Pride (in the name of love)

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!!!

4 responses to “Pride (in the name of love)

  1. I think that a negative example — such as you have in Angry Proud Grandfather, at least in this one respect — can be incredibly powerful, at least for those of us who are motivated a little bit by fear.

    I applaud your new commitment to putting pride away, at least temporarily, and doing what has to be done!

  2. I imagine you have heard this before, and the accuracy might differ from field to field, but I frequently have the same response to your posts and have never typed them here.

    As you know, you are so much more than your diss. Your work is so much more than your diss. You have many, many opportunities to improve, change, repeat, and/or whatever else you want to do with your diss. drafts after it is defended and approved. Far from being a good representation of your best work, your diss. is one of the ways that higher education systems teach people to follow orders, do what they’re told, submit to authority, and other ridiculous things. If you can transcend/surivive what the process of getting a PhD does to you, the diss. is a mere tool or instrument to receiving a salary, or benefits, or (possibilities for) job security. Your diss. is like a car you need to work some minimum wage job to purchase so that you have transportation to go places outside bus routes. Sure, swallow pride if that’s what it takes and/or how you perceive it. Finishing my diss. was one of the biggest obstacles to my research in grad school. But those meaningless signatures on that sheet of paper will free you up to teach and research more in line with your heart (if your heart is not too tarnished by following those orders…). I could go on and on but I think the sentiments are well known. You know what to do. You know you can do it. Now keep in mind the future benefits, muddle (as fast as possible! – muddle) through the garbage, and free yourself up to enjoy more of the gold – in the classroom, in the journals, and, of course, in Gadlet’s eyes.

  3. Stewgard, I would like to send you an article that I think you would like. Can you send me an email address for Stewgad-Pretty-Hard-,-Dammit related stuff?

  4. I came to an almost exact conclusion about my current project. I’d been thrashing and depressed all week because my husband was just not getting these essays–he thought they were great, just missing something. I’m like, no, you’re the one missing something.
    And then I decided I’d quit writing forever.
    But last night, in an I’m-not-going-to-sleep-tonight panic, I realized that maybe I could actually look at the project a bit more broadly and see where the true method lay and then pick up that method and apply it where necessary.
    I’m hopeful for you. And for me.

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