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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


Hopefully this will stop the avoiding

Last week I emailed my old (good, undergrad) advisor with some thoughts about Virginia Tech. She and I emailed back and forth - she kept asking for information on some details, and I kept sending her articles. I then emailed her and noted that I had a hunch she was going to write something about it, and if so, I wanted to share some thoughts. She then wrote back and said we should do an op-ed piece together.


Except, she told me to "draft it up" and then she'd revise it. Grrr.... I was hoping she'd draft it, and I'd add to it. So, I have been avoiding this now for two days. I'm sitting in a tea shop, thinking a lot of things, but not about the piece. Well, about it, but avoiding it.

I think the direction she wants to take the op-ed piece in worries me. I worry about making assertions in the direction she wants to head. I also feel incompetent to make the assertions I want to. I mean, like I'd like to make some statements about mental health and dangerousness assessment - but I am clearly no expert, and as someone who has been kicked out of a PhD program - I am a loser - and really have no place proffering any kind of opinion or pretending like I have any kind of expertise.

Ugh, this takes me to thinking about something I want to avoid blogging because I don't want to get too lost in the bad feelings. But, I think I have to write it.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend of mine. This friend is a grad student, not at my ex-school but at another. She is a talented clinician, very smart, very curious about her work with clients - I really really appreciate, respect, and like her. I have with her no jealousy that she will get a degree and I won't because she is just so awesome.

Early in our lunch, she and I were talking about our old practicum site (well, she's still there, I'm not). We were talking about another student who just perplexes/vexes us. My friend said something about being completley no interested in this other student, and so when they are together in the office, my friend never really talks to her or asks her stuff because she's just not interested. My friend said, "It's not like when you and I were together."

That, to me, was just so sweet. She didn't say it explicitly, but it sounded like she finds me interesting, and that means a lot to me right now. I struggle a lot with whether or not I am a likable person (much less lovable), and my grad program made that even worse. I remember at one point a faculty member told me that someone had told my advisor that I had "no friends" at all in the department. Sadly, the person who told my advisor that was someone I had thought was a good friend of mine. I was also told once by an office mate that everyone in our office hated me.

My program really reinforced in me the idea that I am a bad person, am wholly unlikable, and that how I am in the world is completely problematic.

In the aftermath of having been kicked out - and all the bad feelings about myself that brings up - those messages about me as a person resonate so strongly.

Later in our lunch, my friend asked if I would be interested in teaching this summer if an opening came up. I felt like such an ass because I said, "Well, I could use the job, but I would rather not because I'm really not enjoying teaching." Why am I such an ass? This is the friend who helped me get that teaching job.

But on the other hand, I think if she were to take my perspective, she would understand why. I am dealing with students who are very challenging, and who weekly challenge my right to tell them what to do, challenge my competence or expertise, challenge my teaching credentials, etc. Given that pretty much anyone would react to being kicked out of grad school (after 2 dissertation proposals were rejected), one might feel already pretty incompetent and horrible.

Every day, having to stand in front of those students and handle their challenges,, handle even them just looking at me causes me to just want to run away. I get dressed every morning and feel like I am going to have a breakdoown because I can't find anything I feel comfortable wearing in front of them (and this has gotten worse since it has gotten warmer since i can't hide myself as well). I feel scrutinized, judged, evaluated, and I feel fat, disgusting, ugly, and like all I want to do is get back into bed and cry.

Every day is a trial because I have to pretend I care, pretend I can stand up to them, pretend I think I am doing a decent job, pretend that I have knowledge that can be useful to them ...

I don't even know how to present myself to them. I'm not a doctor - I only have a masters degree - clearly I am not degreed enough to teach them. I have no other jobs, nothing else I am doing. Clearly I am a loser. I don't even have any expertise in the area I am teaching, so clearly I am incompetent.

So, I guess I'd better get to writing that op-ed piece. But writing all of this out makes me want to cry, and makes me want to go back home and get into bed.



At 4:32 PM, Blogger BrightStar said...

You are interesting. I'm glad your friend told you that.

I totally get why teaching is not what you want to be doing right now. :(

It's pretty neat that you are even thinking about writing an op-ed piece!

At 4:42 PM, Blogger post-doc said...

It upsets me that your therapist isn't helping you work through some of this. It's so clear to me that you're not a loser - you're interesting and talented and wonderful from what I gather - but I can understand how one is left feeling awful. I tend to shut down when life is just too hard, so I understand that too. I hope writing it out helped a little and you're able to get some of your op-ed thoughts written out. The idea that your professional contributions mean less without a doctorate is ridiculous. Having been denied a defense date for about 6 months, I can state with all certainty that nothing changed about my thoughts or knowledge once awarded a degree.

I'm so sorry though. I wish I could think of a way to help.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger StyleyGeek said...

I know I don't know you in real life, but from what I see of your internet self, you are interesting and lovable and I wish the people around you would treat you the way you deserve.

Your students make me so mad.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Lucy said...

Gah! I just found all these extra tabs with comments I didn't actually post... Sorry!
I can't remember which post this was a comment to. I'm sorry there have been so many people being rude/unhelpful/mean lately. You deserve so much better.

I did get to meet you in real life and you are just as interesting and lovable as your internet self (which is a lot).


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