What to do with “weakness”

Sharing an interaction that I had with one of my students via email as it has the qualities that I try to do with this blog: honest story-telling and sorting out of the world.  My student’s email moved me, as honest thought often does. What follows first is my response to her.

Thanks for taking the time to write and email me this. — You caught me in a fairly emotional time as I remember my late father; March 12 is his birthday; he passed away on July 10, 2007.

Internal strength, I find is not the absence of self-doubt, or fear, or uncertainty, or other very human attributes we label as weakness. Internal strength exists because we find the courage to confront the “weakness” we find within. 

Sadness and the depth with which we sometimes feel it is not something we should avoid; I used to think that it was dysfunctional, especially for a man, to indulge in moments of sadness. But as I face moments like this which I face now, moments like those you recently faced and shared with me, I find my self even more able to feel comfortable with the presence of sadness. It is a human emotion. And feeling it signifies that we can feel, that we can process difficult content with the proper amount of human sensitivity.

I used to tell my self that I didn’t want to be like my father… But the older I get, and as I remember him, I find the many ways that he was the best father I could ever have, and want to have. His example is welcome in my life.

For you, this fundamental area of your life we call “identity” deserves the best of you to engineer the way you want it to look like. identity is so valuable and central that we cannot afford to just let it be defined by others. You owe your self the right amount of effort to shape your identity; it is tied to so many things that you will do and achieve, and contribute to the world.

I think I’ve said enough. Thanks again for sharing this email with me.

On Feb 25, 2013, at 10:53 AM, [female Latina grad student] wrote:

Dear Mr. Vergara,

I want to Thank You for everything you have done for me.  You can’t imagine how much it meant  to sit down with you at the office and talk about what I was going through.  If I have been standing strong because I was able to reflect and analysis my situation with a different perspective.  Our conversation made me realize how strong I am. I know that it is going to take time to completely heal, but thanks to the support I have from classmates, friends, and you I am able to continue. Class material has help me realize that  changes need to be done in my life.  I have come a long way in understanding how everything that surrounds me has influence my life.  I do not know what the future has waiting for me, but I know that I just need to let time define it. I am conscious that it is not easy to change a habit or behavior, but I know that even if I fall again and again at the end I will be able to change. Most importantly, I am now ale to understand the importance of forming my own identity.

Thank You for your time and for being there when someone needs you.  I am sure that my classmates as I do appreciate having you as our professor.

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