Being a mentor is tiring.
Today I did a lot of mentoring. A little peer mentoring, but mostly student mentoring.
Maybe I'm just feeling the cumulative lack of sleep lately, but part of the time I found myself thinking on some level,
This person just needs to vent
I know exactly what to say to make her feel better
....but I have other stuff I need to do
God, I can't get a word in edgewise! (see venting, above)
If I listen a while longer then she'll feel better
....and I can still get some work done today
Oh good, I think she gets it now
She certainly seems to feel better, so that's good
....At some point I'm going to have to get out of here and go home
People have stayed late and talked to me a few times when I really needed it, and it's only fair to pass it on, so I shouldn't mind doing this now...
But it also makes me feel old. Being tired, hearing them say the same things I said when I was going though similar things, hearing myself say what I finally figured out but wish someone had told me at the time. Somehow it's a little too much of reliving everything I've been through, and it makes me tired to think anyone else should have to go through it.
Why does history keep repeating itself? Isn't this the whole point of the mentoring system?
I'm sure some of this goes in the category of "I should write a book someday" so everyone can stop reinventing the same wheel.
Want to contribute candidate titles for the future YFS book?
The peer mentoring made me feel even more old and tired, maybe because I expect my peers to ask for my advice the way my students do, but they don't. So it's the same thing but with a past-tense twist.
Fellow postdocs who, instead of coming and asking me ahead of time, are now figuring out things I already learned the hard way. Then when they vent to me about it, I can tell them what I knew already and how I found out (and what never occurred to them I would know).
That just makes me feel underestimated.
The strangest thing about all of this is that I feel, more than ever, like the girl in Sliding Doors (the Gwyneth Paltrow character with the two haircuts). Both lives seem equally plausible from this point forward.
In some ways, I feel more than ever that I'm already doing most of what I would do in a real faculty appointment, without most of the resources that come with one, so there's no question I would like it and that I could definitely handle it.
(aside: Does anyone realize that as postdocs today, most of us are the same age, and have the same experience, as our current PIs did when they got their first jobs? And yet we're expected to stay in postdoc positions and not complain.
Why not complain? It's about as fair as if we suddenly decided to raise the driving age to 25, or the drinking age to 27. There would be all kinds of rationalizations, but none of them would make up for the fact that we know what we could have had if only we had been born earlier!)
But in other ways, I feel like I can't picture it. The way I visualized my life at this point wasn't completely inaccurate, but I really had no idea where I would be now when I started on this path. And I keep feeling that the Job On A Cloud is not likely to happen.
Ironically, two people this week said they really want me to make it, or really think I will (if I play the game the right way or just have enough luck). I guess on some level I know that, if I left now and never came back, this is as close to being a professor as I'm ever going to get.