This one is about a cup of tea.
We often go through life not thinking about the effects we have upon others. Sometimes this means taking those around us for granted. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap that we mean nothing to those around us, and it’s a mindset that’s easy to adopt in the Ivory Tower. So much of what we do in grad school is isolated from others, and our colleagues become competitors, especially now, when finances are cut daily for higher education.
I hear and read about other grad students and their relationships to their chairs. Sometimes it’s a good one, but it seems like there are so many people out there with broken relationships with their chairs, like so many other relationships.
My chair’s someone, with whom I have much in common, but also differences. While there have been metaphorical scrapes and bruises, we tend to get along pretty well. Considering some of the stories out there, I think I’m pretty fortunate to be studying with the person I am.
It would be naive to say that things have been easy. There was a time when we were both pretty burnt out and things were tense. I can’t imagine I was too pleasant to be around in the months leading up to my exams, either. Trust doesn’t come easily to me, especially when it involves some sort of authority figure, which probably created some tension, as well.
So fast forward to last week. My throat was killing me; my voice was nonexistent; I had the flu; and the soundcard on my computer kept falling out of its PCI slot. I had a bottle of water and hopes that I’d make it through. While I had my head in the bowels of my computer, banging in the soundcard once again, my chair asked if I wanted a cup of tea, since he was getting something. I think it was because of that tea that I made it through the next couple hours of my exams.
On the surface, it seemed like a mundane enough interaction, but when you’re sick and nervous as hell, such things take on different proportions. He was doing what anyone with half an ounce of common courtesy would do, but in a larger sense it’s also a metaphor of what the student/chair relationship is. It’s an unthinking, selfless giving. It doesn’t always happen, and it isn’t always noticed. But when it does, it becomes a powerful moment.