Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Everything gets better.

As I may or may not have bothered to mention, I've started classes in nursing school.  Classroom prerequisites this year, two years of nursing classes and clinicals, and if all goes well, I'll be 28 when I become an Actual Real Nurse For Real.

The weirdest, and best, part of going back to school as an adult is how terrifying the professors aren't.  I always used to think of professors as bosses who wanted me to work and could fire me, or (much worse) parents who wanted me to be good and could punish me.  They're not.  They're working for me. I don't mean that in the sense of "you're working for me, so give me an A," but in the sense of "you're working for me, so give me the knowledge and skills I'm buying from you."  My Microbiology professor isn't an authority over me; he's someone who knows more about microbiology than me so I'm paying him to tell me about it.

I still need a good grade, of course; and I still have some anxiety about that.  But it's nothing like the anxiety I felt as a teenager.  It's a matter of "I'll learn the stuff and I'll tell them what I learned," not of facing judgement.  I wouldn't say that school is easier now--but it doesn't scare me.


Sex with Rowdy last night was amazing.  Amazing like a drug, amazing like the physicality of it didn't even matter any more--I was flying.  I slipped into a state where everything felt good.  He fucked me and it felt good; he kissed me and it felt good; he bit me and it felt good; he touched me and it felt good. I was moaning and squirming every time he did anything to me, and he did oh so many things.

We didn't have sex this good a year ago.  We had good sex, but it wasn't like this.  We didn't know each other's bodies and minds well enough.  It's the difference between driving a good car--and driving your good car, the one where you know exactly how tightly it takes every curve, exactly how it responds to every gram of force on the pedals.

Our sex just keeps getting better.

I was still flying when I fell asleep, his whole body wrapped around mine.


Yesterday, I went and got a cup of coffee between classes.  I asked the coffee lady for a medium drip coffee, she told me "that'll be a dollar thirty," I gave her a dollar thirty, and I took my coffee and went to class.

I know this sounds like a really, really pointless story.  But what struck me is how easy it all was. Specifically, how much easier it was.  Even such a minor transaction used to be fraught with weird anxiety for me--anxiety I would never admit to, because how can you admit something like "I have great difficulty with the social nuances of buying a cup of coffee"?

I didn't know what kind of coffee I was supposed to order, or how I was supposed to phrase the order. Should I call it "java" or "joe" to show I was a cool, experienced coffee drinker, or should I use precisely the name on the menu?  Were there certain drinks that only dorks ordered?  Would it be rude to act chummy with the coffee lady, or rude to not act chummy with her?  If I fumbled my change and she got impatient with me, did that mean she hated me?  Could I ever show my face again at the coffee stand if I made the coffee lady hate me?

These goofy-ass things tormented me when I was about eighteen.  It feels almost magical that they don't any more.  Not by figuring out all the secret social codes, but by figuring out that there aren't any secret codes, I became one of the cool, experienced coffee drinkers.

I can order coffee in total comfort now.  It's a wonderful feeling of power.  Eighteen-year-old me would never have believed it.


I'm taking Human Growth and Development right now.  The professor's in his late fifties or early sixties, and told us that in his experience, each stage of life is better than the last one.

So far, it's true.

I don't get bullied any more--I take for granted that I won't get bullied any more--but that's the least of it. As I've gotten older, gotten more established in my relationship, gotten more perspective on the world, gotten more comfortable in my body and my life, everything has gotten better.

The biggest secret we keep from young people is that being an adult is actually pretty freaking awesome.

Also, I can have pizza whenever I want.  I don't even like pizza that much though. We have secret adult foods that are better than pizza.


  1. I didn't know what kind of coffee I was supposed to order, or how I was supposed to phrase the order. Should I call it "java" or "joe" to show I was a cool, experienced coffee drinker, or should I use precisely the name on the menu? Were there certain drinks that only dorks ordered? Would it be rude to act chummy with the coffee lady, or rude to not act chummy with her? If I fumbled my change and she got impatient with me, did that mean she hated me? Could I ever show my face again at the coffee stand if I made the coffee lady hate me?

    This is a bang-on description of the stuff I went through when I was younger. For me it wasn't coffee, though, it was movies. Do I ask for the movie by name? Do I nonchalantly refer to it by its numerical order on the board? ("One ticket for #6, please!") etc. I think I actually drove off potential friends by turning down invites to movies because of this anxiety.

    And, like you, I eventually figured out that there aren't secret codes, and life got easier.

    I still have social anxiety, mind you. But there's less of it. I can buy things and see movies and call stores to ask what time they close now. It's pretty awesome.

  2. The weirdest, and best, part of going back to school as an adult is how terrifying the professors aren't. I always used to think of professors as bosses who wanted me to work and could fire me, or (much worse) parents who wanted me to be good and could punish me. They're not. They're working for me.

    That, for me, has been the biggest difference between college and high school (well, that and high school didn't put me thousands of dollars in debt). In high school, the teachers wanted to process me and create a product that would reflect properly on the school, such that its California Distinguished School banner would matter; in college, by and large, the teachers have wanted to teach me, such that I leave their classes knowing stuff about their subjects.

  3. Perversecowgirl - Haha, I had that same "calling stores to ask what time they close" difficulty too. I can't call a stranger! On the phone? What if they're angry?

    I know I've chilled out because I've finally reached the point in my life where if I call them up and it turns they really are angry--if the manager's in a bad mood and snaps at me--I can even deal with that. The worst possible thing that I could have imagined has happened, and I'm like, "Whatever. Do your damn job."

  4. The coffee thing is a surprisingly good description of what goes on in my head when I go up to a store counter. Going to college in a small town (and thus almost always eating the school's food) has helped me with this somewhat, since I talk to the same cashiers every day. I've found that there is a secret code, sort of, but it depends on the person-- for example, with some of the cashiers, I can say just "breadsticks" and they'll give me what I want, but with others I have to say "breadsticks-- but the ones with garlic butter, not the cheese ones" and some of them will give me the cheese ones no matter what I say. "Some" is also a word that means very different things to different people. But it's reassuring to know that it's as much them misunderstanding as it is me saying the "wrong" thing.

  5. Minty - I think it's also important to realize that not only are they just as clueless as you are, but that most secret codes are negotiable in plain English. (Talking: it's not just for sex any more!) If someone grabs the wrong breadsticks, saying "no, the other ones; can I have a couple more than that?" does not mean the communication has Horribly Failed; it's a normal part of the communication.

    I know what I just said was thunderingly obvious, but it's the sort of thing that I used to have trouble with.

  6. I totally relate to the coffee thing. You've reminded me of how scared I used to be of going into HMV when I was about 14. I thought, because it had low lighting and loud-ish music, that only cool people were allowed in there and I'd be immediately noticeable for not being cool enough. The fact that my 40-something mother, who definetly didn't fit the definition of 'cool' I had in my head at the time, walked into HMV without a thought didn't seem to register!

    Seriously, why does everyone think that teenage years are the only time of your life worth living? I'm making sure I tell younger friends who are still in their teens that since I hit my 20s I've been the happiest I've ever been in my life before. It comes in handy when they seem worried that life only gets harder or something.

  7. I've been thinking myself about how different life seems since I was a teenager, and a lot of it is that back then I thought there were loads of rules that I dodn't know, whereas now I know that if there are rules, no-one else knows them either (or has just made them up).

    I still worry that if I do something 'wrong' I'll be hated and never be able to show my face again, though. Except, now I've realised that enough that now I feel crap for *knowing* that I've got that nervous look on my face practically begging to be coaxed into buying stuff, and that it puts a burden of friendliness on people that I interact with.


  8. wow. I never met anyone else who had the coffee anxiety. I almost fainted the first time I stepped into a Starbucks, and that was before I saw the whole "venti" sizing system.

    It took me a long time to learn that all that is necessary is being polite. That's the bare minimum and you can get by on that. You can add funny or dorky or whatever, but polite serves one well in almost any situation.

    It also helped that I didn't know how to tip, so I'd tip huge and the barristas are just fine with your nervous dorkiness if they know a big tip is at the end of it.

  9. Nobody talks about coffee anxiety because it sounds so very pathetic (and if you're worried about coffee, you're super worried about sounding pathetic), but I'm starting to think it's a near-universal developmental stage.

  10. Food better than pizza? Crazy talk. I'll believe that when I eat it.

  11. OMG I could weep for how many times in my life I have not had "The Script" to deal with a normal, everyday kind of situation, and ended up racking myself with torment trying to figure out how to do it. Not "how"...I knew at least a couple of ways...but "HOW" - how to say the right words, the right time, to the right person, in a cool way, or a confident way, or a way that didn't scream "I am a complete fuck-up with no social maturity"

    And even as I age, I still wonder about my social maturity. I know which fork to use when. I regularly buck the "norm" for attitudes, interests, and the like, and I enjoy it...but sometimes, oh just now and would be nice to be effortlessly the norm.

    Your comment about not being bullied hit home deeply right now, because I am just beginning what I hope will be a resolution to a years long bullying issue at in which I struggle(d) to find the social maturity to tell this person to fuck off without bringing my world down around me.

    I'm always amazed when people put things together, summarize interpersonal situations, and come up with apparently effortlessly mature responses that seem to cover all factors and deal with the loose ends, and don't generate angst or ridicule. HOW do they do that???

    *sigh*. My body may be over 40, but there's a shaky 12 yr old as CEO of Brainland.

    I was only 17 when I started university, and I was commenting just today on how different my life would have been if I had known how to veer around the little (now, in retrospect) anxieties and viewed the whole thing as a fascinating performance for my own informational purposes, rather than a 4 yr long exam on the course material and my lifeskills.

  12. I'm not a teenager anymore, and I'm still dealing with all of this crap. But I'm happy that you're not. I mean that honestly, it's encouraging and just plain happy to hear that things got better for someone.

  13. Oh, man, I still kind of have the coffee anxiety (and a trillion other associated little demons). It's gotten better since I worked in a coffee-and-ice-cream-shop and learned the nonexistent secret language of coffee-and-ice-cream buyers, but I haven't gotten the hang of calling strangers on the phone yet... It's reassuring to know that at least some of us might get over it eventually :)

  14. Anon - I had problems with many "come on, this is Living On Earth 101" issues into my twenties, and certainly still have plenty. My relief is at realizing that they go away eventually, not that they go away at "adulthood."

  15. Ace (and others): The key to calling strangers, I think, is to force yourself (as best you can) not to imagine their feelings or responses. You can't know what's going through the other person's head, so don't try. Especially since you'll likely imagine a bunch of crazy shit that's not even there.

    Just be polite and - if the other person is a reasonable human being - everything should go fine. If it doesn't, hey, you did your part; the other person must just be a dick. Or at least this is what I tell myself.

  16. On a great many levels, I agree that each stage of life is better. The communication skills and general confidence level are better; the sex is better. But I do not enjoy the "many more bits are going to start aching and/or fall apart" aspects of being over 40. I'd like a young BODY.


  17. Perversecowgirl - I do the opposite; I try to imagine their feelings as being the ones I would have.

    If I worked in a store, and someone asked me the hours, I would tell them the hours. It wouldn't bother me.

    If I worked at a coffee stand, and someone asked me for "joe," I would nod and pour them a cup of coffee; whereas if they asked me for "Arabica Bold Roast," I would nod and pour them a cup of coffee.

    Imagining other people as being just like me--just as open to well-intentioned questions, just as willing to be flexible for reasonable requests, just as lacking in a Correct Script For How Things Must Be--has been tremendously helpful for me.

  18. Sometimes it's not so much an issue of being nervous about saying the "wrong" thing (although I definitely get that too,) but an issue of literally having no idea what to say or how to interact.

    I think I should step out, though. I don't want to bring this very happy comment section down.

  19. 4:22Anon...that's the script I talk of...and what I try to provide for my child...a basic "walkthru" of how basic interactions go.

    Stage directions, sort of. How to do that sort of thing that just requires a script. Some transactions are just that straightforward.

    "you dial the number, wait for an answer, tell them who you are, and what you want to know. Listen to what you are told. If you need to, ask questions until you understand. Say goodbye. Hang up the phone."

    Some stuff is tougher, I know...but starting young with the basic shell, I hope, allows time to develop a personal style that will smooth over the rest of the glitches.

  20. Amen to this whole post and everything everyone has said. I used to have coffee anxiety over *everything*. And I always figured I was the only one, too. Thank god that's (mostly) over.

    The thing is, there are always new coffee anxieties, new things I feel uncomfortable doing that some people talk about like it's no biggie, like asking for a raise or sending back corked wine.

    But it's different now. Now I know that those anxieties go away with a little bit of practice. The other day I sent back a glass of wine. And you know what? It *was* corked, the second glass from another bottle was delicious, the waiter was friendly and apologetic, and there was nothing to be awkward about at all. Next time it happens to me, I'll be (more) comfortable with it.

    Knowing it gets better makes it so much easier to get better.

  21. I used to get really anxious after going into a restaurant by myself and ordering, because I was unsure of whether I needed to pay my bill at the counter or if they would bring me the bill at my table or if I paid at my table, etc. When I got older it occurred to me that I could just ask, and not every restaurant does it the same way anyway. I think my younger self just thought that she had to just know (because everyone knows) and asking was not an option. When I think of all the anxieties I had when I was younger, I wish Now-Me could take a time machine back and just whisper "hey - it's Future-You - CHILLAX"

  22. Ha, I'm still going through that social anxiety thing at 22. I just keep telling myself that hopefully some day I'll get over it. If I don't have enough knowledge about something to be confident about it, I just won't do it. Just a couple of days ago I was going to a life drawing session I read about online, but I was half an hour late because of work and I wasn't entirely sure where it was. I found what I thought might be the door to the studio but I didn't want to barge in halfway through with no understanding of how the monetary transaction of the $10 fee would be handled. I stood outside that door for like, ten minutes before I swallowed my courage and just went home. Also, I don't order anything at cafes because of how terrified I am of the menu too. And yet I see dumber people than me taking ages to make decisions on the spot and no one murders them. Why the heck do we act this way? I've been scared to join a gym or take dance lessons because I don't know how the sign up process works. I want to get over this weird anxiety so I can get on with my life and have fun.

  23. I've had some of the same anxiety issues many of you had. Eventually I learned how to get through day to day by saying the least amount possible. But, I definitely regret this habit. It works pretty well in a lot of situations but not at all in relationships.

  24. It's been some years since I got over most of those issues - enough in fact, that I had all but forgotten that I ever had that kind of problem. That I couldn't buy coffee in front of someone I knew, because what if they saw me get some etiquette wrong?!

    Thanks for reminding me Holly, it really showcases how much better life get.

  25. I haven't had coffee anxiety, but I used to feel miserably awkward and stupid calling strangers on the phone. I still don't like it, but what helped me get over it is having two jobs where I had to answer the phone myself. I had so many hilarious, bizarre, and sometimes awful conversations with people that I now realize that any receptionists I call are probably just relieved that whatever awkwardness I bring, it isn't a half-hour-long irrelevant story or an accusation that their company has literally been making deals with the devil. Every time the phone rings, it could be that guy who won't stop calling about X obnoxious thing... or it could be me asking how late the store is open.

    I guess I would say I realized how easy a league the general public is to play in.

  26. Sigh. I just finally billed a client for months of work, because I was somehow all shaky and guilty about asking them for money that I earned, and that I need.

    I'll get better at this. Somehow.

  27. The biggest secret we keep from young people is that being an adult is actually pretty freaking awesome.(Holly)

    Actually the secret is maturing into a confident person. Good on you for figuring it out. :)

  28. That's so interesting! I didn't even realize I had progressed through that stage.

    I remember when I was 16 and I went out shopping with my 18 year old friend, and I marveled at how she was able to buy things at the checkout. I was like "there is now I'll ever be able to do that." It just seemed too difficult to negotiate. Nowadays I would not have food or clothing if I did not use a checkout, and I don't think twice about it. Plus I've dealt with plenty of money exchanges that are more fraught (from ordering take-out to subletting an apartment.)

    (Ordering things has never bothered me exactly. I just read exactly what the menu says. Last night I got a "12 oz. steamed chai latte please".)

  29. Sometimes I worry that even if I say the right things, I'll say them *weirdly* and my innate awkwardness will somehow manage to shine through.
    This is a thing that actually happens. A lot.

  30. I remember when I was 14 or so, realizing that being awkward is just a stage, eventually I'll get better at it... and on reflection, it has. When I flub a social transaction I don't freeze up, I can negotiate being wrong/misunderstood without being an inferior specimen.

    One of the main ways I can identify it manifesting in my life is having the correct change. If I don't select from my cash the combination that generates the minimum number of coins returned to me, it feels like I'm wasting the cashier's time, and holding up everyone behind me. Unfortunately picking that combination just takes more time, etc. Anyway, even a few years ago, it was a major social blunder in my head when I screwed up this game of "best change" and ended up having coins returned to me that I'd just paid with. Huge faux pas. Seems a little silly now to focus on something trivial.

    I guess a minor worry is that I'm not better at social interaction, I just don't care so much about being bad at it. That's my pessimism's alternate point of view, which also explains how my dad can wear a speedo and not care, but I'm uncomfortable swimming without a polyester T-shirt. He's just more used to being a social pariah than me, it's (better mention I'm sarcastic) definitely not a flaw in my self-perception leading to expectations of justifiably harsh judgment from others.

  31. I am still going through "coffee anxiety" as well as basically every-single-social-interaction-anxiety and I'm freaking twenty. I don't FEEL twenty. I still feel about fifteen. Shouldn't someone who's twenty be able to order at a fast food restaurant without flipping a shit? I'm such a terrible adult.

  32. I don't really have the anxiety issues with minor social interaction in everyday life that bedeviled my period of major depression (age 18-23, roughly). What I do have is a feeling of male disposability, of fading into a background of formulaic politeness with strangers, and of living mainly as an economic being. Nobody gives me anything that I haven't paid for, cash on the barrelhead, and I work in a high-stress time-sensitive service industry, medical/legal translation/interpretation. My friends are few, and like my clients, voluble with self-love while I am self-effacing. Before we travel the usual path, remember that I essentially live like Bruno, if his blog is any guide. (Bruno is nicer and less cranky, though.)

    I am social enough, which is why I am constantly bitterly amused that you site the issue at the "coffee level", but you know that I regard PUA as access to the "Secret Society", the hidden levels of implicit social signalling that determine which men get sex. Of course, my city is a bit douchebaggier than Boston. However, you have certainly re-educated me on the subject of explicit relationship communication.

  33. On a day that I am hurting, you made me really smile. Especially that last line.

    I always knew being a grownup was so much better. That's why I regard "these are the best years of your life" as not only a hideous lie, but horribly destructive. I hated being told that childhood, which sucked dead goat scrotum for me, was better than adulthood when I would have to PAY MY DUES (DUN DUN DUNNNNN) and worry about shit like bills and foreclosure. Well, you know, yeah, I may have to worry about the mortgage, and right now our money situation is truly frightening, I'm scared, I am, but at least fucking nobody is telling me that I'm a worthless, ungrateful little shit for preferring to write and draw and play with my cats over going to school where I was picked on by students and teachers every single day, and -- ironically -- punished for trying to act like an adult (i.e., trying to exercise control over my life in ways that adults were able to, like going to the goddamn toilet without asking for permission, or staying inside to read if I didn't want to go play in the blazing radiations of the hatestar).

  34. @ Naamah...

    This. So much this. When I was a kid people used to say that all the time. "Enjoy being a kid, because when you're an adult you will have to suffer, because adulthood is a crushing burden or responsibility and struggle!"

    This is a complete lie! Adulthood is awesome. When you screw up, the only consequence is that something is screwed up. There's no hectoring to follow.

    If I can't buy a car because I screwed up my credit, I have to take the bus. No one follows me to the bus stop every day to remind me that the only reason I am waiting for the bus, is because of my own moral turpitude, and I should therefore be sad and penitent. I am free to ride the bus cheerfully, chitchat with the bus driver, look out the window, read my book, etc. This is a huge weight off my shoulders.

    The other weight off my shoulders is Holly's coffee thing. Once you realize that no one cares how you order coffee, you can just do it. You don't have to constantly second guess yourself for failing to do it correctly.

    These are incredible freedoms, when you are a young adult and you have just escaped the box of your teenage years.

    @ Holly, on the coffee anxiety thing...

    I'm in my 40s, and I left the town where I grew up almost 30 years ago. But when I visit that town, I feel like I'm being very closely watched, every second while I am there. I feel like I need an excuse to go there, an excuse for the speed I drive, an excuse for the direction I look out the window, etc. And my excuses are never good enough. And forget getting out of the car! The coffee anxiety overcomes me at the city limits. Do you ever go back to the town where you grew up, and if so do you find it makes the coffee anxiety worse?

  35. I love how whenever you post something like this, Holly, there's always a slew of "Oh my god, me too!" posts - which mine can be considered, as I'm coming to this realization myself right now. I think that's really a sign of the human condition.. none of us *talk* about these little things, because we're all terrified of what other people think. But when it comes right down to it, we're all experiencing the same things, all keeping quiet for the same reasons, and all it takes is one person speaking up to break down that wall. So, thank you for that.

  36. This post gives me hope; I am a supremely awkward 18 year old in second year university and I have coffee anxiety about almost EVERYTHING. (but not coffee. Unless the barista is cute) But yeah, it is getting better. Slowly.

  37. Somehow, I managed to skip the coffee anxiety phase, but I have plenty of other anxieties to make up for it. Currently dealing with call-doctor-to-make-appointment-to-get-medication-to-get-on-with-my-life anxieties. Here's to the hope that we really do age like fine wine.

  38. Our D&D group orders delivery every single game... or maybe take out if we've got time. We get: mexican food, vietnamese food (Pho <3), Indian food... any kind of food under the sun!

    Also: I think the scariest lie we tell anyone is "these are the best years of your life" when theyr'e in high school. No, these are the worst years of your life, but you'll always want to go back and do them better.

  39. Coffee anxiety, that's a great term.

  40. Good to know it will get better... (I'm not telling you my age because you would shoo me off your blog for being too young) I have the WORST time asking for what I want. Like my job. I am so awkward asking for a schedule change when school starts. Even though when I was hired my boss was like "yeah, most of our employees are students, you can take as few shifts as you need during the school year"

  41. My mom - god bless her - never told me high school was supposed to be "the best years of my life." She said that people who are miserable in high school usually go on to do awesome things later on, and people who flourish in high school usually end up miserable.

    I don't know how much of that is true (I didn't keep in touch with anyone from high school so I have no idea how their lives turned out), but it made me feel better at the time.

    And the advice held true for ME: I was miserable in high school and am very happy now.

  42. Wow this blog is pretty incredible. Holly the people who are drawn here seem to be of a certain ilk, even if only evidenced by the replies to this post.
    Quiet, self-effacing people who CARE what others think, who don't brazenly stride out into the word, riding rough-shod over any and all near them. I know modern society elevates these psychos but it's the people here who "I" truly treasure.

  43. "Imagining other people as being just like me--just as open to well-intentioned questions, just as willing to be flexible for reasonable requests, just as lacking in a Correct Script For How Things Must Be--has been tremendously helpful for me."

    This is exactly how I got over that stuff, too! It also helped me get over stage fright/public speaking anxiety, far more than any "imagining people in their underwear." Because honestly - most of the time the people at the other end just don't care, at worst. At best they are actually trying to do a good job. If they get angry, chances are it's not because of anything that you did wrong, it's just because they're angry and their life sucks.

    Also - I never did master the "venti/grande" thing at starbucks. It used to make me feel uncool. Now I just say "medium." They nod and pour me a coffee. :-)

  44. Same here. I think mine was partly from school where I would get mocked for whatever little things I did. it is better being an adult but I still have bad days.

  45. I'm not sure it's a great idea to think of your professors as "working for you" and that you are "paying" for them to transfer knowledge they have to you. In my experience, it is more useful to students to think of their professors as guides, mentors, and role models (if, of course, they merit it) to learn from by example.

  46. No offense, Comrade PhysioProf, but... why? They're not better than their students. (In the case of adult students, they're not necessarily even older.) They're just people with more specialized education.

    My Micro professor isn't showing me the path through life. He's showing me the function of plasmids in prokaryotic cells. Except in this specific area, I have no reason to think he knows any more than I do.

  47. Anon 10:43

    Me too! I got mocked in high school for the stupidest little things, like not apologizing for giggling when someone I didn't know wiped out in a very amusing way, or for wearing loose baskeball shorts instead of yoga pants for gym. Plus the whole "gay" thing didn't help either.

  48. I never really had coffee anxiety--that suckage was deposited on other system members--but this rosy vision of college is mind-boggling to me.

    Admittedly, I am currently immensely bitter and cynical about university, and I remember it mostly being a torture marathon where professors wielded lots of power and didn't actually care about teaching their students very much. I remember it mostly being, "God, I hope I don't get pneumonia during finals like my friend; no one will reschedule for me, so I'll either flunk or stagger through deathly sick."

    I can't think of them as my employees the way I do my therapist, because see, my therapist can't threaten me with a loss of thousands of dollars if I get sick at the wrong time. Also, employees don't insist on me buying eighty dollar textbooks that I end up never using.


  49. I can relate. When I was a kid, I was so afraid to ask questions. I thought that if I asked about something people would think I was stupid and clueless for not just intuiting whatever it was. Then I ended up looking really stupid and clueless because I had no idea what was going on.

  50. No offense, Comrade PhysioProf, but... why? They're not better than their students.

    This has nothing to do with being "better" than anyone else. What your professors have is experience that their students lack. They are not just there to convey "information"; they are there to share their experience.

    Learning declarative information like plasmid function in bacteria is only part of education, especially in a professional training context like nursing school. Ultimately, the goal of your nursing training is to train you to *be* a nurse, not just to possess a particular collection of information.

  51. What your professors have is experience that their students lack. They are not just there to convey "information"; they are there to share their experience.
    Ultimately, the goal of your nursing training is to train you to *be* a nurse, not just to possess a particular collection of information.

    Only it's pretty unlikely that Holly's Microbiology professor is or has ever been a nurse. Much of what people who aren't going into academia learn is taught by people whose work experiences differ dramatically from those their students pursue.

    That's not to say that there aren't plenty of awesome profs who end up doing a lot more than just teaching you the material. But I don't think that it makes sense to assume that their life experience is more likely than anyone else's to be useful to learn from. (again, this is specific to people who *aren't* headed for academia themselves - obviously if you intend to do something similar to the person you are learning from hearing about their experience is likely to be informative)

  52. But I don't think that it makes sense to assume that their life experience is more likely than anyone else's to be useful to learn from.

    I'm not talking about "life experience". I'm talking about the experience of having engaged with the content of what is being taught at a high level over a sustained extended period of time.

    If teachers were there just to disgorge information, then there would be no reason to even have teachers, when you could just read textbooks. Good teachers not only teach substantive material; more importantly, they convey the skills necessary to become an autonomous learner.

    Students who think of themselves as customers of the teacher, with knowledge as the good they are purchasing, are selling the process short. Good teachers functional as intellectual mentors and guides to their students, and not just purveyors of knowledge. This is so even for something as seemingly mundane as the details of plasmid function in bacteria.

  53. Comrade PhysioProf - Professors help explain the information in an interactive and human way and convey skills.

    And some professors--particularly advisors, professors who have been in or who teach subjects directly relative to the student's career path, and professors who happen to develop a close relationship with a particular student--can indeed fulfill the mentor role.

    But I don't think that every professor can or should do that all the time. Sometimes it is really just about learning the subject. (Also, bear in mind that I'm not taking Microbiology because of a passion for microbes, but because I need at least a B to progress in my program. This doesn't give me an excuse to be ignorant or sloppy, but it does give me an excuse not to be passionate.)

    A professor can be a mentor, but I don't think that they have to be, or that they're necessarily great mentor material just because of their professorial role.

  54. If teachers were there just to disgorge information, then there would be no reason to even have teachers, when you could just read textbooks. Good teachers not only teach substantive material; more importantly, they convey the skills necessary to become an autonomous learner.

    I definitely didn't mean to imply that the extent of a teacher's job is limited to inducing proper fact regurgitation from students. (or, at least it shouldn't be) I just wanted to point out that there are plenty of situations in which someone who is teaching a class may have a background - by virtue of being the person who has immersed themselves in the subject - that will be good for teaching someone information they need to become a nurse (for example) but not so much for teaching someone how to be a nurse (for example).

  55. I just finished my degree, and even though I started as a mature student (let's put "mature" in square-quotes, for me), I really WAS terrified of the professors, and really DID see every assignment and test as a judgment of my self-worth. And it was a fucking rotten, miserable way of going through school. I'd love to be able to get away from that feeling, someday. I'm really glad you have.

  56. As an 18 year old who doesn't know what kind of coffee to order, or how I'm supposed to phrase the it or if I should call it "java" or "joe" to show that i'm an experienced coffee drinker, or should use the name on the menu or If there are certain drinks that only dorks ordered or if it is rude to act chummy with the coffee lady, or rude to not act chummy with her? If I fumble my change and will she impatient with me, does that mean she hates me? Oh god can I ever show my face again at the coffee stand because I made the coffee lady hate.
    This post means a lot.
    I have a lot of social anxiety, 'coffee anxiety' about pretty much everything. I kind of regret my decision going to uni so soon at a school I hate because it's crappy and in the same town that I swore i'd get out of my whole life away from my parents who are just...restrictive to the point of being emotionally abusive and how all my friends look at me like an alien when i say "i'd love to go out, but when I do my mum waits up for me until I come home and then tells me the next day how tired she is while pointedly glaring at me" and then humiliating me all the time and 'putting me to work' that seems punishing. And also coming to terms with not being straight but not knowing what I am and NOT being religious in the slightest but that means that i'm damned to an eternity of hell and suffering right? and really, really liking the whole concept of sex and typically ~deviant/'''wrong''' sexual things. Bleh. Well this turned into a bit of a drastic rant but I just found your blog today, and i'm reading through everything and I'm just really, really glad that it's here and that it's just re-affirming that it's okay to be who I am and it WILL get better. So, thanks for that.

  57. Oh, Cliff, my dude. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this. How much I have to remind myself of this while still striving to see each day through, to make it worthwhile.

    Thanks. So much.

    -- CoronerCountess

  58. Amen to the coffee thing. I'm 28 now (I guess you would be, too?), but I still do this. :-/ I've been working pretty hard on self-improvement for 7 years now, so that frustrates me to realize you're "ahead" of me (meaningless concept, I know, but that's not what my self-talk is telling me).

    On the other hand, I'm realizing that the time and energy you've invested into learning emotional/relationship stuff is what I've invested into learning spiritual stuff, which happens to be very important to my well-being. There will always be time for me to work on the social stuff later. Despite my childhood teachings, I don't actually have to be good at everything, all at once, instantaneously upon starting to learn the topic, in order not to be a failure.

    Ciao. I don't know why I want to sign of with "ciao" as I have literally never said that in my life, but what the heck. It's a harmless impulse.