Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Won't Fail


These three letters have haunted my existence for the last 13 days. They stand for Discontinue Not Fail.

I’ll back up and explain. My mentor and I had agreed that a relatively simple extension on the thesis would be sufficient. The trouble is that I have been contending not just with one of the worst depressive episodes I have ever experienced, but some horrors of my past that just won’t seem to go away this year. The two of them together has made for a really difficult few months. Unfortunately by the time I realised I needed more time for my work, most of the official deadlines for these things had already passed and I was left with the option to apply for a DNF. This is categorically a last resort and isn’t granted in many instances.

I had solid grounds for my application and it was strong. But it wasn’t a sure thing. I really didn’t think it was going to happen.

About 14 hours ago I received an email saying the DNF was granted. It was one of the most intense moments of relief I have ever experienced and I can breathe again properly for the first time in about 2 weeks. When you’re a singer, shallow breathing is something you really notice. It troubles you, because it doesn’t quite feel right.

The DNF isn’t really what I want to talk about though, and I certainly don’t want to talk about the bad things that just won’t go away. I mostly want to talk about how, even when things got as bad as they get for me, even when I felt like I had to go to hospital, I had a support network around me. I was not alone.

I have spoken many times about my mentor and how wonderful he is and I’ll say it again – he’s tops. I am unaccustomed to being told ‘it will be all right’, but he made a point of saying it to me several times over the last two weeks. He did everything he could to get specific information about the application in the first place, he made sure to talk to me often and always with his customary good humour, if only to try and distract me, and he sounded almost as relieved as I was yesterday when the news came through. He rang me after I texted him and although it was expected, he made a point of saying he was prepared to fight hard if it hadn’t gone my way. This is from a mild mannered, gentle guy and it was as firm as I have ever heard him speak. He would have gone to bat for me, if it had come to that. He is also making sure that I don’t have to repeat the whole year and do my seminar classes over again (this is a very slim possibility – we both seriously doubt this will happen). He’s looking after it, and given just how much he has on his plate right now as Honours coordinator, this is quite a gesture.

When my borrowing privileges were cut off suddenly at the end of last week, I also then had reason to see the Head of Department, a wonderful teacher who took me for two excellent subjects in second and third year. Had I done Honours on the timetable I ‘should have’, he was the supervisor I would have had. I was astonished he not only remembers me, but recognises me. He was astonished at how many details of his life I remembered and was able to relay. I remember him as having the most fantastic laugh, one of my favourites of anyone I have ever encountered. He still has it and I got it out of him many times in a fifteen minute meeting. But the point is, the mentor had briefed him a little on there being very serious problems weighing me down. He, too, told me it would be all right and that if it wasn’t he would do everything he could to help. He also emphasised how excited he was that I will be applying for tutoring work in the next couple of years, and looks forward to fighting to have me. This is not something he had to say at all, but he did. It is just over eight year since I saw him last, and given how much has changed in my life since then, I found it immensely comforting that our rapport was still there, and that he cared. That he thought enough of me to bother. Part of this was his job (signing the form), but most of it was him actually thinking I was worth talking down from the ledge.

My other seminar teacher has also been supportive and decent.  He is still waiting on work of mine to mark, he has been there to help when I had to change topics, he has been patient about the fact that I can’t read more than about a page an hour right now, and sometimes he’s just stopped to talk in the corridor or at the coffee shop. I am so glad that he is pleased I asked him to be my associate supervisor for post grad work, that he is actually excited at the idea. Or if he isn’t he’s doing a really good job of faking it.

Now don’t get me wrong I also had an awful incident with a member of the department who I like and respect who, while not knowing specifics, told me I should just get over my problems. I thought about talking about that and bitching about it, but truthfully it pales in significance to this support offered by others.

I try and avoid saying stuff like this, but I have mostly been through the big, bad stuff of my life alone. For the first time ever, I feel like I have people around me who have my back, who really actually care about me even though they are under no obligation to do so. Skully also really stepped up over the weekend and talked sense into me, and I am eternally grateful for that kindness. A lot of my work this year has centred around different types of community. I love that I am finding such solace in different types of community this year too. It is one of the many gifts of this challenging, manic, wonderful year.

‘DNF granted.’ I hate acronyms but this one suddenly seems a lot friendlier than it did. 


  1. (hugs)

    I'm glad to hear from you. I'm going to add another "it will be ok" because it will. I agree with what you said about community. It has helped me no end this year (and this year is totally weird, for the record).

  2. Take care of your self lady! Health first, honours second. You will succeed!

  3. I'm glad to hear you got your DNF and that your team has your back.

  4. Vivaaaaaaaaaa!!!! I'm so happy you have those people around, specially when you need them and they can help you a lot.
    As the title says "You won't fail" :)

  5. SWEET RELIEF. I'm glad I found the news out (and that it was good) after the fact or I would have been on pins and needles for you.

    Echoing all the sentiments above.


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