November 30, 2007

Two Sides of Stubborn

As I advance in my graduate studies, slowly and painfully, I am looking forward to my thesis project. That is to say, I look forward to the project itself if I can ever move past the approval stage. Last time I checked, I was not a poodle, so I don’t know why they keep holding up hoops.

I invited my studio professor, Rumiko, to sit on my committee this week.

“What is my role?” she asked.

“Kicking my ass?” The good thing about Rumiko is she understands certain realities and so can laugh at them. “I’d like you to help me work on the philosophy and theory,” I told her.

“Oh, that sounds like fun!” she replied.

She pointed out I am stubborn, with which I agreed.

The thing about being stubborn is that generally I genuinely don’t intent to be so. The thing about being stubborn is that I’m stubborn even against my own will a good portion of the time, let alone anyone else’s. I can even feel the onset, like pushing, hackles rising, tension building.

Sometimes it serves me well. I draw ambition and tenacity and patience out of my bottomless well of obstinacy. Yet when it comes right down to it, when I’m being stubborn I feel almost as if I’m simply acting ‘in spite of.’ In spite of reason. In spite of logic. In spite of my professors. In spite of my family. In spite of society. Certainly, in spite of myself. And spite, it turns out, is not a pretty thing. Spite is malice, nastiness, and malevolence. None of these things would I identify with myself. Yet, I am undeniably stubborn.

True, I’m fairly easy going, cooperative, flexible, helpful, and more than willing to compromise. If the matter at hand is where to go for dinner or what verbiage to use in our team paper. The people who know me and know me well see past that. Rumiko certainly does, at any rate. Heaven knows it drove my mother insane (still does) and never ceases to amuse my father. I also have a sneaking suspicion that both side of the coin are inseparable – the perseverence I cultivate, which keeps me moving through the hoops, and the obstinacy I struggle with, which keeps me stading still.

“I bend,” I protested weakly, “sometimes.”

Rumiko just smiled.

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