in the book, Dr. Ian Malcolm is a firm believer in Chaos Theory. He discusses Chaos Theory numerous times throughout the book, and blames it as the underlying reason why the weather is unpredictable. We've all got angry at weather forecasts before, right? We watch the news, and the weather guy or gal tells us there's only a 5% chance of rain happening tomorrow --- it's going to be a great day to go to the beach! So, we make preparations, pack everything up in our car, plan to get up extra early tomorrow, only to discover that it's raining cats and dogs outside. How did that happen? Again, as long as probability isn't 100%, nothing is guaranteed. The weatherperson wasn't exactly wrong, other than to suggest that tomorrow was going to a great day for the beach. If we have any reason to get upset with him or her, that would be it. However, a 5% chance is certainly possible. Thinking about it another way, 5% is basically a 1:20 chance. Go to your local Target and buy yourself one of those 20-sided dice for tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. Every time you roll a 1, it's going to rain (given a rain forecast of 5%). This is with 5% odds. In fact, in games like D&D, rolling a 1 is what is called a "critical fail", and rolling a 20 (which is another 5% chance) is a "critical success/hit". Anyone that has played these games have doubtlessly landed at least one critical hit, or one critical fail at least once, especially if they played more than one session. It is even likely that this might have happened more than once in their very first session that they ever played.

Roll that die!

Where am I going with this? "Rare" events are not as rare, as they seem. In fact, if enough events happen, it is very likely that the unlikely scenario will happen at least once. In DnD, you roll the d20 several times in a single session, which is why you're almost bound to get at least one critical success or critical fail at some point throughout your campaign --- probably several more than that. However, as human beings, we have a tendency to dismiss an unlikely scenario as being outright impossible. One of the the factors that ultimately made me decide to report my supervisor to the government is I am, to some extent a gambler. I understand that as long as anything isn't guaranteed, anything can happen, no matter how unlikely it is. Like they say in the Powerball, you can't win if you don't play.

In any case, I've rambled on and on about statistics and probability; what does this have to do with Limbo? Ultimately, by blowing the whistle on my supervisor, they did eventually find out about this (it was bound to happen given the inefficiency of the government bureaucracy), and I have been effectively thrusted into vocational Limbo. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, the concept is deeply rooted in Catholic dogma. It is believed that good people who ultimately do not accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior did not necessarily do anything bad enough to deserve eternal damnation an hellfire, but at the same time, they still died in sin. In other words, it's not fair to torture someone who tried their best to be good, and fell short of it, because they failed to believe in God. They must still be separated from God, but at the very least, they won't be continuously tortured.

For those of you who find religion and the occult as fascinating as I do, you may have stumbled across a classic work of literature commonly referred to as "Dante's Inferno". While this work is by no means canon in the protestant or Catholic sense, it is widely discussed to this day as an impressive account of the horrors of eternal damnation. It even helps put into context the concept of Limbo, which as many people may or may not know, is also a part of hell. According to Christianity, hell exists as a way to separate sin from God. It remains controversial what this separation entails exactly. While many people believe every sinner must burn and suffer for the rest of eternity, others simply believe that sinners cease to exist, or are simply barred from entering heaven (perhaps haunting an empty world as a ghost or spirit). Limbo was created as a concept to show that even virtuous pagans committed sins that were never forgiven, and therefore have to be separated from God, even if they don't have to suffer.

The problem with Limbo is there is still no hope. Limbo is boring and unfulfilling, and there is no hope that it will ever get better. Sure, you're not in excruciating, agonizing pain, but you're not really "alive", either. In colloquial terms, we use Limbo to as a euphemism to state that we're stuck, without any hope that anything will get better any time soon. We can't go anywhere until whatever is happening in our lives is eventually resolved. I am personally in this kind of Limbo right now, while I'm waiting for the Federal Government to make a final decision on my case. In a way, I am in hell. I have been there before, and it's not fun. I knew what I was getting myself into when I started my investigation with my supervisor, but it's still excruciatingly painful.

We're not talking about this type of Limbo. This is actually fun.

Again, I urge anyone who is thinking of reporting your institution's misdeeds to the federal government to think of the consequences before going through with it. It's going to be a long, dragged out war of attrition, and the other side is hoping that you will eventually give up so that they win by default. I do not plan to give my institution that luxury. No matter how bad the odds are against me, it is my right to roll that dice and see what happens. I will keep my readers posted on how everything turns out, but for the sake of future students at my institution, I can only hope it all works out somehow. Thank you for reading.

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