Dorothea takes issue with my belief that tenacity is the most important requirement for completing grad school.

Secondly, I’m not at all sure, based on my own case and that of others I know, that what’s really going on deserves the label tenacity. “Inertia” is more like it, I fear. I’m here, says the hapless grad student, and I haven’t got a clue in Gehenna what else to do with myself or my life except this, much though it’s not helping me or anybody else. If I leave, I’m a worthless failure, a quitter. I’ll sink into the gaping maw of Starbucks and never emerge again. I’d, um, better stay.
Well sure, but who said that's what I meant by tenacity?
This is tenacity? It wasn’t when I had those thoughts. Nuh-uh. Tenacity implies an active choice to cling to something, not passively being carried along out of inability to imagine anything else. Or out of fear of the outside world.
That's right. And if someone really wants to finish grad school and tries their best no matter what obstacles they face, they're likely to be successful. That doesn't mean they should try their best -- sometimes objectives change, and our plans don't look as good from the middle as they did from the beginning. That's fine. If you change the plan, you're choosing not to be tenacious.
I tell you the kind of tenacity I admire, though: the kind that learns to live again, after going through this. The kind that with no help and no guideposts claws its way out of the pit toward new generativity, that learns to negotiate with the world instead of hunkering down to endure in silence. The kind that despite contempt and incomprehension from former colleagues stands up to denounce what needs denunciation.

I admire that style of tenacity quite a lot.

That's a sort of tenacity, I suppose, but you're clinging to something other than grad school -- something certainly more important, but still something different. It's important to be able to make wise decisions and to know when to let go of something that isn't best for you (and maybe never was), but that type of strength isn't generally labeled "tenacity".

As the saying goes, "Know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em." If you play poker, you know that folding at the right times is an essential part of the game. Same with life.



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