My dissertation advisor, Dr. Eli Goldblatt, is retiring after many years at Temple University. I wrote the following as part of a tribute to the great man that took place at Temple on April 1.
“A Real Advisor (We’ll Call Him ‘Eli’) and a Gloomy, Lethargic, Uncertain Grad Student (GLUGS)”
A short play.
[Setting: Desk. Two chairs, set at 90-degree angles, of course. Eli sits in one chair, reading.]
[GLUGS enters, slumps in the other chair]
Eli [brightly]: How are you?
GLUGS [considerably less brightly; emits seven- to ten-second sigh]: I’m stressed out. My diss is crap: I don’t know what I’m saying. I can’t write. I don’t belong in grad school. I’m a phony. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life now, let alone post grad school, which, as I just pointed out, I don’t belong in anyway. I doubt every decision I’ve ever made [throughout, Eli nods with discernment and empathy].
Eli [slowly at first, but accelerating as he pushes forward rhetorically]: GLUGS—do you mind, for the sake of elegance, if I just call you Scott?—you have to remember: You’re doing just fine. You’ve done the work. The next steps are lining up for you. The jobs are out there for you. I keep telling you: You’re not married to the profession. You’re already married—to a person. You’re a dad, and a great one. You’re married to a community, where you do lots of good work. You’ve also shown you’re a very strong member of the community here. There’s no question to me that that’s what your professional life will continue to look like.
GLUGS [looks on doubting, but is now a bit less slumpy]: Okay, thanks. That helps. But you still can’t deny my writing horribleness, or is it–horribility? I just don’t know! [buries head in hands]
Eli: Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about [points to papers on the desk]. I just read Chapter 4, and the light went on for me about your whole project. Look here [excitedly shares paper with GLUGS, who now leans forward] at page 8,974. Do you see how this links back to page 1,347 in Chapter 1? This was the exact part you had been struggling with, and now you’ve written your way to an answer!
GLUGS [nodding]: Yeah, yeah—you’re right. Oh man, I hadn’t seen that. [laughs] You know I’ve been slogging through this, doubting every dollar I ever learned as a freelance writer. Thanks so much!
Eli: Stop thanking me! How many times have we talked about this?: You are working through this dissertation beautifully!
GLUGS [despite it all, seeks an angle through which to be defeated and to slump again]: But how am I ever going to get this published?
Eli: What have I told you…
[They both, with a chorus of past, present, and future GLUGS’s who emerge from the background, sing out: “Your dissertation is not your book!”…]
GLUGS: Okay, okay, I get it, I get it.
[Eli laughs, earnestly and richly, and they high five. In higher-budget theater venues, this common, almost quotidian gesture of goodwill and celebration is accompanied by electrical energy transfer.]
GLUGS: Thanks again!
Eli: Stop thanking me! Oh, before you leave, I’ve got this thing to talk to you about. There are these seven units on campus. The leaders don’t get along all that well, but they really should work together. I came up with a great GA for you that positions you among all of them, right in the middle. I think you’ll be great!
GLUGS: I feel better already! Now If I could just start dressing like a Temple first-year writing program teacher and stop with this business casual…