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January 2023
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Why I love Bear, a series, part 3 (4 really)

I was thinking about character today. How people stay true to themselves. When they act “out of character”. What tempts them and pushes them to change. Maybe good, maybe bad.

One of the things that I was thinking about is how different Bear and I are in character. I am very bent. I’m adaptable. I can convince myself black is white and white is black and act on my convictions, no matter if I was convinced of something different the day before. Maybe it’s a survival tactic I taught myself. Maybe I’m just naturally inconsistent. Malleable. I can easily find it in my family. Not to say that I don’t know my own mind and that I don’t have certain things that I hold dear and always have. I do. Some things I’ve learned are extremely important and I’ve tried to forge some iron into my character in some ways.

This is also relative. But I say this about myself because of certain people in my life that are so utterly consistent and true that sometimes I feel a bit alien. Bear is one of those people. He is one of the truest arrows in my life. All his paths have been linear. His choices are consistent. He has a character that does not falter or change. His faults and strengths. Right is right and wrong is wrong and you do what is right. He’ll make a great father in that regard. Rules will be set and followed. Infractions will be ferreted out and punished. Achievements will be praised and celebrated.

But while it is something I love about him and find admirable (although sometimes frustrating), what absolutely floors me is one of the few things that causes Bear to act out of character.

Bear rarely talks about his work. He tries very hard to leave it at work and even when it’s obviously still bugging him he doesn’t like to talk about it. But we do talk about my work. My classes, research. The politics of grad school. I babble and he listens and comments and I think mostly lets it flow in one ear and out the other. When I’m working he’s constantly pushing me, asking me if I’m doing my best. And here’s where one of the oddest things creeps up.

I obviously fail sometimes. I screw up sometimes and sometimes I fail because of things beyond my control. But for all the pushing Bear will do while I’m working on something, there’s never any shame or disappointment or “you should have kept on top of things” when I fail even when it’s my fault. Suddenly my straight-as-an-arrow-Bear will be rewriting history. Where other people will hardly even get the benefit of a doubt, I have this completely terrifying and out of character free pass.

Case in point. I failed my qualifying exam. Just found out today. Won’t get the official notice until later, but I was told today. I should have asked about some things. I should have worked harder. I can say in all honesty, this was my fault. My failing. This was not beyond my control. But to hear Bear tell it? Completely beyond my control, not my fault at all, and this is a great oppurtunity and I’ll show them. It wasn’t, It was, It’s an embarrasment really, and huh? He knows how this went. He was there. He pushed me to ask, to work harder. But the minute I tell him what the verdict was, suddenly I was shafted. He believes in me and will do whatever it takes so that I know he believes in me and so that I continue to believe in myself. It’s humbling and uplifting all at the same time.