Words To Live By

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(Last Updated On: August 23, 2014)

School has begun. I have a large class. It is touted as being hard, difficult. It is not. If one studies, applies oneself.

The thought of working to achieve a goal put me into the mind of a few of my mother’s sayings that were replete with what used to be called “mother wit”. I think it is plain old common sense.

Years ago, I was living in Texas, near Houston. I had lost my job and was slowly growing more and more despondent. Would I ever find a job in my area of study? I had a part time job and was collecting unemployment. But still.

While I am complaining to my mother, she said to me, “Nothing beats a failure but a try.” I had to dissect that phrase word by word, as before that telephone call, I had never heard it. Not from her. Not from anyone.

Nothing beats a failure but a try. I realized that she was saying if I never tried to find another job, just gave up, then I had failed.

I tell my students this often: if they do not even attempt to read the chapters assigned, worked the problems through themselves, then they have not tried and they run the risk of assured failure.

What else did my mother tell me that I still live by to this day?

It’s not what you make, it’s what you save. She told me that when I was complaining about my money situation. Everyone wants more money. Of course. Not necessarily in an avaricious way, just a little more left over at the end of the month. Often, we run out of money before we run out of month. So, a good savings plan is necessary. Showing good stewardship with the money earned is an excellent show of fiscal responsibility.

If you make a bill, you pay a bill. This was told to me about the man I was dating. I think I was saying that he didn’t seem to have any fun activities, that all he did was work and take care of his home. She was telling me in no uncertain terms that the gentleman was a responsible man; that he could take care of himself. If he owed, he paid. Many people do not do this. I learned a lot in those few words: be responsible and do not expect others to live as you wish them to.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. This is not her saying. It is from Proverbs, but what wisdom is packed in those two sentences! Don’t be too proud, arrogant, or conceited. Don’t look up all the time. You can easily stumble and fall. That’s that pride and conceit.

Hard work never killed anybody. Possibly, that’s not true, as many people have died while working. But what she meant was that one should not run from work, putting the nose to the old grindstone. Even when it is not physical labor, we may still tend to run from it. Like studying, reading, taking notes. Those activities should not be deadly. Yet, some students do seem to think so, as they certainly shy away from them.

All those negative feelings you’re having, sweep them under the rug; when you need them, they’ll be there. Hmm. I remember that statement very well. I was complaining about my research project for my PhD, complaining about my mentor, complaining about the committee. In essence, just complaining. I took that piece of wisdom to mean that, yes, I might have a right to complain, but what was the end goal? To get my PhD, naturally. So, just work. Don’t complain if you can work. If the feelings were still there when I was done, I would be in a position emotionally to deal with them. And it was true. Whatever hard time I had getting my PhD, I don’t think of it with any bitterness or anger. If more people could adopt those words, possibly, there would be less incidents of violence.

I’m easy to please, hard to satisfy. Self-explanatory, and quite true.

About Rose Mary Stiffin, Ph.D.

Rose Mary Stiffin was raised and educated in Indianola, Mississippi, notably the Delta hometown of the blues legend, BB King. She received a Bachelor of Art degree in

Dr. Rose Mary Stiffin
Dr. Rose Mary Stiffin

chemistry from Mississippi Valley State University in 1974, a Master of Science degree in organic chemistry from Mississippi State University in 1981. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Tennessee in Memphis in 1995. She did her post-doctoral work at the world-famous St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn and has written several grants, including a $1 million dollar grant from NNSA to start a radiochemistry program and a grant to support the development of its sister program, radio-biology, funded by NRC.  She is currently chair of the Division of Health and
Natural Sciences at Florida Memorial University, a small HBCU located in Miami Gardens. 

Stiffin has written several short stories and had some of them published in the Imagine literary magazine.  She also has been published in the Algonquin Quarterly (“The Water Buffalo and Pink Flamingo”) and in an anthology For Your Eyes Only (“Casino Blues”).  She has written several novels, including “Walk in Bethel,” Reflections” and “Groovin’ on the Half Shell.”

Words To Live By