Last April, during my Master’s degree, I marched into my advisor’s office and said “I need you to talk me out of quitting.” I was burnt out. I’d spent hours working on papers, and didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. I couldn’t see an end to it, and wasn’t even ready to think about my thesis. I was two thirds of the way through the degree, and I was hating every minute of it. Every time I sat down to write, I had a tightness in my chest and the sense that it wasn’t going to do any good. I was depressed, and despairing. I was overworked, with my charity fundraiser weeks away, a trip on the horizon, and I’d just broken up with my girlfriend. I wanted to continue, but I needed someone to talk to, or I’d quit. So I said “I need you to talk me out of quitting.”

And he did. 

Robin Williams, Dead Poets SocietyYour professors can help you with your stress in a lot of ways. They’ve been there. Very few of them were super-geniuses to whom everything came easily. They slogged through papers, juggled assignments, crammed for exams, and they see students like you do that term after term. They know a lot of stuff, and they’re also in charge of your courses. If you’re stressed about exams, you can ask them for advice on how to study. If there’s an assignment that’s just killing you, you can ask for some guidance, or even an extension (which they may grant. YMMV).

They’re also in a position to know where else on campus you can get help. You’re spending about four years here at UW. They’ll be here for closer to forty. If they don’t know, they’ll likely know where to find out. We already talked about counselling, but there’s also the writing clinic, the Off-Campus Dons, and a lot of other great spaces and services on campus.

They can inspire you. Mine did, and still continue to. Since I work on campus, sometimes I’ll have lunch with them, and I still catch myself thinking “These are the people I get to grow up to be,” even though I’ve sworn off a phd. Somehow, they came out of the whole academic process relatively sane, and with very few drinking problems. Not only are they smart, they’re good people, and usually pretty cool.

For those outside UW Classics, your mileage may vary. Some professors are dicks. They’re people, they have good days, bad days, and sometimes they’re assholes. If that happens, find another one. No matter what department you’re in or what school you attend, you’ll be able to find a professor who cares enough to help you out. Nobody gets into academia for the fame and the power, they do it because they love it. They’re crazy in the same way we are. Show them you love it, and they’ll reciprocate.

But they probably can’t help you if you just broke up with your girlfriend.

But sometimes they just know you need to laugh. Here’s a gem that Prof. Christina Vester found. Enjoy it, and we’ll be back on Friday with a post that your professors and TA’s never want you to see. Cheers.

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