One of the many aisles of gold at the Copenhagen Archives
As a part of this course I am taking, I have to spend the next three Wednesdays at the Copenhagen Archives. We have been divided into groups of three, and whatever paper comes out of it will act as the basis of our oral exam this summer. It will also count as 50% of our final grade. We will be judged individually, which is always a good thing; it’s less nerve-wracking when you know you won’t be dragging anyone down with you.
It was really special being there, and actually getting my hands on these old documents that we have heard so much about. Last week we were informed of the law of handling these types of records, and what I gathered from it is that I should probably not be drinking tea anywhere near it. I guess that’s the reaction they were going for, right? That’s a pretty serious reaction in my book. Anyway, for now (and until I do something stupid) I have graduated from photocopies and on to the real thing, and honestly the real thing feels so much better (it almost always does, don’t you agree?).
My perhaps favorite things were the old books of records. Considering how they were centuries old, they were surprisingly well kept. On several of the pages I would run my fingers over the beautiful handwriting that was written hundreds of years ago with a pen and ink, and I would think, “I belong here”; among these treasures that have been tucked away for future assessment and admiration. I couldn’t and can’t read about half of it, but that’s nothing that the two P’s can’t fix: Practice and Patience. Those two P’s are a Historians best friend, I think. What’s also incredible is how you can conclude so much from so little material. I can’t wait to get my little hands on all of it. (To the guard: I promise said hands won’t be greasy.)
Finally, I get to be my own little version of Nancy Drew.
Aside from this little personal affirmation that I am just where I need to be (and perhaps because of this), the rest of the experience was somewhat of an anti-climax. Why? Well, honestly it was somewhat of a social failure for me, I think. It’s hard to be three people in a group, we all know that, and I knew that going in, but I was hoping that this constellation of people would be the exception to the rule. It’s nobody’s fault – except perhaps my own. I am sure I subconsciously contributed a-plenty to own experience of feeling a little left out. It kind of confirms what I already believe to be true about myself, so why wouldn’t my subconscious do that to me?
The way I see it, there were several problems. Firstly, we were seated rather awkwardly and I had to strain my neck to be able to get a glimpse of whatever document we were attempting to transcribe. That meant that I at times had to lean back and kind of withdraw myself from whatever we were doing because I just couldn’t sit in that position for minutes on end. Also, my vision has gotten progressively worse, and I just couldn’t see unless it was close to me, or at least closer to me.
Secondly, l have a feeling I made somewhat of a bad impression on one of my group-members, whom I have met before, but whom I have never worked closely with until now. Mind you, this might all be in my head, but I had a strong feeling both during and after that I had messed up somehow, and see; this is when it would be awesome to get to be a fly on the wall for a day to observe yourself in action, because I honestly have no idea what I seem like to others. Anyway, I’m a big believer in structure. I am not the most structured person in my private life, and I often struggle to keep my overview, but when it comes to projects and group-work, I truly believe in the power of structure and organization. So, I was kind of that person. If you know what I mean. The one, who wants to set aside some time to figure out a work-schedule for the next four weeks – the one, who wants like… a strategy of some sort, on how to deal with what and when. I mean, we have been told we have to spend 18 hours on this a week AND keep a logbook of everything we do, so to me it seems perfectly logical to figure out a plan for our work.
On top of that, I had a lot of inputs. I wanted to be visible, to be a contributor. When I was younger, I wanted to be a part of whatever tapestry was covering the walls. Perhaps I am trying to compensate for that now, because I just couldn’t seem to hold my tongue. For that reason, I might have seemed dominating. I will say that I was on a lucky strike yesterday. I mean; I was really on a roll – for once. It’s the first true success-experience I have had with all of this, I think. Even the transcriptions I feel I was good at, which I have always found to be so difficult.
However, I felt like he, the aforementioned group-member (who was kind of unofficially in charge because he was handling the computer), thought I was being too much, so I tried to hold back a little bit, but by then it was like it was already ruined – his picture of me, I mean. I think he felt like my suggestions were domineering, and perhaps it did come off that way – but that definitely wasn’t how I intended it.
Anyway. He consistently turned to our other group-member, and kind of ignored me, which to little sensitive ol’ me spoke volumes. I felt like I had a neon-sign on my forehead that said, “Bossypants”, and I felt misunderstood. I also felt that my efforts were being devalued, and unfairly so.
Now I have had some time to think about it, and I honestly don’t believe I did anything wrong. I don’t feel like I overstepped any boundaries. I feel like I contributed constructively, and that my contribution bore fruit, just like was the case with that of the others. I feel like I gave credit where credit was due.
And, you know, I’m going to go out on a limp here and say that I think my being female has something to do with his reaction to my behavior. I don’t know what kind of expectations existed to begin with, but I clearly didn’t meet them. I voiced my thoughts and opinions, but I didn’t overrule him in any way. I let him try his stuff out and then if that wasn’t working out, I chimed in. I didn’t just sit idly by, twirling a curl around my finger. Would that have been easier? Totally! I would most likely be more liked then I was, doing what I was doing. But, hello, when has that ever gotten us anywhere? It was like I had to incept the idea into his head for him to think it was worth trying. I had to make him believe he came up with it. And you know what; that’s BS and way too complicated, and frankly, demeaning to the both of us. I can’t work like that. I won’t work like that. I want credit for my own ideas. I am entitled to participate on an equal level.