12 November 2006

Knocking on the Door

I had an interesting idea for a short story in Relief Society today. It's a sort of allegory using passing a course as a metaphor for faith, works, and the atonement. I know, it sounds cliche, but at least I'm writing about what I know. :D

Anyway, it's turning out fairly well, but this story has had the annoying complication of forcing me to work through my evasion of going to see professors. Basically, I hate asking for help or dealing with people who know more than me. Observe this only slightly fictionalized chain of thought that goes through my head when I go to see a professor:

Later that day, she pulled out her syllabus and found the location of the instructor’s office. She circled it determinately with her ballpoint pen and set forth to the office building. As she walked down the stern hallway, important professors rushed back and forth on their academic errands. Bulletin boards hung on the walls, explaining the research projects of various professors, but the language was so complicated that she didn’t understand a word of it. Even the jokes and comic strips—posted on various professors’ doors to make them more inviting—only confused her.

And then, suddenly, there it was: the instructor’s door. She reached out her hand to knock, but then paused. She felt so out of place. There weren’t any other students here, only the professors. They all knew so much more than her that it seemed hopeless that she should even attempt to reach their level. Too much had happened before she had even been born—eons and eons of history, of experiment, of thought—so much material and not enough time to learn it all. How could they possibly expect her to sort through all the knowledge of humanity and, in addition, create something new? Compared to the problems of the centuries, the instructor would think all of her questions and worries so small and insignificant. He probably couldn’t remember what it was like not to know these things, and it would be a waste of his time to teach her. If she couldn’t understand these little things, she was just a lost cause, not worth the training that it would take to get her to a higher level. Who actually visited the instructor anyway? She was in college. She was supposed to be old enough to do things on her own. It was her responsibility. Knocking on the door would mean admitting she couldn’t do it, that she was a failure, that she was not prepared.

Just as she was about to turn away, the door swung backward beneath her hand. Standing in the doorway was the instructor, with a knowing, but friendly, smile on his face.

“I’ve been waiting for someone to come,” he said, motioning her inside. Embarrassed to be caught in her hesitation, she slumped into the seat in front of the instructor’s desk. He sat back in the swivel chair behind the desk, leaning back with his hands in his lap. “You know, I sit in my office so many hours a day, and yet so few of my students seem to find their way up here.”

“I didn’t want you to know I couldn’t do it on my own.”

“You weren’t meant to do it on your own.”

Now, I do usually get the jokes on the professors' doors, but the rest is pretty much true. Sometimes I think it would have been so much easier to have been born in an earlier century, when there was less to learn and more to discover. And I know the professors are really there to help us learn, but I simply can't get it drilled into my mind. Going to see a professor always seems like an admission of failure on my part. It's like a bluffing game in which I finally have to admit I don't have all the right cards. And I hate it. I guess it's mostly pride, since I build my identity on knowing things. :D

Anyone else follow this train of thought? Any suggestions on asking for help?


alishka babushka said...

i'm the same way. i hate going to my professors for help in their classes. its like admitting defeat. which i hate. i don't know what to do about it, but there it is. i feel the same way.

The Girl in the Other Room said...

I used to hate going into see professors but I got over it. I found the only thing that helps is to be more selfish. Don't think that I am crazy but if you have a selfish mind, you think "They are here to serve me, I pay for their lattes! They had better be able to explain what this dead dude meant about the lemon plaugue ..." etc. etc.

So if you combine that attitude with "I don't know anything! Please don't eat me!" you get a pretty good response. At least, that is what I find.

BTW, I don't actually think I pay for my teacher's lattes. That was just silliness.

Liz Muir said...

My dear sister,

I do believe that you are the most hillarious person I know. But at BYU, we definitely don't pay for our teachers' lattes . . . cause they don't have them.

I (heart) you!

Liz Muir said...

P.S. What is the lemon plague anyway?