Friday, March 6, 2009

Staying in touch with a postdoc advisor

Dialog is so much easier when I have recently been in contact with my advisor. The longer I spend away from him, the more dread and friction I feel about doing work, and I slow down and feel overwhelmed by all the projects I'm not doing enough work on, and it's exactly like the Doldrums in the Phantom Tollbooth, which is where you end up when you don't know where you are doing.

Then once I see my advisor, I am scared and feel a little stupid for part of the time, but then feel revved up and actually like I am doing just fine and I can do good work that will uphold my part of the traineeship bargain, and actually become super responsible and responsive.

Yesterday I met with my advisor. I was totally dreading it because I spent a few weeks under the weather, partially from physical illness and partially from the accumulated mental sludge and inertia from having been away from normal life for awhile. I was convinced that there was a good shot that I wasn't going to have my position next year, and that he would tell me just how disappointed he was in me and that he's sorry it didn't work out. It's not entirely paranoia on my part. I have been told similar things before and left to flail --- being asked to leave an academic program even --- though the flailing was temporary and certainly not fatal to me or even my career. But I forgot that he really wants this to work too.

Anyhow, paranoia over because he spoke to me like I am definitely going to be here next year. So I feel relieved. And we spoke about new projects and the next steps and how I am going to apply for funding real soon now.

As a result of this meeting and the burst of energy, when I got the "training grant annual update" form in the email today I wrote up the report and sent it back within an hour. Had I gotten the email before the meeting I would have sat on it hoping that I would do enough work to make myself worthy of filling out the form. Delusionally thinking, perhaps, that I could write and submit a couple papers before the end of the month so that I would have something on there other than my dissertation papers.

But the right way to think about it is to do all the work for the annual report, work hard and if I do happen to submit a paper I will add it to the report and resend it.

Life is so much easier when I'm happy and optimistic. When I'm in the middle of a procrastinatory funk, it's so hard to regain my optimism. Though maybe it just takes a meeting. Or even just any human contact.

This is my second consecutive day of good work habits. If I keep this up, maybe I will even start to feel like I am not just pretending to be responsible.

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