Conversations with My Advisor

I’ve been talking with my advisor a lot this week.

Well, not actually talking, since these conversations are taking place inside my head.

And not so much with my advisor, really, as with my idea of my advisor, since we’ve previously met for the grand total of an hour.

One of the significant ways in which the low-residency model differs from a traditional program is the manner of communication. My advisor and I exchange long letters (or MP3s) once a month. In between, I can call in an emergency or ask quick questions about logistics via email, but that’s it. All the questions I want to ask, anything I want him to understand about my work or about me—I need to make sure I get them in my letter.

People used to write letters like this all the time, of course. But I think the last time I wrote a letter—a real letter—was in college when I was studying in Italy (and then only because transatlantic phone calls were too expensive). So I started working on my letter at the beginning of this month, adding things as I think of them. I’m struggling with tone in the letter even more than in the poems or essays; it’s the self-evaluation all over again.

The strangest thing, though, is the realization of how one-sided this conversation is. My advisor takes up a lot of space in my thoughts right now, and I’m sure that I take up comparatively little in his. He’s probably ramping up for his fall semester, happy that to have another week until the packets from his low-residency advisees start to arrive. Meanwhile, I’m obsessing over whether it’s OK to by funny in my cover letter and, if so, how much, and will he like the jokes or think they are a waste of his time or that that I’m unserious or ….

Maybe I should work on my essay instead.

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