I have been fortunate, over the years of my post-grad work, to have had some truly exceptional and deservedly renown professors. Some of my proudest memories, in fact, are when one or the other of them would praise my work – that was quite exciting! Frankly, I suspect it always will be, as these are all brilliant and perceptive women. I would be utterly thrilled to find out, years from now, that my writing was even half so good as some of theirs! Amazing authors and visionaries such as Vicky Noble, Judy Grahn, Marguerite Rigoglioso, Charlene Spretnak, Carol Christ, and more have been a major part of growing and encouraging my thinking. I’m exceptionally pleased I could take classes from those five in particular, and very proud that they thought my thinking and writing was and is worthwhile. Judy Grahn in particular urged me to continue my work, especially when she said to me something along the lines of, “You’re so smart, Collie! Why don’t you challenge yourself more?”
She’s right, though. There have been many times when it was just easier to turn in the swiftly written paper just like everyone else’s, knowing it was only average work on my part — rather than really searching or digging deep for something more thoughtful and/or unique.
So I was amusedly reminded of this the other day when I got back my Methodology chapter for my dissertation proposal from my committee Chair. I was so pleased to read that my Chair felt that I “demonstrate an excellent grasp of the texts that you cite, and you engage with them in a masterful way,” and that my “writing is sophisticated and engaging”! Aww, yesssss! I paused in my reading to preen a little, mentally – yay, me! Then I continued reading to get all the feedback she’d given, and to make note of her requested refinements…
-and at some point I found myself wondering a bit resentfully why my Chair was picking on me so! All these finicky little details she was fussing over – it’s not like the other proposals I’d read had been that much different than mine! Why, one of them had a much, much simpler Methodology chapter than mine already was. This was so unfair! My Chair was being pointlessly mean to me! Whine whine whine…
-and then it hit me: wait, hadn’t I asked for this? Hadn’t I specifically tried to find people for my dissertation committee that would confront me with the difficult questions, so I would hopefully end up with a truly excellent bit of research in my dissertation? –people who would notice and point out where I was lazily trying to just slide by on my writing? –that wouldn’t let me just fudge on the little details?
Well… yes, actually: I did ask for this. I’m whining… at the results of my own request. That’s remarkably dumb of me — how embarrassing! Thank goodness the only person here in my head to hear this kvetching is me! :-)
So this one’s for you, Judy – since your simultaneously inspiring and disconcerting comment is one of the main reasons I’m still trying to challenge myself; to continue learning and growing rather than sitting smugly on tatty old laurels and just stagnating mentally. Admittedly, sometimes trying to constantly test myself is a right pain in the ass! –but I’m glad you were there for me, to give me that much-needed metaphorical kick in the butt when I needed it. ;)