I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandfather lately — the one whose 6-word-biography would have been “don’t come back Monday.” This statement so aptly summarized the guy’s life that he didn’t even need the other two words. This man had a temper which, as tempers usually do, manifested itself in particularly destructive ways. Some of which were destructive to others, some of which were self-destructive. But I think one of the worst things that he ever did, to himself anyway, was to reject an offer of help from his father-in-law because he was too proud to take the man’s money for a college education. He could have had a college degree, and consequently a more steady career, but instead opted for pride, “independence,” and a life of perpetual scrambling for the next big thing. The fact that he often ditched the next big thing when he felt that his superiors had taken advantage or pissed him off didn’t help much with this plan. But he still had his pride as he walked away from job after job with the words “don’t come back Monday” ringing in his ears.
The other day, I was doing something and I made some kind of minor mistake while doing it, (I can’t remember what, even. It was that minor) and Spousal Unit called me on it. I spent 5 or 10 minutes justifying it before he said, “Stewgad, just say you were wrong.” Oh. Huh. That.
Apparently he forgot to remember that admitting to being wrong is the single last most worst thing that anyone can ever do ever. Sheesh.
Then he said, “Man, Stewgad, you’re getting more and more like Angry Proud Grandfather.”
A few days later I was talking with some friends and they were asking about TWSNBN. I said that I had heard from my advisor but that he wanted so many changes in the last chapter, I just shut down and didn’t reply and so hadn’t worked on it for awhile because there was no way I could do all of what he wanted and so it was clearly impossible and why would he ask such unreasonable things from me like to make CHANGES in my chapter draft? And by the way, I absolutely hate having this person have power over me and my work and it totally sucks and so why should I have to do what he says anyway?
When my little rant wound down, they very kindly and gently pointed out that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t the best attitude to take on this particular issue. In fact, one of my friends suggested that perhaps I needed to put my pride aside for the remainder of this project and just do what had to be done in order to finish. Those were her actual words. Put your pride aside.
This suddenly seemed like a radical concept to me. What? Put down my pride? Doesn’t she know that without that there may be nothing else left?
I think one of the things that academics does is that it simultaneously builds up and destroys our egos. It makes us feel grandiose in our intellectual importance, because to justify our work we have to claim that it is fundamentally important, right? And I know that while I think my project is kinda important, is it global warming or starving orphan or species extinction kind of important? Nope. Not even. So this headiness of intellectual importance gets combined with a deep sense of unworthiness. I mean, we academics know we’re frauds. We mostly know that we are neither as smart as the image that we project (and that we have to project to protect our own little turf from colleagues and rivals) nor are we as confident as we seem. At least I’m not.
But yet, I still have my pride.
And here’s the insidious nagging genetic pull from the Angry Proud Grandfather that says I’d rather walk away than to accept direction or worse, correction. That I’d rather be told that I shouldn’t come back to my job than to accept the fact that I’m a very low dude on a very tall and very hierarchic totem pole.
I think that both Spousal Unit and my friend were right — that I may be throwing something away because of my pride. That I may be losing the chance to do what I love and to be what I want because of this stubborn little pride thing.
So I emailed my advisor, and we’re working on finding a time to meet. When I see him, I’m going to have the next chapter revised, and am well on my way to revising the next chapter. Which would leave 1 to draft and 1 to revise, and a conclusion and then I’ll be done.
And, in the name of love — for myself, for the Gadlet, for Spousal Unit, for my topic and for my field — I’m going to put my pride aside, and just do whatever it takes to finish this.
Gadlet update: (FYI)
She’s walking, talking, and signing like mad. She knows 6 spoken words: Mama, Dada, Hi, Hot, Kitty, (ee-ee), hat, yum (MUM!). She knows almost 20 baby signs or sounds: hi, bye, night-night, all done, more, book, hat, dog, fish, bird, light, nurse, cow, wolf, frog, flower, hair, hot. But she’s absorbing language at such a rapid pace, it is so amazing.
She’s also causing trouble. The other day as I was packing her diaper bag to go out, it got really quiet and I ran into the room where I left her and found her two stairs from the top of the stairway. (We had a top gate to keep her from falling down, but not a bottom one yet.) I caught up to her and let her go the rest of the way, and then she turned around and applauded herself.
Spousal Unit wins the Baby Endangerment prize, though. The other day she was “organizing” our kitchen cabinets, and he turned his back and turned back around to find the kid with the BLADE to the food processor in her hand, standing there with a maniacal grin.
Since she could have killed and/or seriously damaged herself in both of these incidents, I think we’re both even. Needless to say there is now a second gate and that food processor is stored in an upper cabinet. Live and learn, I guess. Hopefully we’ll learn enough fast enough so that she can keep on living!!!