Landing the Plane

The bottom line is, you've been flying for a while now, and your only job is to get the plane on the ground.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mentors Fresh and Full of Life

Yesterday I met with a mentor of mine who has graciously agreed to read my dissertation drafts and offer feedback. We had lunch together w/her youngest baby in tow and she had some really good comments. I feel lucky to have her in my life, even if as a role model she is a bit complicated: In short, she encouraged me to apply to grad school, promised me anything was possible if I worked hard enough and got a little lucky, but then a few years ago she left her own tenure-track position because it was incompatible with child-raising. For a long time, secretly, I felt a little betrayed. Sure, she had done what was right for her, something I applaud in the abstract, I guess, but if she can't do it, and she is seriously one of the three smartest people I have ever met, why in the hell should I think I could? And what about all of us other young, partnered women who go on the job market and face the whole "well, she's just going to get pregnant and leave..." barrier. I spent a lot of time wondering, doesn't her decision hurt people like me?

Meh, that is all largely in the past though (for me, it is very much her present.) Now, when we meet, either socially or to discuss work, I mostly focus on all of the things I value about our relationship. Like for one, she is an amazing, generous reader and editor, and I think finding a mentor like this who is not officially on my committee is just an incredibly lucky strike. One of the best things about talking with her is that while I sit in my office and whine to myself about how this dissertation will never get finished, she is always thinking one or two steps ahead, and talks out loud about them. "After the book comes out, reviews will be able to say that...." and "This way, your second book can build on themes you outline but don't exhaust in this first one." These things are said with such vibrance, such confidence, that it's impossible not to believe her.

She helped me come up with a renewed plan of attack, one that I feel confident will be successful if I execute it correctly because, as I said, she is just so incredibly talented when it comes to issues of writing and analysis.

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