Sunday, May 15, 2011

First Day Musings -- Wisdom

As my master's thesis advisor, John Higby often made me so angry that I could spit nails. In fact, frankly, the end of our relationship was not pretty. I had written no more than five drafts of my thesis (over 120 pages each time!) and at the time I had four children I was raising,  plus the farm, drove more than an hour each way to graduate school, and was working full-time teaching. And, each time I submitted a draft, he would return it with one line, "Something is missing." Well, it came down to either publish or lose my full-time position; I pitched a fit to the graduate dean and showed her my drafts. In short, I was published within three days. John and I never spoke again.

In spite of all this, I learned a great deal from him: bibliography and research methods; never, never, never use a split infinitive no matter what the handbooks say; Samuel Johnson was the funniest and smartest man of the 18th century (and maybe even today); and stop talking before you talk yourself in a hole. But, the best thing I learned from him was this:

You can't choose who you work with; you can't choose who you vote with. But, by golly, you can choose who you eat and drink with.

(Notice the sentence ends with a preposition; maybe he wasn't so hard to get along with after all...)

How true.

One of the cardinal rules in our family is never, never, never socialize with anyone you work with beyond the average meal on campus or chit-chat in the hallway. And, I mostly observe this rule. The only exception was marrying the Mister, but he works in another section of the college and we never see each other at work unless there is a problem in my classroom with the technology and I call him. Otherwise, I do not and will not socialize with my co-workers.

It makes sense. First, people you work with will not forgive or forget anything you confide about another co-worker, family, or friend. And second, people you work with will lose respect for you if they know all about you. Familiarity breds contempt and all that.

It's that simple.

John was a wise man and many times I have thought of this over the past years. Whenever an invitation comes to an after-work event, I always decline. Beyond the fact that I really look at my teaching gig as just a way to pay my bills, which doesn't mean I don't work hard, I really just don't have much in common with most folks unless they have goats or enjoy needlework. I don't gossip; I don't drink; I don't eat meat. I think that covers most social functions, don't you?

So, Dr. Higby, whereever you are, thank you for the wisdom you imparted. You have saved me more than once with these sage words!

What about you? Do you think one should mix work with one's personal life?


  1. Well since I work for my children, that one is a hard one to answer ;-) and they are task masters!! You are probably right but it would be very hard for me to do what you are saying unless I hated everyone I worked with. I am too darn nice and want to feed everyone I like xoxoo Clarice

  2. Hi Matty, I think those are very wise words. My husband and I have always tried to be friendly with all our co-workers, show an interest in their family's, children, ask about their hobbies ect. We buy chocolate bars and candles when their kids are raising funds for their school or soft ball team, and we sign cards and contribute to funds when people are sick or lose a loved one.

    We go to weddings, baby showers, funerals, or a once a year company dinner or picnic. But we do not get too friendly by going out for drinks after work, or going to parties. The same is true with our close neighbors.

    It is a real protection. And I think by keeping this kind of relationship it has saved us from being drawn into a lot of drama, that would complicate and add stress to our lives. I think it is much easier to maintain warm and respectful relationships with our coworkers when we all keep a bit of privacy. I like to think of everyone as a friend, but at the same time there are many different types and levels of friendship.

    I hope you are having a nice restful sunday! Delisa :)

  3. I always enjoy hearing your perspective on life, Matty. You have so much figured out!

    Thanks for the nice comment on my blog. Mom is doing well and both Mom and Dad are getting settled in their new residence.

    Next up for us - house selling and moving. No time for sock knitting right now! )-:

  4. I think it depends on the work. Kyle has worked for the same company for 16 yrs and we have done very little socializing with them. Of course when my dad and brother worked for the same company and we spent weekends with family it got a little close(I am claustrophobic ;D) Eventually they started their own construction business and Kyle stayed with the company. It made things better! We liked being around our family more!
    Of course my work is at home with my girls, the gardens, goats, chickens and rabbits.. Cant get away from socializing with them!Lol But I do have to be careful as I deal with people on a regular basis when selling babies and such. Some want to become my new best friend and I have had to sweetly decline.....
    How ever I have come across some Excellent people too! Because when it comes to the animals I have to determine how these people will affect my kids as they are part owners in some of the animals. They do some dealings and will do more the older they get.
    I think it just depends on the work situation.


Thanks for dropping in on the farm today! I enjoy your comments!