“How are you, Mel?” Robin asked.
I slumped against my advisor’s office door until it clicked shut, and grinned. “I’m… proud of how I’m responding to repeatedly falling on my ass in chaos.” I dumped a pile of post-its on the table representing everything academic I was working on this school year and asked her to help prioritize and cut them, including things I was supposed to give her. (“You know that it’s not that I want to cut corners or slack; but if it doesn’t need to be as shiny as I’m thinking now, then I’m going to make these slides with Sharpies the night before my presentation and have more time to focus on the more important stuff.”)
90 minutes later, I strode out of Robin’s office with an even broader smile and a relaxed spring in my step. I love having her as an advisor because — well, I try to come to our meetings with my research in as good a state as I can get it, but I know that I can come to her in any state so long as I’m trying, and we will use our time together to make even the most ridiculous mess better. Not perfect; that’s a lifetime’s work. But better than it was.
Rewind 5 hours earlier. I’m dragging my feet towards the chapel, a bit embarrassed. My mind’s going a million places at a million paces a minute. I know my day goes better when I spend time in contemplation — it brings this weird slow inner renewal that lets me be a Better Mel. And yet. I’m busy, dammit. Also: I’m in an awful shape to pray, I think, falling slightly into my old patterns of beating myself up. I should be better! And then I step in and remember my odd recent mental image of God as infinitely awesome grad school advisor — the kind who wants you to surprise them, question everything, smiles to see your curiosity strengthened by focus and collaboration.
And I sit down, look up, and whisper: “Hey. A bit messed up today, but I’m here — and that’s why I’m here.” (“By the way, I got distracted by your awesome bookshelf on the way in. Oops.”)
And 30 minutes later, I am running through the parking lot with glad determination and a lot of things to drop (responsibly) and things to do — and clarity with which to do them. And it’s this momentum that carries me through the hours to Robin’s office, where I get another echo of the same.
I thank both my advisors today for showing me the kind of teacher I am growing up to be.