It's advising season here at NWU, so I've had extra appointments today with advisees.
I advised one person away from an English major, and she seemed happy. We had a lovely, fun conversation, and I gave her a couple things to follow up on. She's interested and interesting. What a pleasure.
And then I had an energy sink advisee. There's this problem, exacerbated by this other problem, which can't be solved because of this additional issue, and by the way, there's also this dismal predicament.
In a way, it's like talking about Gertrude Stein's version of Oakland, except less fun. (And Oakland is okay by me. One of my greatgrandmothers and a grandmother lived there.)
I confess, I have minimal experience with mental illness, and less with medications, but if you have the stereotype of someone who is sort of sedated or of a movie version of a staring electroshock patient/victim from the 1950s, my student would look the part.
I'm so so at the sit-quietly-and-wait-for-the-other-person-to-talk part of life, at least as far as advising goes. Let's say that we spent a fair bit of an hour sitting looking at each other on and off. I have a feeling that this student really needs a lot of adult attention, to the point that the hour this week was a drop in the bucket. And the time with the counselor, another drop in a bucket, and so on.
I don't think I had any idea when I started in on the PhD thing how much time I'd spend counseling troubled young adults. If this student were juggling, about half the balls would be bouncing away on the ground. No wonder, I'm thinking, this student is depressed.
Then there were a couple of meh students; you know the sort, they're okay, not excited, not miserable, just okay, pleasant enough but not really satisfying. When I speak with these students, I always end up wondering if I've left something important out, if I'm meeting their needs as advisees.
I have a student who thinks he's graduating who should be more worried about that than he seems to be. Our upper level students aren't required to see an advisor to register for classes, and usually, that's okay. Most of them are capable of seeking help when they need it and making good choices. But sometimes, they leave something to the last minute. And some requirements can't be finished at the last minute.
Every month of the school year, I pretty much send out a letter to my advisees. It's basically a "hi, I'm here! Think about these things!" sort of letter. And at least a couple times a year, the thing I tell them to think about is what this student has put off. Oops!