Computer bar
Michelle Murrain
Michelle Murrain

This book includes an unusual collection of unusual people, and I admit I find unusual people interesting. So I was pleased when, in the course of this interview, Michelle Murrain — whom I had never met before — turned out to be even more unusual than I expected.

Stereotypes are stupid but often contain a grain of truth. I tried to think of a nonstereotyped way of introducing Michelle, but the stereotyped way is more fun: she's a black, woman, seminary-trained Born Again Christian, Buddhist, lesbian social activist, poet and science fiction writer with a Ph.D. in neuroscience, a one-time tenured college professor, and a full-time computer consultant. She reflects none of the attitudes these stereotypes imply.

Michelle is one of the most present, normal, unpretentious people I've met. She doesn't seem any more enlightened than average, but she is. I think it's the way she deals with her confusion: uncertainty doesn't seem to bother her. Her confusion is well ordered; she grows comfortably within it. On the other hand, there is a lot she didn't tell me.

Interview Excerpts
Read the full interview :

"I’m an only child and my parents were very engaged in their own lives and careers, and not very engaged in my life. They were mostly not around. So for me it was, like, school’s not very useful, my parents were not really there… Maybe that was part of learning that the world was not just about me because I didn’t have many people who were acting as if the world was about me…

"What you’re supposed to do (is) work hard at what you don’t really like very much, and then later you get time to play. I never lived my life that way, and I could never imagine doing it. I’ve always lived my life… I mean the decision to go to Grad School… was fine… but that was the last decision I made that was not, “Let me do what I enjoy. Let me do what makes sense for me. Let me do what I feel fulfilled in.” And that’s always been the way I’ve been…

"When I decided to become a consultant… I read, like, 5 or 6 books about going into business for yourself and being a consultant and stuff. In fact I got to the point where I said, “I can’t do this!” You know they have these stupid quizzes in the beginning, like “What kind of personality do you need to be going into business for yourself.” And of course I didn’t fit any of them, right? So, it was like, 'Forget it, I can’t do this…'

"I’ve had small failures… but at each little failure I learned enough not to make bigger ones. I don’t know. Maybe they’re still to come! (laughs) That could be, you know… A lot of it has been fortuitous, but a lot of it has been following my heart, following what I feel I will enjoy, and that seems to have gotten me to the right place…

"I think if there’s one thing that I would do differently — I don’t know if this would really change my decisions, but I think it’s one of the threads that really took me a long time, and as I said I’m still working on this — it’s to really love who I am. And I think that I didn’t always appreciate who I was…

"There are directions that you might go in if you understand and really love who you are. There are things that you’ll give yourself if you do, and that you won’t give yourself if you don’t. And there are ways that you’ll… not take as seriously what other people have to say — which may or may not be true — about who you are."


Michelle Murrain's personal site
OpenIssue, LLC
Bennington College
Hampshire College
Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Copyright © 2010, Lincoln Stoller. All rights reserved.