As a great cartoon character once said, “Doh!” Okay, maybe he said it about a couple of zillion times, but that lends strength and recognition to the outcry. The past few weeks I’ve been feeling layers of emotions as my college semester winds down. There’s the joy of learning, and while that may sound like a suck-up statement, I’m serious. Assigned readings have taken me to places I never considered within my thought processes. Subjects like prison rape, or how an intersexed person feels when using a public bathroom, have given me greater perspective on society’s values. I don’t have the answers to these issues, but I’m a whole lot more aware of them.
Another emotion I’ve been recycling daily is the feeling of pressure. It’s not to the anxiety level, although every once in awhile a cold trickle of sweat runs down my back as I realize how much work is in front of me and how quickly the calendar pages are turning. My husband sees my stress and assures me I’ll be fine. He means it in a supportive way, but it often has the opposite effect. It’s like he absolutely expects I’ll do more than “good,” I’ll excel—which puts more pressure on me to make sure I don’t let him down.
Yet another feeling is doubt. I listen to my classmates and I am awe-struck by their analytical thinking. I’m beginning to dislike the word “analytical,” by the way. Who am I to be critical of other’s work? And yet as students we become conditioned to find fault in other’s research or writing. It’s as though if you were to agree with the author you’re not thinking deep enough. Really? To me finding fault is different than reading a paper, digesting the material, and deciding if it fits within one’s current belief system. What can be learned from the work? What doesn’t seem logical, why not, and how can I find out more? I’m comfortable with that line of thinking.
However, more often than not we are encouraged to ravage a work, but based on what? Our socialization? Our customs and habits? Our mindset? If you’ve ever been at a family gathering where politics throw the room into a heated frenzy, you know what I’m talking about. People stop listening to other points of view; they just want to defend their own. It troubles me.
When I hear the eloquent way my classmates tear into a subject I feel inadequate. They use words that I’m pretty sure are made up until I get home and look in a dictionary. To my amazement they are there. Huh. And that’s the moment that doubt takes hold of me. Am I good enough to be in graduate school? Am I “getting” the academic posturing? Am I in the right program for my interests?
Yesterday I was whining to one of my professors about my concerns. With great patience she listened and reflected as I bled out my woes and worries. Finally she said, “This may seem like heresy, but have you considered not stressing over the grades and just getting out of it what you like? Sure, pass the course, but why agonize over (perfectly!) pleasing people who don’t share your vision? Haven’t you done enough of that in your life? I think I have.”
Whomp! Like a weight falling off my shoulders I could breathe again. And that is the moment Homer Simpsons’ “Doh!” slapped my forehead. Of course she is right. I’ve been caught up—once again—in the good-girl syndrome. I must please others…even my beloved husband. So, today, I’m trying to adapt to a better attitude. This is my education, my project, and my choice. If my words aren’t as big and fancy as my fellow students, so what? They are my words coming through my voice. I’d thank my professor and friend by naming her, but since she is talking heresy (and bless her for it) I don’t want to get her in trouble. I feel so much better, and all I have to be is me. Doh!