You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness

rh113_126Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) looks out the back of the church after Marian’s slugged and abandoned him at the altar, in Robin Hood 1.13. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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[ETA: I want to note that dozens and dozens of people have worked to bring me to the point where I could say this — MM pushed the last piece loose — but I send my immense thanks to all who have been on this journey with me — to the place where I could say this publicly.]

MorrighansMuse responds to daily prompt post for bloggers: What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

This question has been bugging me, hard, ever since she posted it. It’s a bit strange, since it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. Usually when I’ve heard the question in the past, G-d was somehow implicated, like “what would you do for G-d if you knew you could not fail?” That kind of thing tends to make me dismissive (sort of like WWJD, which drives me crazy).

But this week it was on my mind. A lot. I didn’t really have an answer, but the question wormed its way under my skin at odd moments. I wrote in the comments on Morrighans’ post that I would fall in love.

***

tumblr_lp8y1blynn1qjek14o1_500***

I think that’s not fully accurate — but the other thing I wrote, that my perception that the last years of my life have been so thoroughly laced with failure that I don’t dare much any more — was correct. So I can’t explain why I haven’t tried it yet — because I have been trying, and trying, and trying.

And then, this morning, it hit me, what I would do. Something I’ve failed at so often. For ten years, really — I failed day by day by day by wretched day.

***

ep1_071John Porter (Richard Armitage) realizes that his buddies are dead in Strike Back 1.1. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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I’ve been trying to write this post — the reason for the blog, the reason for Armitagemania — ever since the blog began; there are something like fifteen different drafts of it. Some are long and some are short. Some are emotional and some are icy. Some are angry and some are sad and none are happy. They all try to explain. There is no explanation.

The answer hit me this morning and all day, through all the conversations I’ve had, I’ve been avoiding writing it down. Admittedly there are other things on my mind (mom). I’ve been thinking of nothing but beer.

But you know — I don’t need to drink this shame away, this time.

I don’t need to explain. I don’t have to ponder how I feel about it, or why it happened. I can just write it in simple, declarative sentences.

***

police***

The triggered shame that drove me to the therapist?

I was turned down for tenure at a research university.

I was turned down for tenure because I did not publish the academic book I’d contracted to write. That it was anticipated by so many I would write.

You laugh. What do you mean, the person who writes tens of thousands of words of the blogger Servetus could not write a book?

What do you mean, John Thornton’s mill failed?

***

ns4-240Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) surveys the silent Marlborough Mills in episode 4 of North & South. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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What would I do, then, if I knew I would not fail?

I would write the book I always wanted to write. Not the academic book I contracted to write, for the academic press, for the editor who stills gets in contact, wistfully, hopefully every six to eight months, not the book to be written in order get the tenure I was supposed to get.

I would write the book on that immensely meaningful topic for me. With my real voice.

I would not care what anyone thought of what I said. I would be unashamed.

I would integrate that me into this me.

I would tell you my real name. Right here. I would write it out in white and black.

I would say: This is my story about me. This is my story about history — mine and the topic’s. This is my story about Richard Armitage.

I would say it without shame.

If I knew I could not fail, I would make myself — whole.

***

8_251John Bateman (Richard Armitage) realizing that Maya and his illusions are both dead, in Spooks 9.8. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

***

[comments I’m leaving open, for now, though I’m uncertain. i will read them all whether i’m able to respond or not.]

~ by Servetus on May 20, 2013.

90 Responses to “You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness”

  1. That last sentence got me. I wish that for you. I wish it for myself, too.

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  2. Oh, Serv. Each step is a path to your own truth. I have no words of advice nor wisdom on this for I am on my own journey, discovering where I derailed, recognizing it and not flogging myself over it. I keep daring myself to do better for me. Where it will lead, I have no idea. The me of 20 years ago would be cringing in fear. The me of 10 years ago would be wailing in anxiety. The me of today mentally grins, takes a deep breath and moves on it. But it is in my own time, my own pace, my own right.

    Like

    • It helps to know other people are doing this too — one of the wildest discoveries about this fandom. So that we have someone else to remind us that we deserve to be able to go on these journeys.

      Like

  3. What’s the topic?

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  4. I’ve been wondering exactly how you were relating to Thorin and I think I’m starting to understand. Wishing you and all the other readers of your bravery and happiness.

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  5. I’m not belittling any of the anguish you have gone through, but isn’t that a glorified version of failing to meet others’ expectations? If you really feel that writing that book would be a wholly unique and important contribution to the world, that’s another thing altogether.
    Good grief, if we could all only banish the ‘should haves’ pestering our minds and leave the past in the past!
    Who knows what your particular gift to humanity is? It’s still unfolding. You’re not done yet!

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    • It was something that I loved (started off that way anyhow) and then it got instrumentalized in service of something dirty. Which is why I get a bit superstitious about certain aspects of this blog — I *don’t* want to repeat history here.

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  6. Oh gosh Sev, I wish you were in the Middle West, I’d give ya a big hug, a cuppa tea (or something stronger) and I would have you tell me all about that book. I know in my heart of hearts you will write it. The words are in you, they just need to be set free.

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    • You’re an inspiring example to me, actually!

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      • And we all know who was my inspiration! Thank you Mr. Armitage. :)Just start writing. Put those words on the page. It is as simple as that. Step one. Write. Everything else, is everything else, but without the words on the page there is no step two.

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  7. Dear Servetus, you have moved me to literal tears with this post. I crashed and burned myself and have come out the other side free. I feel you. You are a remarkable woman. Just finished reading the blog post about Lucas North and then this. I had no idea that Armitage fandom would touch me so deeply. I am grateful to have found him and you all. Thank you. Wish I had words to express it.

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    • Exactly, exactly, absolutely what she said. ^^^ I had no idea Armitage fandom would touch me so deeply… take me so far beyond myself… introduce me to such kindred spirits.

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    • I think it’s because his acting is so raw at some points — draws it out of us. But it’s other stuff for me, too — the way he chooses roles. He has been in so many things that are about failure.

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  8. Oh, Serv, for me to have pushed that final piece loose, and knowing in my heart that even my Daily Prompt wasn’t really the real “If I knew I wouldn’t fail post…” shames me to no end – because even on my blog, I am a coward and don’t really want to expose the awful truth that pains me. But that’s me, not you.

    Yet I am glad (in a sense) to have done that inevitable nudging of that last piece that will maybe put you onto the path that you truly wish for. It’s one thing to write a piece for others, and and failure of doing so costing you something you value – it’s another thing to write a piece for you, and only you.

    Because in the end, that’s really what we’re here for – to search for the authentic “me”, which sometimes we’ve buried beneath everyone’s expectations and cultural norms and mores imposed upon us.

    I love this quote from Living Out Loud, an underrated movie starring Holly Hunter, Queen Latifah and Danny DeVito:

    “Judith Moore (Holly Hunter): I want to feel my life. I want to stop agreeing to things, I don’t really want.

    Pat (Danny DeVito): Then stop! ”

    Bless, dear Serv.

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    • It wasn’t your answer so much as the fact that you were asking that question, just then. (And if you want European travel tips, let me know ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

      Yeah. One of the reasons for finally saying this was that I just wanted to stop — feeling shame over this particular thing. I want to move on and that means I have to set this burden down, for I can’t carry it any more.

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      • I’m so glad that the burden has finally been put down. No sense in carrying it all the time. And that way, your hands are free to tackle newer, more wonderful experiences that you most certainly deserve.

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  9. Sending you hugs and hopes for healing, Servetus. You’re not alone.
    All the good things about you are still there, and still good.

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  10. ((Servetus))

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  11. Dear Serv,

    “If we knew we could not fail”, then every decision or indecision we make is the right one–for our lives, at this time, under these circumstances. At least, that is my hope when facing decisions.

    Love & Hugs! Grati ;->

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    • yeah. I think I’ve made way more than my share of wrong decisions, unconsciously, however, thinking they were the right ones.

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  12. Q. Is the book you want to write so terrible? Would the publishing house turn it down b/c they have right of first refusal or contractually make you edit it to their expectations? Academics write what might be considered popular or lighter versions of their research all the time. Or is it a matter of wanting to go against the standard interpretation of history? Do you absolutely know that what you want and what the publisher wants can’t be be reconciled? You don’t have to answer any of this online. I just thought some of these questions might be useful to you. Best wishes.

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    • The question you’re asking is a central problem for me — the issue is academic refereeing. The book has to pass the evaluation of three scholars who agree that my assertions are substantially correct. What I know about the topic is different than what I feel about it — and academics are about what we know. This why one should be able to assume that when one picks up a book from a reputable scholarly press, that the information in it will be reliable. It’s often why academic books often don’t reflect exactly the opinions of their authors — because they have been modified somehow to pass refereeing.

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  13. Love you. I, for one, would be *very* interested to read this work you’re passionate about. I think the world has plenty of dry scholarly treatises, but not nearly enough fascinating works exploring the prolific and awesome brainpans of my friends. That’s my two cents. Also, believe me – there are plenty of us out here who’ve ruined perfectly amazing careers just at the moment of possible reward. I obliterated a great career and opportunity at the moment of graduating college because of my own towering insecurities, laziness, and (cringing) to be with a man. Oh, dear. Poor sweet baby Christine. Well, live and learn. :} But enough about me. You moved me with this post. I hope you will put pen to paper or however you do it and start writing your intensely personal book. Then let us read advance chapters. ๐Ÿ˜€

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    • It’s an interesting question, why we fail when we don’t have to … what we’re running from? I wish I knew, myself.

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      • I don’t know. Personally, I don’t worry over it. It’s done, and I forgive myself for it. I did the best I could at the time with the constraints and information I had. So I give myself a “get out of jail free” card… I figure, I forgive other people for things all the time, and I’m not even as fond of them as I am of myself. So I should definitely give myself a pass. :} And that’s glib, but it’s also true. I do give everyone else a break, so I give myself a pass on this, and everybody who was disappointed (and there were a lot, and they are close to me) has forgiven me. So why not me too? :} Love the one you’re with, darling. You’re the only you you’ll ever have. xoxoxoxoxoxoxo And please forgive me if this sounds trite or pat. I am kind of shallow… but it’s meant with a great deal of affection and honesty.

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        • I feel bad about the grantors, inter alia. Almost my entire education was financed on the basis of philanthropic intervention. Sometimes I feel as if I wasted their trust.

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          • Ouch. Well… philanthropy is always a risk. And sometimes you lose. That is life. Some days we shine and others we cover ourselves in shame. That is life. But it’s in the past. You can’t change it, you can only change what you have in your control right now, and that is right now. (((hugs)))

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            • Remember, too, that those who give philanthropically are doing it because they want to, not because they are looking for return on their investment. You say “thank you”, but you are not obligated to perform for them.

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              • This is true — indeed it’s one reason why I get so frustrated with the way that most students are funded these days … if you want a more secure return, make an investment in the stock market ๐Ÿ™‚

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  14. (sorry… today has been an exhausting day and I might not be making complete sentences. My apologies if not)

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  15. You just got one step closer to that day… Hugs to you! (What you see as failures might just be redirections to a path that is true to who you are now, not who you were then..I hope that makes sense)

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  16. I am going to share this with everyone and I hope it will give something to the rest of your readers.

    1. I have the right to have and express my feeling. I don’t have to justify them or apologize for them.

    2. I have the right to be treated with respect and to be listened to seriously.

    I hope that you can come to terms with what you need to. You have friends who will listen to you and not judge you, take comfort in that .

    If I knew I would not fail I would get that math test out of the way fast. I found out last week that I will not be able to go get help unless I drive 1 hour one way this summer . Plan 2, son 2 will have to help me and since he now understands it better this year (a great math teacher for 8th grade) I hope he will be able to get me to where I need to be.
    ((hugs))

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    • Thanks, Katie. I am seriously grateful for your support.

      What kind of math is it?

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      • What I need to pass your basic collage math. Algebra, fraction, decimals, percents, geometry, that kind of math. It should be easy but I mess up some how. Time is also a factor as I feel the need to do everything and sometimes don’t check my work to well because I feel that I am running out of time. That was the TABE test. I will retake the Accuplacer which is not timed, the last time that I tested I was only a couple points off. High School and I where not friends in the math and science department and having thought that I had taken chemistry, put me to tears and the thought of giving up right there. My husband put me back on track to find out what I needed to do. Last spring I took the 1 credit collage biochemistry and did good on it, yes the math was not to much and I could use a calculator. I started working on the plan to go to school 5 years ago knowing that I would never want to stay working in food service for the rest of my life.

        Everyone needs support at sometime in there life, that is what friends are for.

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  17. Oh, Servetus, I know this is perilously difficult, so much easier said than done to forgive yourself and especially for something like this. I don’t think you “ruined” a career, but it wasn’t the career you thought and hoped it would be. I want you to write the book that means so much to you, with your real voice. I would buy it hardback, full retail, which is the highest compliment I can pay a living author. To live unashamed and whole, I wish this for you with all my heart.

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    • So much this. ^

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    • It’s true that I wasn’t, and because of the market forces at work, I ended up in the kind of job I’d never wanted — but I also didn’t say no. I tried to get away but in the end I stayed in that position for a decade. I let it be done to me … sighs.

      If I publish an actual hardcover book, I’ll send you a copy ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • As you know, I spent almost 20 years in a career, I didn’t necessary “choose” but that career not only made me who I am. It also gave me A LOT of experiences to draw upon and write about.

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  18. Speaking as someone who unveiled a very personally revealing piece of writing earlier today about denying certain truths by refusing to look at them, I feel that. Also, you go!

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    • that was part of what moved me about your piece, alyssabethancourt — it’s something i do, too.

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  19. I found this an interesting question because, in order to answer it, we need to define what actually would be a failure. Does trying something that doesn’t work constitute failure? Not in my book. Success is just the ability to keep on going sometimes.

    Servetus, you have a right to feel whole. If writing the book you want to write could enable that, how can that ever be a failure?

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    • Maybe it’s not a failure, but maybe spending twenty years of your life and having no deliverable to show — well, it’s rough. I don’t regret the time or the things I learned, but not having the book, it is a failure on my own terms and on the terms of the people who’ve meant most to me in the last two decades.

      The question this summer — with the writing summer plan — was what I was going to write. I think it’s pretty definite that I can’t write that academic book. I can maybe write my own book on that topic. Or maybe — perhaps better — I can write about something else. But I had to say, I didn’t do this and I am ashamed and I am tired of being sad and ashamed about it.

      Like

  20. Hmmm….seriously, though – what DO you think Jesus would do???? ๐Ÿ˜€

    I am a little curious about the title you’ve chosen to headline this post – can you explain if you get a chance?

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    • One of the myriad problems with WWJD is that the obvious answer is that Jesus would do the right thing. Jesus is omniscient and always knows what the right thing is. Humans, not so much.

      It’s a line from a song by Gotye that was a huge international hit last year — and Armitage admitted recently to really liking the song. This is the relevant verse:

      “You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
      Like resignation to the end, always the end
      So when we found that we could not make sense
      Well you said that we would still be friends
      But I’ll admit that I was glad it was over”

      It’s a song about a relationship that ends badly enough that one of the partners cuts off contact with the other. I was thinking about it metaphorically both in the sense of the academic world being a bad boyfriend, but also in the sense of comfort with pain. The extent of shame I feel about this has already corroded my personality — and I don’t want to be “addicted to a certain kind of sadness.”

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      • How on earth did Gotye get a hold of my diary?! I have that song in my library bit have only really read the words and it hits home a bit too close for comfort. But sometimes that’s what we need, eh?

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        • One thing that Armitagemania and blogging have convinced me of is that all the messages are there all the time but we hear the bits we need to hear only at specific points — if we need them and are listening closely enough.

          I heard this song right when it got big (yes, I was one of the people who read about it on dooce, to my incredibly Generation X shame) and it socked me in the gut the second I heard the words. I’ve been in this song as the person who cut off all the contact … and it made me think so much of things ex-So had said to me.

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      • Servetus, reading the ‘WWJD’ in your post just brought to mind the image of Owen Wilson’s character in ‘Meet the Parents’ (constantly referring to ‘JC’ as his inspiration) which cracked me up a little. And I agree – no one could be a better model for ‘forgiveness’ than ‘JC’. ๐Ÿ™‚

        But on the second part of ‘addicted to a certain kind of sadness’ and growing comfortable with pain – this sounds very similar to ‘learned helplessness’ and I would definitely agree – it’s not an ideal state of mind or being.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

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  21. I understand you perfectly (won’t say why because this is about you, not me). It felt good to write this post, didn’t it? I’m glad that particular weight of not saying it for so long has been lifted off your shoulders. You have taken one more step into the light you came to give this world. Write the book, then find someone who loves you to read it and help you to edit; not because you do not have the skill, but because you would be editing part of your heart and that’s impossible. Just free your thoughts but mind the way you express them. I am a firm believer that it’s not what we say, it’s how we say it. We are all here to support you any way we can. It does not matter if we have never met in person, if we are completely different or if we have not become close online friends. Our humanity unites us if we let it. For us, specifically, our lovely man weaves a common thread – a gift that reaches across continents and generations: to have an artistic muse who unites us in gratitude and admiration, who has brought the miracle of friendship and bonding with people all over the world. It’s a treasure. So go grab it, hold on tight and get rid of the rest of your emotional burden. You have a right to be happy – seize it. Sending you prayers and a hug.

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    • In academic writing, it’s also a lot what one says. But I’m tremendously grateful for your and everyone else’s support.

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  22. I wish I could hug you Servetus :*….and bake you a cake ๐Ÿ™‚ How about cheescake with peaches?

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  23. I find it very hard to respond to you on this. In the sense that it is impossible to give constructive advice. Not hard to say that I wish you well, of course, or to offer my deeply felt sympathy, and my understanding. MM’s prompt is a question that I find very useful and I ask myself the same question every time I find myself at a cross-roads or faced with a dilemma. The outcome? It *does* make me admit to my deepest secret wishes, but it does not necessarily make me *do*. And I don’t find that troubling, actually – I can reconcile my current unhappiness with my hopes or *real* wishes, because I can explain why I am not doing what I would like to be doing. That is a catharsis in its own right.
    I don’t believe in god but I believe in the universe. I am convinced it works in our favour. In yours, too, Servetus. Everything you do is a step towards your own destiny. It will all align one day.

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    • it’s not always practical to *do* that thing. It would be impractical, right now, for instance, for me to publish my name on this blog. Sometimes the reasons not to do something are really compelling.

      I don’t think there is any advice — and I’ve never doubted that you wish me well, Guylty ๐Ÿ™‚

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  24. Servetus, write the book. Write the book you want to write. Even if you intend never to show it to anyone, write it and be whole. You will not fail. The only way you can fail is to NOT write it. Write it, and be whole. Write it the way it deserves to be written and it will be amazing. You’re already amazing; you don’t have to prove that to anybody else. But please, write the book.

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    • That’s an intriguing thought — a book that I show to no one. In a way I already have one of those.

      Thanks for the (ongoing) encouragement.

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  25. Servetus: Hugs for you, you’re very brave for putting all this into words. I hope that you can do/be whatever YOU want.
    I could hardly write something else about this when I’m struggling to find the answer to that question. All I know is that If I knew I could not fail, I would be me.

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  26. What’s that they say about failure….the only way to succeed is to fail!?Several years ago I was reading a biography about Benjamin Franklin and learned that even though he started accomplishing a lot from a early age, most of his major accomplishments came after he was 40. For some reason that’s always made an impression on me. Not sure how old you are, but I expect you’ve still got time to do what’s important to you….whatever that may be. Remember even RA said he was a late bloomer.

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    • This is true, I say that to my students a lot. And you’re right that a lot of people hit their stride afte 40 — I am 44.

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  27. Re why you ruined the career you always wanted — maybe it wasn’t really the career you always wanted. It’s hard for me to comprehend, considering I come from such a guagmire of dysfunction my main goal for most of my life was to be normal — whatever normal its. Thankfully I’ve realized that’s not a realistic goal (for several reasons) and moved on.

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    • That I find a really interesting question — I feel like I spent a lot of my childhood observing others to figure out how to behave in certain situations (common situation with children of alcoholics) — but you’re right about normal. Your comment made me think of my brother, who, every time that words comes up, says, “What *is* normal?” in this very philosopher-robot like tone of voice. Thanks for the giggle ๐Ÿ™‚

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  28. Servetus, I have never commented before, but I have followed your blog for several months. I came here today with the express purpose of telling you how much I respect and admire – and enjoy! – what you do. You manage to address with intelligence, insight, candor, and humor issues that dig into those deep corners that many of us refuse to seek out, much less analyze and discuss with others. I also admire your university career – one for which I once had aspirations, but which just will not happen for me. And, of course, I delight in your musings about Richard Armitage! I did not expect to find such a personal discussion today, and I certainly don’t feel that I have the familiarity that others do to comment on your situation – except to say this search for wholeness is one it appears many of us are on (forgive the bad grammar here!). I wish you the very best. Keep writing! We’ll keep reading!

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    • Thanks for the comment and welcome, justmepurring — I appreciate the support and send it back to you. One of the more amazing unexpected effects of blogging in this fandom, I find. People are ready to sympathize and there have been many moments when a friendly word has saved me from tears.

      Like

  29. You made me cry. I am pretty heavy on empathy. Some of it mixed with a brief – very brief – reflection on my own failures. I had to stymie that, or I would lose it completely. I haven’t read others comments here yet. There are just so many. Look at everyone who wants to know how you think and feel?! I don’t know how you do all that you do – writing this Blog and responding to everyone, every time. Being a teacher, writing other things that you probably never mention, and then caring for those whom you love in life. I am just astonished at your abilities. With all that, I wish I could give you magic that would help you to accomplish, and succeed at, all that you really wish to be doing. I wish it so strongly. And I wish it for myself. Oh honey, if only I had that magic.

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  30. […] not the last seven years, I just want the girl not to be angry, I just want not to be so corroded, not to be addicted to sadness, not to be so g-ddamned paralyzed. I want not to be a historian, not to have to document every […]

    Like

  31. […] I taught at a major research university for a decade and I published a lot in that time (although not enough, it turns out, to be tenured), until, in the wake of the denial, I gradually became completely unable to write. I’ve […]

    Like

  32. […] that happens, I just write about what I want to write about, as honestly as I possibly can. Given my failed writing experiences in the past, I know, that’s all that keeps the words coming out: words for words’ sake, a […]

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  33. […] other things. If I had had the self I’ve been building before I’d stepped into that abyss I wouldn’t be here now. But my life turned out this way and not that way, and this is a […]

    Like

  34. […] couldn’t figure out how to get my sexual harasser to stop or just ignore it and move on. That I didn’t get tenure. That up to the end of her life, my mother was embarrassed by my conversion to Judaism and my […]

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  35. […] I know you don’t even believe there is such a thing as an inner child. However, after a year of therapy, it is my opinion that the reason you are not writing is that your inner child, or whatever term you want to use for that part of your personality, is extremely angry about being denied something that she wanted then very badly and thus wants now, and since this book is so tied up with your childhood, if she decides to withhold, she will get what she wants — even if she has to destroy your career to get your attention. […]

    Like

  36. […] of my post, I saw Google search results in my WP status with my real name in them, referencing events in my professional life from 2009. I guess people who didn’t know the story were still curious, even five years later, although […]

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  37. […] like I imagine mild torture to feel, although I have learned to be polite. I am still not over the shame of the tenure denial. The particular matter referred to in the message has always stuck in my craw (even when I still […]

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  38. […] of the things I appreciate about him. The reasons for it lay in a deep career crisis that was about to get worse. The effects were total immobilization and a gradual reawakening of my perceptive capacities and an […]

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  39. […] in my mind). The second incident is bad enough that — as I can see and say now — it ended my academic writing career. And I’ve read some research about the relative veracity of accusations women make of […]

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