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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bizarro world

I think I've fallen into some kind of parallel universe.

On Thursday, after getting the offer from the dean of Decent Regional U., I emailed my advisor with the news. She wrote back almost immediately with a message that I can only describe as bubbly, telling me how marvelous this was, asking me a million questions about the institution, and concluding by telling me that she had no advice (I'd told her I welcomed it), other than to be happy and to do whatever made me happy.

This, you might say, is to be expected from an advisor--but it isn't at all what *I* expected. When I'd mentioned the phone interview to her during our meeting two weeks ago, she'd been pleased, but had said things that led me to believe that getting an offer from DRU would be good mainly because it might give me leverage with Big Urban (which is very short-handed in my field and which we'd speculated must be hiring for a ladder position soon). I've long felt that Advisor expected me to get an R1 job--partly, I'm sure, because she believes in my work, but at least partly because she seems firmly to believe that a research position is the only kind of success that matters, and because she likes to be associated with success. Frankly, I was worried that she wouldn't be very impressed with my getting a job at a school she'd never heard of.

But the craziest and the sweetest part of Advisor's email was when she mentioned a previous, pretty hapless advisee now teaching at a vocational college, the Ivy-ensconced Elder Sister (remember her?), and me, all in the same breath, as people who were doing really well and making her so proud and restoring a bit of her faith in the profession. This suggestion that our successes were on the same order is probably the most generous thing I've ever heard her say, and it reminds me that, despite all of the traumatizing things that Advisor did and said in the early years of our working together (and okay, despite the rather traumatizing thing she said to me just two weeks ago), it's true that she's also capable of extraordinary generosity and that she can be strongly--if weirdly and disconcertingly--maternal at unexpected moments.

So I think that now it's time for me to officially Get Over my advisor complex. I've got the degree, I've got the job, and she's professed herself very excited to talk about and look over a new article-length project I'm considering (as well as to remain in dialogue about the dissertation/book manuscript as I revise it)--so it's time for me to see that our relationship has definitively changed and that she truly has faith in me; it's time for me to stop dwelling on the things that she did in the past and looking for signs that she's going to do them again.

So, bloggy peeps, hold me to my word on that one.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 1:38 PM |


Blogger Hieronimo commented at 3:04 PM~  

One of the really nice things about getting a TT job is developing a different relationship with one's advisor. Another really nice thing is no longer feeling like the advisor needs to read and sign off on all of one's work, and having a different group of colleagues who (hopefully) can provide new perspectives and insights.

Congrats again!

Blogger Terminaldegree commented at 6:12 PM~  

This is wonderful!

Earlier this year my advisor was hired to do a presentation for the arts organization I run. She stayed with me for a couple of nights. (Let me tell you, my apartment was the cleanest it's ever been. I even had the carpets shampooed!) And I was amazed by what a different person she is now that she's no longer my advisor. I felt like for the first time ever, I actually got to see the real person, not the "advisor figure." And it was a lot of fun.

Enjoy the change in the relationship.

Blogger meg commented at 6:16 PM~  

I'm behind on my blogroll, so I just wanted to congratulate you on the offer, and heartily.

Ditto to what Hieronimo and TD say. Recalibrating the relationship with the advisor sure is a good thing.

Blogger Dr. Virago commented at 7:12 PM~  

But the craziest and the sweetest part of Advisor's email was when she mentioned a previous, pretty hapless advisee now teaching at a vocational college, the Ivy-ensconced Elder Sister (remember her?), and me, all in the same breath, as people who were doing really well and making her so proud and restoring a bit of her faith in the profession.

Funny -- I had almost exactly the same experience with *my* advisor.

And ditto everything everyone else said. I once got drunk with my advisor at a conference, but it was nothing compared to getting drunk with him at a wedding of a mutual friend *after* getting the Ph.D. And now he kisses me hello/goodbye on the lips! ?! (He's gay, so it's not like *that*.) It's like he's a whole 'nother person!

Blogger BrightStar commented at 9:18 PM~  

Can I be snarky and say how cool it is that you have a job that sounds better than Elder Sister's? hee!

Anyhow, that's fantastic that you're feeling a shift in your interactions with your advisor. Continue to enjoy the fruits of your labors, which are the successes you're experiencing.

Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway commented at 10:53 PM~  

That's great! (Can I just say that the best thing about getting my degree/job is NOT to have to deal with my advisor very much any more?? Or at least, not having to feel like she exercises any control over me!)

Blogger ABDmom commented at 12:24 PM~  

The evolution of your realtionship with your advisor sounds very much like the process I'm going through with mine. And I too am trying to get beyond past hurts--again, it sounds like we've gone down a similar road with our advisors. Perhaps we can reinforce each other in our attempts to not dwell on that past and focus on the here and now of this relationship.

Blogger Oso Raro commented at 8:11 PM~  

Ah, advisors! Can't live with 'em, can't bury them in a steel drum in the back yard. The comments here seem to cover a lot already of the problems and joys of the relationship, including its evolutionary character over time.

My advisor, Mr. Big Wig Cultural Theorist, was cool but has always been generally supportive. There was a lot of personal hysteria during the thesis writing, then tranquility afterward upon gaining the TT job at Sadistic College, including his unwavering (if again, distant and cool) support after it all came undone.

So many want a personal relationship with advisors, including some of the advisors. But I have always thought a collegial respect, warmth with distance was a more elegant manner of conducting what is in fact a personal relationship, and an intimate one. Few have actually seen you so vulnerable as one's advisor: parents, lovers, children, maybe, all deeply and highly intimate relationships. But at the same time it is of a different quality.

It took me a long time to figure out this calculus, and realize than in fact one's advisor is NOT your friend, at least not in any quotidian way. Yet, ironically, your advisor remains, until their death, one of your prime academic mentors and touchstones, something few graduate students think about in the heat of the degree. In terms of the apprentice-like quality of our training, this is a relationship that in our overly-intimate and scandal-ridden society we have lost the thread for. But sometimes its good to do that excavation, to find out what the advisor/advisee relationship is, can be, should be, or is not, which we begin to do when we enter the tenure track and become, in the eyes of the profession, true apprentices.

Anonymous rachel commented at 5:56 AM~  

I have a horrible relationship with my supervisor. I get props from almost everyone else, but can't get her to give me even the most basic support. When I tell people the whole story, they always (no matter who they are) inevitably ask why I didn't switch.

Now that I've got my t-t, I am plannign to ditch her mostly. I don't need more negativity. The fantastic thing about the Uk system is that she won't examine me, and I can marginalize her from the process ASAP.

But ugh, aren't I jealous of those who have healthy, productive relationships with their supervisors.

Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory commented at 8:31 AM~  

In some fields, any full-time job is a good one. I was more or less ignored by my graduate department until I went out and actually got myself a decent job and then a full-time one.... after that, I was asked to write some of the "stars" who were having a hard time getting hired at all. That was quite sweet!

The nice thing about it is that one of my only friends in my chohort is now working at my school on a one-year position -- and we are hiring a full-timer this year.

Anonymous What Now? commented at 4:28 PM~  

So healthy, LL! You're now at the place that I've only managed to get to in the last year or so (i.e., six years after getting my degree), so you're years and years ahead of me in maturity, clearly.

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