The post below is about ten days old and so much has happened since, and I am so over it all. Now the heat has almost arrived and I am going camping. Then I will enter my hermitage. The problem with my hermitage, of course, is that I am ultimately so sociable. But I am even now in my hermitage.
I have been on sabbatical this semester and it has worked somewhat although the state is too small, and I am too penniless, to escape completely. But I have learned many fascinating things, including the names of all the things I wish to avoid in life, and how to identify them before they catch me.
I have been disabled since 21 March due to three instances in a row of emotional abuse I did not catch in time — although I must say I got faster and faster on the uptake. I cannot afford to go through any more. I hope these five weeks of lost time can have the benefit of immunizing me. I always want to move to foreign countries, or spend time in foreign countries, because there I am for various reasons less vulnerable to these incidents. And my friends always tell me I must move away from here because of the prevalence in this area of certain behavior. I think, though, that the task at hand is to see and stand my ground.
Now that the spring festival season is over I am also going to detoxify myself from all mind altering substances except caffeine. This will give me great pleasure. There is no point this time in telling me I should not be so Puritanical, since my goal is quite the opposite. I will soon look divine.
THE ORIGINAL POST. SEE HOW FAR I HAVE ADVANCED IN ONLY TEN DAYS.
Why am I so irritated? asks someone. I am irritated because I do not like being projected into, patronized, or bullied. I am irritated because I do not like being the object of destructive envy. And I point out that not only are some bullies assistant professors, as we had pointed out earlier some are students and prospective students.
One such person, a neighbor, came to needle me lately. Why was he not accepted into his department’s PhD program, he wanted to know. It appeared that the reasons had been explained to him many times. He did not accept the explanations, and felt the committee did not recognize his virtues. He believed that having the minimum grades and scores allowed by the graduate school for entry to an M.A. program gave him the right to enter a Ph.D. program. He was hurt, said he, convinced that the rejection had been made for personal or political reasons.
I told him there were probably other more competitive candidates, and explained gently that his grades and GRE score, while valuable, were not as high as they might be. I also said it did not sound as though his writing sample had given a clear indication of research ability, or that his statement of purpose was clear. I said he did not appear to me to understand the nature of Ph.D. level work, and that the committee might have noticed this as well. Not to understand the nature of PhD level work was a recipe for frustration and failure, I said, so I understood the committee’s decision and would probably have made the same recommendation myself.
He went away, and came back a few days later. Would I help him write a letter of appeal to the university? I said no. He said, why not? I said, for all the reasons I explained to you when you were last here. I agree with the university. He was at this point very intent upon talking up his virtues and the reasons he was still convinced the department was wrong. It was all I could do to be quiet. I later found out from him that he had tried to press the department once again, and was hurt to be told to stop bothering them.
That was an exhausting conversation — too exhausting — and I realized that I had been too kind and that we had been talking at cross purposes, anyway. He is a type of bully! I realized. He does not even like the department to which he is applying, and he is not seriously interested in the field. He does want to impose his will upon it, and to solicit me as an ally in this endeavor. I had been trying to create a “teaching moment” but this was not at all what was desired. That was why the conversation on my doorstep was a struggle. He was relating to me as he relates to the school and the only response his posture truly permitted was the department’s strident no. I had assumed he had approached me with a different attitude and I struggled in the conversation until I relinquished this assumption.
And Reeducation would have said that it was my fault he even approached me. It would have said I should have “drawn a better boundary” in the first place. I think that is ridiculous, and that Reeducation and its weak minded ideas are greater bullies than my neighbor. I think it takes time to figure out what people are up to. I do not consider it a failing to give them the benefit of the doubt until they actually show themselves to be less developed people than one might wish. But my major error in these kinds of situations is to want, through kindness, to get the unreasonable person to become reasonable. That is the kind of “control” Reeducation does not think it a good idea to attempt to exert, and I agree.
And once again, I am convinced that it is at societal structures and not to individual psychologies (or “dysfunction”) one must look for the keys to these problems.