The same exact joke that made me feel like eating my body weight in pizza five days ago had the miraculous casual tone of sitcom banter today.
There is a joke among my lab mates that my adviser likes me the least. Very reasonably so and not reasonably so.
Reasonably- I completely butchered my first two papers that I wrote in an attempt to summarize literature review. Butchered is putting it nicely because I was factually incorrect, tonally deaf, and had the organization of a toddler who can’t identify colors yet. I failed one of my core courses and dropped out of the other one last semester. I nearly had a break down in her office and I was only a few scratches away from piercing the skin on my left arm (which she was well aware of but decided to ignore). I’m not the best at replying to messages. And most embarrassingly, I tell terrible pun jokes that make her cringe.
And I know COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY. Seriously there are fifty million quotes biblical to Buddhist that share that sentiment. I get it. But for the joke it makes sense. My other lab mate went to Carnegie Mellon with a double major in material science and chemistry. When I wrote a seven page paper, she wrote a twenty page paper. She fixed a website I had spent a couple weeks trying to fix in a single afternoon. With all the deepest respect and admiration, she is probably the smartest person (and most mentally stable) person I have ever met. The other lab mate is a freshman undergraduate who is sweet, and fulfills all expectations set before her, and has absolutely no strikes against her.
So the running gag becomes that if our adviser has longer meetings with us she likes us more, if our adviser tells us something about herself she likes us more, or even something as dumb as putting emoticons in emails she likes us more.
What unreasonably (or maybe reasonably, the jury is still out on a lot of these) I tell myself is a lot less playful and a lot more subjective. I tell myself that I’m too neurotic, I try too hard, and I take up too much effort. If my adviser knew that I had overdosed within the past year or that I used to self harm that she would know that I was too much of a risk. Or my personal favorite my adviser thinks I’m an incompetent idiot and wants me to stop taking money and finally get kicked out of the program.
Last Friday when my lab partner took a picture of my desk with the caption “slacker”, I nearly lost it. I not only when through the usual thoroughfare, but I also threw in some nice new ones to really upset myself. What if my professor starts yelling at me or completely gives up on me? What if I get too upset and she calls the cops on me to have me put in a ward? Why do I always seek the approval of older women? Oh right I had a mildly abusive mother. Man I can’t believe I’m still dealing with that shit. Nothing says fun on a Friday like spiraling through all my insecurities.
But I took the the weekend off. First one in a couple months that I haven’t worked at least ten hours. Watched quiet indie movies that had been cluttering my netflix account. Got my hair cut. Bought girl scout cookies and Ben and Jerry’s half baked. What could have easily been an isolated nightmare was really enjoyable.
Today I tried asking my lab partner about how to confront our professor about her less than stellar poster design. She turned her office chair back away from me muttering, “I’m not going to deal with that now, if not ever…”
I laughed without any guilt, “Well I’m her least favorite anyways, what’s the worst that she could do?”
And I really meant that as a joke and not self deprecation for once. The confidence will probably not last long, but it’s nice that the insecurities are quieter for now.