I care

So, as I often do when I'm alone, I was talking to myself while I was cooking dinner just now.  I was recalling a conversation I had with an individual recently.  Based on the things he said in the conversation, I imagined in my mind's eye calling him an asshole to his face the next time I saw him.  Then I realized this particular individual might not mind being called that.  Then I realized I would mind being called that.  It would bother me if someone did.

I won't pretend that I've never been unkind toward other people.  I do it far more commonly that I would like to admit.  But if someone points it out to me it makes me feel bad.  It makes me want to change.  But there are many people who do not feel that way.  So I started thinking about all of the things I care about.

I realized that I want to be all the "good" things.  I want to have all of the attributes which are commonly associated with a good person, a good role model.  I want people to think that I'm good.  I want people to think that I'm nice.  I want to be perceived as kind, gentle, strong, firm, assertive, acquiescent, romantic, passionate, loving, caring, bold, spontaneous, responsible, etc.  I want to be all of those things.

Another thought that popped into my mind which triggered this was speaking to another individual about how he felt he and his partner completed each other, each one had strengths that complemented the other's weaknesses.  I thought to myself that I don't want to have any weaknesses.  I want to complement myself.  I want to be strong in every way and not weak in any way.

It sounds greedy when I say it.  And perhaps it is.  It may be exhausting at times.  Perhaps it causes me undue stress.  Perhaps it merely causes me to be deluded about myself, to think that I possess all of these qualities when in fact I do not.

But the fact remains that I do want all of it.  I want to be kind.  I want to be gentle.  I want to be firm.  I want to be assertive.  I want to be right in all things.  And not just be all of those things, but also be perceived as being that way.

I like to reflect on my own behavior and examine places where I can improve.  During one conversation I had the other day, the person I was speaking with lost patience with me.  It made me think about times when I have lost patience with students while teaching.  I resolved to be more patient with my students in class, to more earnestly and sincerely try to understand and respond appropriately to their questions.

The other day, some of my students were talking about the department chair.  They had him for a previous class and were talking about how passionate he is about math.  One of them said that he essentially talks as though math were his lover, that he were having an affair with math.  It hurt to hear my students tell me this.  I admire my chair.  He's a very good man and from what I hear a very good teacher (I have not yet observed him myself).  I know he is passionate about math.  He talks of trying to get new students to become math majors and thinks of it as an altar call.  I accept the fact that I am simply not as passionate as he is concerning math, and perhaps I never will be.  But it still hurts to acknowledge that.  I want to be the passionate teacher that students talk about.

Perhaps it is pride.  Perhaps it is the need to be perfect, to brag that there is nothing flawed in my character.  I cannot say for certain what it is.  But I cannot deny that I care.  I care about being seen as a good guy.  I care about being seen as a good teacher, a good lover, a good friend, a good scholar.  It hurts when people disapprove.  It hurts when people point out flaws.  I want people to point out flaws.  Rather, I want to conduct myself in such a way that people feel comfortable informing me of my flaws.  This is because I want to improve myself.  I want to be good.