In the movie G.I. Jane there were several scenes in which the drill instructor attempted to convince the hopeful recruits to ring a bell. When the recruit rang the bell, that recruit was indicating that he or she had given up. They were admitting that they wanted to quit, and were ready to go home. It was a humiliating, demoralizing process. The bell was symbolic of failure; of defeat. To hear it ring was to know that one more person had been crushed under the weight of the program.
In my philosophy class this evening, the professor was attempting to convince some of us to ring the bell.
Last week we had our first test. It was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult exams that I have ever been subjected to. The teacher does not believe in multiple choice (“multiple guess”, he calls it), and as a result all of the questions were short answer and essay. He gave out a study guide last week with an example of all the questions that would be on the test and the pages in our texts that the answers could be found on. Even armed with that information, the majority of the class failed.
So abysmal was their failure that he spent almost an hour of the class berating us. He practically begged some of us to ring the bell.
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for those who took him up on his offer. How horrid it must have been to walk to the front of the class, all eyes on you, with everyone knowing that you are a failure. You could tell it was killing them. They had to muster every ounce of inner strength they possessed to walk up there with some sense of dignity.
I was on the other end of the spectrum. I got an A on my test.
I have always found it awkward when I have excelled in the face of failure. When those around me could not rise to achieve, and I was held up as a barometer to compare them by. I started feeling that way tonight, because he pointed us out to the rest of the class, asking what we had done to get such good grades.
I got over it, though.
I worked my ass off for that A. I deserved it. I’m tired of feeling guilt over the fact that others can not (or will not) excel when I do. I refuse to fail. I refuse to accept mediocrity. More than anything, I refuse to feel bad because of it.
I will not ring the bell.
Another interesting thing happened today. I am in pursuit of a woman (I know, most of you are probably saying “When aren’t you?” Just bear with me) who I am quite taken with. She, however, is not going gently unto that good night. We’re involved in a dance of sorts, it seems. I tell her how I feel, she accepts it, does not discourage it, and yet she still skitters away. I feel like I’m being tested. Like she is seeing if I have the mettle to go the distance, or if she will crush me first. To be completely fair, though, I don’t know that it is that deliberate with her. If she is doing it on purpose.
As insane as it sounds, I’m starting to enjoy it.
She told me today that she was looking for her Howard. She was referring to the book “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. So I stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way to school to buy a copy. The teller, an attractive middle-aged woman, saw what I was buying and started to gush over it. I wanted to see if my reason for buying it made any sense to her, so I told her that “A woman I am fond of told me she was looking for her Howard, and that I needed to read the book.”
“Oh my,” she said, her face suddenly very serious. “Yes, you do. Right away!”
As I left, she wished me luck. Earnestly! She seemed to grasp something about the task that I had been set on.
A guy in my philosophy class tonight noticed what I was reading and remarked on it as well. So I, again, shared my reasons for reading the book. He also seemed to grasp something in that, smiled knowingly, then commented on a “disturbingly erotic” scene in which Howard met the main female character in the book.
Again I must say – Fascinating!
I don’t know where my relationship is going to end up with her, but I suddenly feel…no, know…that whatever does happen, it’s going to be interesting. It certainly won’t be easy, and I may not succeed.
But I’m not going to ring the bell.
It has been a day of revelations in general.
I was talking to my friend Aimee earlier, and we were discussing being an artist. I was expressing to her how I was envious of ranney, a person who I consider to be a true Bohemian. Devoted to his art, always branching out and trying new things. I was remarking how I wished I had the ability to live that way.
Aimee, the wonderful person that she is, pointed out that I do. I had just gotten finished telling her about some stories that I had written and had published on a web site, and how I needed to find time to work on ranney’s web site. How I had an application that I wanted to build based on his site. How I am studying philosophy and ethics. She pointed these things out to me, and it suddenly became so clear that she was right.
What an amazing gift to give to a person!
Yet again, I find myself inching closer to being the person that I used to be. I am actually starting to feel like an artist again. Like a Bohemian. What a grand feeling it is.