Honestly, truthfully, totally, the part of my job that I find most gratifying is mentoring students who are in the first generation in their families to go to college. Yes, I love my research, and yes, I love teaching innovative courses. But the most important and gratifying work that I do involves helping students who have no ability to navigate academic bureaucracy and academic discourse.
This matters so much to me because I had little to no help with this as a first generation college student myself. And it also matters to me because it produces such clear and measurable results. The students whom I’ve helped with this stuff are clearly so much better off than they would have been had I not done anything, regardless of what careers they end up pursuing or the lives that they end up leading. I actually like advising students, writing letters of reference, and vetting students’ application materials. It is good work, and it feels good to do it.
So The Dude’s best friend since childhood has twin daughters who are in their senior year of high school. Note: I love The Dude’s best friend, and he is, ultimately, a good person in his heart (though kind of shitty in the execution). But WOW is he a shitty dad. (Which, yes, makes me love him less, and also makes me sort of angry at him.) So one of the daughters is trying to apply to colleges and her shitty father wouldn’t take her to visit one of the colleges, but because The Dude really is generous and loving and awesome, since he had taken the week off with vacation days from work, he was like, “of course I’ll take you to visit, niece-like person.” And then after he asked me to look over her application essay – well, he told me he was sending it to me and then I gave him shit about not asking me, but whatever. Of course I was going to help her.
1) From her essay, she is so smart and so amazing and her life has been Such. Shit.
2) I love The Dude for taking her to a campus visit, which, frankly, is like my worst nightmare of things to do. I mean, campus visits suck. Especially when the weather is hell and there is a campus tour component.
3) I love The Dude for enlisting me to help her. The fact of the matter is that his BFF could have asked me to help, and it didn’t even occur to him. Or, at the VERY least, he could have asked The Dude to ask me. But he DIDN’T EVEN CARE, even though his daughter is so motherfucking amazing and has no support. Why isn’t he more proud? Why doesn’t he take more responsibility? Why is The Dude a better fill-in dad than the BFF is an ACTUAL dad?
4) I don’t even know this girl, but my god do I want her to succeed!
5) The Dude might suck for me, but WOW do I love him as a person and a friend. He is one of the most good-hearted people I’ve ever met.
6) I’m sort of fraternizing with a young whippersnapper from the internet. Because as much as I love The Dude, he can’t hang, and a lady in her late 30s must sow her oats while she has oats to sow. But god, if he would just get his shit together…. Which he probably never will. (We’re still trying, I am just entirely cynical about everything right now.)