After you’ve confronted the dragon, comes the bliss
Annie Neugebauer graduated from the University of Texas in 2007. A favorite professor devastated her by asking why she hadn’t been in the honor’s program. A question posed even though she graduated with “highest university honors.” The professor thought she had taken the easy road and should have enrolled in honors courses. She had not done so because the regular course requirements fit her schedule. After much self-examination she concluded what she had done didn’t require someone else’s permission. She writes about her experience at annieneugebauer.com.
Having just experienced my own commencement in May, I resonated with Annie. During my 10 years of graduate school, I had two C’s. Both bothered me. The first one came about five years ago, and I justified it by thinking I asked for it. The course required memorizing. You might as well have told me to cut the lawn every day. It isn’t going to happen.
When I found out what the course demanded, I gave myself permission to just pass. Just passing for me is a C. Back in the day it is how I did all of school. Have fun, maybe show up for class, and get by. The new more mature Bob sought to graduate with the “highest university honors.”
I just missed. As others were called to receive their diploma “with honors” I cringed a bit. Then I remembered a question asked me by a friend when I told him about my C’s.
“Bob, what do they call a doctor who graduated last in their class?”
I thought about it, but had no answer.
Then he smiled and said, “A doctor.”
His words are how I got over the earlier C, but they didn’t get me by the more recent one. It was the grade given to me for a self-directed course. A course I designed to make up one and a half credits. I even picked the professor. Completing the curriculum demanded that I read four or five books and write a 15-page paper.
The professor gave me a C with the comment that my writing was not academic. He thought my writing sounded more like a sermon. I emailed him that I would like to talk about it. He acknowledged receipt of my email, said he would get back to me, but never did. The next time I saw him was at graduation.
After the diplomas were received, my class exited from the sanctuary. One by one we paraded past the professors. The last professor in the academic line was professor C, a man who has a perpetual smirk on his face. This day he looked particularly smirky. He said nothing, nor did I.
I left commencement with the issue of a C unresolved. It made the event less celebratory. It had me feeling fraudulent.
No matter that I spent 10 years in study and had a grade point average far exceeding C.
It did matter that I wanted this degree in part for self-esteem. Having not been an academic in undergraduate days, I wanted to prove I had the right stuff. For me this meant a report card unblemished by C’s. I wanted all my professors to think I was the greatest student ever.
It took just one professor to throw me off track. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to be an academic writer. This was about confronting dragons. There should be a course on it.
Then again, I think there is. I took it.
Now its time to apply it to bliss.