In a prior chapter of my life, I got to sit with several professors on Friday mornings for an hour while they shared about their week. Often their conversations revolved around concerts, lectures, NPR stories, and other things that sounded so adult. I was an adult as well, but somehow the years in between my age and theirs seemed an epic amount of wisdom away. These individuals voluntarily went to author events on the weekends. That was when I caught up on sitcoms like Big Bang Theory or The Good Place.
Near the end of that chapter, I started my PhD in Higher Education and finally had some insights to share with the group. I still felt small in comparison because I was only learning due to homework while they chose to invest their free time in evenings at the orchestra. The small group welcomed me each time, and would offer me space to share any time I wanted. It was my own imposter syndrome that led to the delayed replies.
Now I’m in a different chapter. I no longer work with those professor; most of them are gone from that space as well. I have completed my degree. My work is to help graduate students complete their academic journeys (especially dissertation challenges). And not only do I regularly listen to NPR, I have season tickets to the ballet. Yes. I am now living parts of the life I so admired in those professors. And I am also still watching fun shows like The Great British Baking Show and Bluey (and nope, no kids; just appreciation for joyful content).
This chapter has me as the one encouraging others as I was once encouraged. I get to see in students their potential, often where they feel unworthy of being heard. And I am offering the refining word to make their work shine. Recently I’ve started speaking about my work as helping them to create “the best dissertation manuscript available.” It’s an adaption of a closing line from one of my favorite podcasts (“Have the best week available to you” – Pantsuit Politics). Nothing, and no one, can ever be perfect. But it can be good, and maybe even great. And what exactly that looks like is going to depend on context.
The best available might be spectacular or it might be just barely good enough. And either one is okay. Some days I’m able to be a great educator for my students, and some days I’m going to be present and trying. The students will know I care either way. And that done dissertation will be done if it is spectacular or just enough.
So be kind to yourself in whatever you are working on today. Do the best available work you can. And then… maybe Bluey?