The sarcasm stuck in the air between us like sap on a maple in springtime, the promise of sweetness creeping from a nasty, oozing wound. I stared at him, and then burst out laughing. From the look on his face, my amusement did not spark a similar response.
Earlier in the day, I’d posted an excited blurb about having received committee approval on my doctoral dissertation. Three years of classes, followed by nearly three years of on-again, off-again research and writing. And this individual had the nerve to question whether my celebratory post was indicative of my perceived superiority?
Now, had this been an isolated response, I suppose I’d be inclined to simply brush it off. After all, the first such reply had evoked exactly that reaction in me. So, too, the second. And two fellow doctoral learners received similar questions in the past several months.
The experience has really got me thinking…Are public demonstrations of celebration to things that happen in our lives, e.g., children born, promotions received, degrees earned, marriages, divorces, running races finished, merely boasting and braggart attempts to demonstrate one’s dominance over others? Are they simply narcissistic? Or do they serve some sort of a broader purpose?
In exploring this, I think about my reactions to others’ pronouncements on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. And I can honestly say this…I get excited when I read about others’ reasons for celebration in life. And when something happens that surprises me (like finding out recently that an old friend with whom I interact frequently via social media suddenly had a baby, yet I had no idea they were even expecting!!!), it actually is a bit of a downer. Why is that?
I think it’s because I view my connections on all social media as a real community, not merely a conglomeration of disparate business contacts and superficial acquaintances. It is a community, and as such, I enjoy celebrating others’ successes, even when the impact on my own life is minimal, at best. Similarly, I share in their disappointments and losses. Why? Again, because it’s a community.
I guess that’s why it was so surprising (read, disappointing) to receive the kind of response I did, even if it was just from a small handful of my presumed community members. To answer the question specifically, yes….yes, having a doctorate does, I believe, make me a better person. But no, it does not make me a better person than you! It simply makes me a better person than I was before I began this journey, because that’s what this is…a journey toward continuous challenge and improvement as an individual. For me, transforming my way of thinking and observing the world around me has made me a better person. It’s not a contest between you and me. In fact, my pursuit of life-long education has never been about others. It’s all about me.
So, if someone else’s celebration somehow diminishes your own perceptions of your life, perhaps that’s more about you than about them. Let’s all celebrate each others’ victories in life. For that’s part of what makes us a community!
So, another way to answer your question might be…
“No, but clearly you think so.”