Stubborn Persistent and Proud of It, I Think

Speaking of stubborn, as I did yesterday, I would have to say that is, for better or worse, probably one of my defining characteristics. I was somewhat reminded of this awhile ago when Jonathon questioned whether certain traits were innate or the result of social conditioning.

I suspect I’m only aware of two of the most infamous examples of my stubbornness because I was constantly reminded of them throughout my life, right up to the point where Grandma would retell these stories to my children to show just how stubborn, or foolish, their father was. Both incidents took place before I was five years old.

The first incident took place when my mother ran out of orange juice. Now, orange juice was a breakfast staple as long as I can remember. Apparently, I found some lemon juice and insisted it was orange juice. Despite my mother’s insistence it wasn’t orange juice, I demanded it for breakfast. My mother gave in, probably assuming I’d quickly admit my error, but I drank the whole glass of juice, insisting the whole time that it was great. Since I’ve never drunk another glass of lemon juice, I suspect I was just being stubborn.

The more infamous incident took place approximately the same time when the family went fishing. We apparently came to a stream that could only be crossed by walking a long log. My dad wanted me to take his hand, but I insisted I was “big enough” to do it by myself. Needless to say, I fell off the log and the only thing my mother could see of me was my cowboy hat floating down the stream. My father was laughing so hard that my mother finally had to push him into the water to save me. Sometimes I think I can remember that hat floating down the stream, but of course that was impossible because I was under it.

Probably the most influential example of my stubbornness in life involved SAT scores. Although my overall scores were high, my English scores had dragged down my overall score. Having earned nothing but “A’s” in high school English, I was too stubborn, or perhaps arrogant, to accept the idea that I was weak in English. My senior year in high school I changed my focus from my Calculus class to my English class, and by the end of the year had decided to change my college major from physics to English, determined to prove “them” wrong.

I never really looked back, though at times I must admit I paused to wonder if I would have been wiser to play to my strengths and go into science, not the humanities. If I were making the decision today I doubt that I would have had to choose so dramatically between my strengths — I would have undoubtably ended up somewhere in the field of computers.

There have been times when I’ve realized that I let other people control me, not directly, but, rather, by telling me I couldn’t do something. Of course, I’ve gone out and done precisely that, just to prove them wrong. Usually these incidents turned out for the best, but other times I’ve realized I’d wasted valuable time doing things I never really wanted to do just because someone said I couldn’t. like it or not, I had let them control my life.

I’ve always felt that since I demonstrated a stubborn streak at such a young age that I must have been born stubborn. I also thought I had inherited it from my father, but it turns out that I may well have inherited it from my mother instead. My mother was raised in an abusive home and apparently stood up to her father even though my dad, a large all-city football player was somewhat frightened by a man he considered “crazy.” As she deteriorated into Alzheimer’s disease near the end of her life and it became necessary to make tough decisions, I was suddenly aware of just how stubborn my mother really was. Perhaps she told all those stories for years because they struck a chord with her. Perhaps she had really encouraged my stubbornness.

The real problem with determining whether these traits are inherited or socially conditioned is that it’s precisely the people whose traits we “inherit” that also raise us, ensuring that we will be as much like them as possible.

My daughter and son-in-law conveniently blame me for Gavin’s stubbornness and temper tantrums, but I just take those as signs the kid’s going to make it in life. A little perserverance is necessary in life. There is, after all, more than a little truth in that sports cliché’ that “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

3 thoughts on “Stubborn Persistent and Proud of It, I Think”

  1. This is very true… but… it’s also true that one can stubborn oneself into an early grave.

    Isn’t there an Aesop’s fable about an oak tree, a bed of reeds, and a stiff stormwind?

  2. Yep, Dorothea, that’s why that “I think” is there at the end of the sentence.

    Not too many personality traits don’t have their ups and downs, I’m afraid.

    But, being a man, I’d much rather be an oak than a reed, I think.

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