Lately people have told me, in various ways, that they admire my tenacity. I’m getting a new reputation over the last few years. If you ask me to do something, I will do it. If you offer me a challenge, I will rise to it. Like this–in late 2002 or early 2003, a woman I admire, and to whom I went for help, suggested I apply to go to Graduate School. i would not have come up with that idea myself, having long ago discarded the belief that I was smart enough or disciplined enough to return to school. But she thought I could do it, and she knew some people at the university I could talk to, so I did. I went to talk to the women she recommended, both professors in the department i was going to apply to, and i gathered recommendation letters, and samples of my writing and figured out some ideas of questions I’d like to ask, things i’d like to study. One of the professors said, “Where do you want to go, what organizations or groups do you want to understand? Think of it as an opportunity to learn anything you want about other people and places — how it all works together”. But I didn’t want to go and study other people. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to insert myself in someone else’s place and poke around in their business. I did want to understand more of a big picture — what the hell was going on that there was such a rapidly growing divide between the haves and the have-nots? what was going on that women were in increasingly grave danger? Why am I working so hard, and losing sleep and not accomplishing anything? Why are women who should be my allies so far away from me? we’re so far away from each other…Anyway.
So my friend and mentor said, “you should try” and I did. And I got into graduate school! Then I got Master of Arts degree, because teachers and friends and loved ones said, “I think you can”, and even though there were times when i did not believe I could, I did. Then I applied for PhD school, because I wanted to teach, and there were few opportunities I could see around me, but knew I would have more in post-graduate school. Even though i didn’t really believe that I had the necessary discipline or tenacity or focus to do it, other people said, “you can. Try it” so I did. And I was accepted into the program.
Now i’m a Doctor of Philosophy. and at my defense, my advisor said, “Erin is one of the most tenacious women I know”.
Over and over, I have said, “well, okay, if you think I can, I’ll try” and I have, in that manner, taken on new and frightening and challenging and enriching adventures. I teach now, I’ve gone to many conferences all over the place — Denmark, Turkey, New Brunswick, Chicago…the only thing I had to do was say yes. And then do the work that was required.
So, okay, i’m tenacious, in a way. If you ask me to consider something, if you ask me to do something, if you ask for help, I will do it.
But I realized that I do not initiate. I wrote an opinion piece for a newspaper, based on my doctoral defense. I sent it to a couple of papers so far, but haven’t heard back. I called the editorial section editor of one of the papers and left a message on their voicemail. But I’m too self-effacing. “I think i have a unique perspective on this topic” I said, but didn’t say exactly WHY. I don’t know how to say, “Pay attention to me, I have ideas worth considering.”
Girly behaviour, that. I am too old to be waiting around for “prince charming” (metaphorically, of course)– but here I am. I am still responding, but not proposing.
I’ll post that opinion piece here soon, but first I have to fix it up and send it to someone else, and this time follow up with an assertive phone call. “this is an important perspective, I have something important to contribute to the discourse”. damn. the very idea makes me anxious. Why, though? it’s part of my promise to others, it’s my responsibility — it’s not just about me. I’m not serving anyone with this false humility. argh.
okay. lookit. I have to go, meet a commitment I made but have resisted. I will post again another time.