Not the Triumph

This week has been a really tough one for me, with The Deadline rapidly (terrifyingly, insanely, unbelievably) closing in. Sometimes, usually in the mornings, I feel like this is the day and don’t stop me now and I’m on a roll. Other times, I want to curl into a ball on my bed and hide forever under a blanket (and I don’t even have my favorite blanket anymore, I already sent it home with my parents and isn’t that just the latest in a string of disappointments and aren’t I just a disappointment and how did I get here and why can’t I be productive and in what universe did I honestly think I could do this and what is the meaning of life I don’t even know and probs don’t really even care because nothing matters I mean I don’t even have my blanket nothing will ever be okay again).

Which is to say, a lot of my time is spent in personal pity parties over the lamest things. Even writing this, being super conscious of how silly and awful that is, it’s a real struggle to not give in to that. And by ‘real struggle,’ I mean I’m failing and just don’t really care. But more on my self-centeredness in a bit. For now, before my everything becomes altogether too horrifying, have some cats.

A couple quick notes on the Olympics. First, I don’t care what you say, Russia wore bow-ties in the Opening Ceremony and is therefore delightful. So there’s that. Also, the IOC President’s speech, while speechy, also captured why I love the Olympics and don’t care about sports. When the world tries to divide us, we can still come together. I don’t generally watch much of the competitions themselves, because of who I am as a person, but it’s really the idea of the games that I care about. There is a wonderful quotation attributed to the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, that captures how I feel even though I am certainly no athlete.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

I rewatched The Princess Diaries (no shame) this week and, though I had seen it before, the ending caught me a bit off guard. Not that she became princess (spoiler alert) but the manner in which she did so. In movies like this, in situations like that, the character gets some inspiring words of advice, often about the nature of courage. This movie definitely has that. Then the character makes a speech–formal or otherwise–telling the audience how they arrived at the decision to be courageous. And this is where Princess Diaries differs a bit from the trope. She gets some words of encouragement and some heavily plagiarized aphorisms about courage. But in her princess acceptance speech–it is literally a speech here, possibly televised–she does not describe her courage. She describes her selfishness.

She explains that the fear that was holding her back (which she implicitly, to the audience, needed courage to overcome) was based in a reflex to think only of herself. But there are seven billion other people on this planet and perhaps she should make a decision of this import with some of them in mind as well. I mean, it’s the typical teenage revelation that the world does not, in fact, revolve around them. A struggle I (and perhaps you) have not totally overcome. Sometimes, you gotta just love yourself. Actually, love yourself all the time but you know what I mean. But also all the time, you need to love other people. St. Anselm said something to the effect of, “It is in giving that we receive.”

So here I am, wading through acres of Keegan problems. But I’m also trying to look outward too. Admittedly, it’d probably be easier if I were royalty, and not trying to write a dissertation, but here we are. So take some cats, take some courage, and give more than you receive.

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6 thoughts on “Not the Triumph

  1. Dearest Keegan…….
    No one who knows you doubts that you will persevere and figure this out. To me, if you decided to pack it all in and come home and do something else (non academic) for a while, I would think it perfectly normal and acceptable! If you ask me where I think you will be in 10 years, you will be a PhD in something that has captured your heart and imagination. I think you ask a great deal of yourself but please know that those who care about you are simply interested in your happiness and that isn’t guaranteed with the greatest of accomplishments! Whatever you figure out at this crossroads, it is your journey and those who care about you are here to support you not judge you! The true triumph is about being true to yourself. Smiles and a hug to you….N

    Like

  2. Keegan!!!
    You are not alone in feeling this way. Dissertations are hell. We knew they would be, but we were not prepared. I keep thinking, “If only I had been more proactive…” Then, I remember that the past cannot be fixed and I should presently endeavor to be more productive. I wish you luck and happiness. Your post made me smile, so I hope I’ve brought you a little joy with this comment. We will vanquish our foes!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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