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I don't mean to call anyone who puts up with me an easily bamboozled fool with low self-esteem, but I have a feeling my advisor would.


So harsh.


I don't know; you seem pretty responsible, to me. You fed the cat and everything!


Sounds like a power-tripping academic giving you a dressing-down to me. I mean really. Maybe those things bothered her, but to extend it out to that being "who you are?" come ON!


Can you possibly deny that I am impolite, habitually late, forgetful, disrespect authority figures, and do sloppy work and am not used to having to answer to anyone about it? Plus am a bit too used to having a free pass to screw up all the time from people who like me already for my other nice qualities? She is completely right to point out that all those things are unprofessional behavior and that her and my relationship IS a professional one. She's not like, my old friend who will cut me some slack.

If she lost MY paper, and was always late to meet me or fucked up on answering back about appointment-making, then you'd think she were being unprofessional and rude and rather untrustworthy!

I keep thinking part of it was miscommunication and part was that I forgot to write her back. And... I swear... I thought I was doing everything sort of okay. I wrote ahead, I said what times I was free... I was all prepared... Where i fucked up : she wrote me back and said "How about Tuesday at 9:30 at my house. Tell me in advance if that is okay. The day before would also be okay." or something very similar. And I ... got up, wrote down tuesday at 9:30 on my calendar, and apparently never wrote her back. Yesterday afternoon I was looking at the calendar and thinking of our meeting and suddenly went, "Hmm, did i ever absolutely 100% confirm that?" and so wrote her.

But apparently it's not the first time I've done that and... I think it makes it much worse that I don't even remember that, and had no clue that there was a problem.

Believe me, this is like the best prof in the world and she is always mind-bogglingly clear about her expectations, guidelines, grades, rules, etc. And when I first was in her class i saw immediately how great that was. I think she is the first teacher I've ever had who has been super clear about what she expects and why. So I learned a LOT about that from her.

Heinously... extra heinously... in our meeting before she chewed me out, I said that i had lost the notes from one of our earlier meetings and apologized for not incorporating her feedback from 2 years ago. 8-( And that must have extra super pissed her off to know she wasted her time carefully going over my thingamajig, and then carefully talking to me about it, and then I just ... lost it and forgot and didn't even remember that I forgot until I was in front of her again and realizing the thing had the SAME ERROR AS TWO YEARS AGO.

It's good for her to have high expectations, it's her job...

Lisa Hirsch

I'm sort of amazed you're blogging about this. I'd be too embarrassed to say a word in public. Hard stuff to be faced with. How are you feeling about it? And what do you think is behind this particular pattern?


When I told all this to Rook he started looking guiltier and guiltier and then said he is exactly the same way and actually could I excuse him because there are all these work emails he has been procrastinating. Damn, because I thought he was the organized, thoughtful, virtuous good one. that means I'm even more horrid than I first suspected.

Chula pointed out I have to keep focusing on the positive and take whatever I can learn from it, which of course is my goal...

There's really no way not to feel sucky about it no matter what positive spin I put on the results. So, I feel sucky about it but also weirdly grateful that I got a glimpse of my own bullshit that might be possible to fix. How rare is that? She only did it because it's her job... not because she likes me personally or respects my work... that hurts like hell. So, to answer your question Lisa, I feel horrible. But with a tiny ray of hope that because I have the gift of seeing it, I could improve it.

I also feel especially horrible because I was just priding myself on the whole thing. You have no idea how miraculous and amazing it is to me that I have done ANYTHING. I fucked up high school, and it was amazing I didn't drop out. I was late on pretty much every paper as an undergrad, and had at least one incomplete every semester, for good or not so good reasons, and almost never rose above "promising underacheiver" ... or "slightly insane genius who is department pet". It was amazing that I squeaked by enough to graduate.

So I have been congratulating myself that all this time in grad school I have never turned in a paper late, no lame excuses, not even any non-lame excuses, and I showed up to class even when I was on crutches or had laryngitis. I finished all my classes properly and made all As though ... some A minuses which I confess were crushing to my soul because I actually deserved that minus for being sloppy and trying to coast on my good ideas or random brilliance w/out real discipline. But nevertheless, proud of not completely fucking up and sabotaging myself and proud of being responsible and filling out all the forms and stuff. So, to find out that actually ... the teacher I respect so much and thought I was maybe impressing a little bit... actually thinks very little of me and is so far beyond annoyed and into furious that she never wants to have to deal with me again. Ouch.

It's not like my annoying flaws are any secret to anyone who knows me, I'm sure. So why not write about it and face up to it ? What's going to happen? I get embarrassed? I'm *already* embarrassed.

As far as fixing it... God. I already feel like I have been getting a grasp on "saying no" and not starting too many projects. I still do, but I'm way better about it. I overcommit but instead of never finishing anything I am finishing many things on time and some things late. Er, and many things just don't happen and remain in the land of good intentions and half-baked ideas and wish-i-had-done-that. I don't really know how to fix that part of the problem because in a way it might be part of what is good about me? Maybe? I can't tell anymore. How can I help that part if I have a million interesting ideas?

But that part should have nothing to do with: if I realize I'm a flake about schedules and time and my own email-answering workflow and losing pieces of paper, which is maybe the more specific issue here, then I need to figure that out. I have improved a lot through making lists, though I lose the lists. it helps to live in one place now, and not to be moving every year, because I am getting to have routines and places for things and general order. So, maybe a more deliberate morning routine and night routine as well where I think about and check some sort of list and calendar. AND ... I spent a couple of days last year trying to organize my email situation but there was a minor technical problem that screwed the whole setup and I moved on and now my pine inbox has 13,000 messages in it again. So, these last problems are i think where I should start (as well a more nebulous attempt to consider "respect for other people" or "other people who don't cut other people a lot of slack" which I think all my friends do, because they also need that slack, so i never notice any problem.)


Wow. Okay, now I see. I want to say encouraging things, because I don't think you're as heinous as you say. You take on a lot, and have a lot of ideas, and it gets in your way. But that doesn't make you some kind of bad person. Like you say, it takes some organization and calm, at least in situations where you HAVE to do it. Otherwise, you don't need to.

Lisa Hirsch

13,000 emails. Well, that would be daunting. I myself have a trail of things I feel guilty about, including unanswered mail, some of it important, related to my book. And tons of stuff needing to be done at work, where I am stuck, and have been stuck, on a particular project that is now several months past its first due date.

I totally understand why you're feeling so crappy about what the teacher said to you. But:

I think it certainly is worth keeping in mind that what you describe in the 10:52 posting is a significant pattern of improvement from the past. Given that, how much more painful to feel like you haven't been what you wanted to be with regard to your teacher.


It's not 13000 unread emails... just 13000 unfiled ones. thank god for grep...?

Lisa Hirsch

Still daunting. :-)


Aw. You and Steven should sit down and talk sometime. It might make him feel good to share some of his coping mechanisms, and some of them might work for you, too.

Me, I learned to stop overcommitting, and I made sure everyone in my life knew I was not to take on any more projects, and they took it upon themselves to look at me sternly and have a discussion with me every time I talked about starting a new project. Which means I had to justify not only the coolness of the idea, but where I would fit it in my life. And that helped a lot.

(Nonetheless, I somehow managed to agree to co-chair WisCon programming next year. *Co*-chair, though. Co-chair!)


Reading this reminded me of how free-flowing and spontaneous life is with a baby and toddler, with part-time studies and part-time work fitting around the baby's needs ... any plan subject to change at any moment, because that's how small children are.

That's been your life for 6 years (6? is that right?) and now you're in transition to the stage of having a school-age child, attending to your own work in a more concentrated way, learning to be more organized and more professional and businesslike, less spontaneous. Just another of life's stages of growing up ... which never seems to end. I admire your insight into the truth you could recognize in your prof's words, your ability to accept it and see that there's room to grow and improve.


Thanks Frances. That is extremely wise! I've been noticing lately that I'm in that "mom of school-age kid" transition and that everything is changing. It's like infant-to-small kid - it makes a big change in how you have to approach life. And there is lag time while you figure out how to do it.

I am NOT using this as a copout but reading this, it occurs to me that my prof has a small child. And I knew she was on leave, but did not know the details of it ... (apparently, chemo.) And I also remember the time she checked herself into a local motel for 3 days and unplugged the phone so that no one could find her and she could get some work done. In a way she is probably dealing with people (including little kid) violations of her own boundaries/time and since she's at home and not her office, less delineation than usual, and that must be hard. So maybe she was a bit harsh.

It's also true I can't imagine that I'm the only or even the worst student around. And I also can't help but think of the less passionate people of few ideas who manage to "do everything right" and are therefore Professional and will be proper academics. There are a lot of them. It's not a dichotomy as there are beautifully organized professional people who are also brilliant. And what she was saying to me is that THOSE people will always kick my ass. I can't deny it. Fine, I'm happy in my tiny swamplike niche.

It's her job to civilize me and if being super harsh is the only way to get through to me... maybe she was right in saying what she said.

Lisa Hirsch

Her job to socialize you to a particular world. "Civilize" I think I reserve for parent-child relationships, where there is such a giant range of stuff the child is learning from the parents. %^)


I think if she bothers telling you the ways that you are less professional than you need to be, she must think you can become one of the brilliant & together professional people. and even if she's only doing it because it's her job, it could still be helpful. it's about academia and professionalism, it's not about The Person You Are not being awesome enough.


I always hate it when I fall from the standards of "grown-up". I have kids, and a husband, and a professional job. So why on earth can't I call the dentist for myself or remember to write a thank you note or....

Which is to say, I'm sorry you have to struggle against your nature. It's hard work.

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