Saturday, January 11, 2014

Battered, but in the Arena: Reflections on My Prelim Journey

Hi friends, its me, Jonathan, here.  The less vocal member of the Manz Fam blog.  As I prepare to enter round 2 of prelims, I thought I would reflect what I have learned so far from my unsuccessful first attempt in August and September.   For context, see this post.  Since my stomach began to turn a little as I started writing this post, I can tell that I am still processing it and have a range of emotions. 

Since I started my last post with a Brené Brown quote, I think it is fitting start with another here…well technically it is a quote of a quote from her book Daring Greatly:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

Who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…
            -Theodore Roosevelt

First and foremost, I continue to remember how much I’m loved.  My wife who offers endless support, who helps me set and keep goals, and keeps me focused.  Heath, who loves me simply as “daddy” and where titles and degrees have no meaning for him.  He’s just looking for me to be a good “snuggle buddy.”  My parents who continue to offer physical support by coming to town and helping run the household during our busiest time periods.  And my mother-in-law who excitedly created and helped disburse Team Jonathan bracelets and I’m pretty sure I hear her praying all the way from California to Virginia. 

Since September I formed a practice prelim committee.  The idea was to replicate the writing and oral exam experience again for practice (you know, I have to take the prelims for a second time, why not simulate a third time just for kicks).   I’m extremely grateful for Frank, Jamie, Frances, and Martha who took the time to each offer a practice prelim question, review all my responses, and then prepare themselves to facilitate a practice oral exam.   

So this is where I stand at the moment.  The written prelims are January 23rd and 24th.  My oral exam is 9:00am on February 20th.  Somewhere in between those dates a baby is due to arrive.  I’ve continued to prepare all fall for prelims, but it has been a little tougher.  One, I’m a little drained.  I started this process in April and never dreamed that I would still be preparing in January.  Deep down, I still have some nagging doubt that likes to rear its head every once and awhile and say “you’re not capable of passing this thing.”  What if I emerge from the arena not with “the triumph high achievement,” but instead with failure?

On the other side, I feel much more calm going into the written exams than I did last time.  Somewhat strangely calm.  It’s a weird juxtaposition – to have a balance between fear and calmness. 

So I don’t know what the next month and a half has to hold for me.  I’m really working hard on not letting my identity be tied to my achievements or lack thereof.  But that isn’t easy.  I do know that I will get the joy of welcoming a new baby into the world!  My family – that is something I can proudly associate with my identity. 

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