“No wonder you didn’t win any awards,” my mom said.
I’d just described an email altercation with an academic advisor about my grad school comprehensive exam.
By now the details are murky, but from my high, philosophical horse I’d ranted about the futility of the exam…until the professor banished me. I was assigned to another faculty member.
No one wanted to work with the original dude. The epitome of the old guard, he was also just old. Thus, after weeks of growling, “I want to be rid of him” I could finally announce my exile to a friend.
“It sounds like you got what you wanted.”
“What?” I said. He had to repeat himself. And spell it out for me.
“You didn’t want to work with him, right? So, now you don’t have to.”
“I didn’t want to cause a problem! This is bad! What if I get yelled at?”
“Who cares? You’re free!”
But I was worried. Hostility is not my calling card. In my fantasy, we’d all be excused from dealing with him. He’d be called away on an urgent, troublesome assignment suitable only for an ancient grouch. We’d feign disappointment. Then privately rejoice.
Instead I was singled—and iced—out. Because this liberation didn’t go down as imagined, I felt like it happened “wrong.” However, my polite peers had to continue with him, so a bold act might have been the only way to extricate myself.
“Holy shit, you’re right.” I said.
While getting what you want can be smooth and friendly, at other times it’s sloppy and leaves acres of scorched earth. I didn’t intend for trouble. I just wanted what I wanted. But sometimes they go hand in hand.
My point is not keep your eye on the donut and not on the hole. I’m saying, be grateful for the donut, even if its provenance is questionable and the box is dented. A donut is a donut is a donut.
Essentially, can you be Velcro-ed to your desire but unbuckled from its appearance? Can you expect what you want and prepare for surprising packaging?
What did I lose from my academic showdown? A few dozen headaches? Without my fuss, I would’ve been locked in a standoff for the rest of the semester.
As it was, I got to work with the gentlest faculty member in the department, if not the world.
In fact, classmates were jealous, asking how I pulled it off. Some even shook their heads and said, “I should’ve done that.”
Clarity about your wants and calm as to the form they take—better than any award.
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