An Open Letter to My Advisor

Admittedly, this situation is partially my fault.  More than just partially my fault.

I loved the validation I received from you, even my therapist acknowledged this on multiple occasions.  I fed on praise from you, and from my other professors, because I wasn’t used to it.  I was never a good student until I was a junior in college, and I really began to depend on praise from my professors to keep me going.  I’m not close to my father and he knows near to nothing about me; I’m close to my mother but she’s basically uninvolved and uninterested in my academic life; my friends and boyfriend were also uninvolved in my academic life.  My professors were the only people in my life who cared about such a big part of my life.

My graduate advisor and I had known each other prior to my being assigned under him.  I had taken one of his Indian history courses a year or so before I graduated.  He was the one who really convinced me to go to India.  He told me I’d learn a lot and that it’d be a really, really good experience for me.  I had actually wanted to apply for the Delhi Study Abroad program two years prior, but I always chickened out, even though I had completed over half of the application.  I finally decided to go.

A few nights before my advisor had left to go to Delhi, we had dinner together at a Japanese restaurant down the street from our university.  He walked me back to my car and hugged me, and said he’d see me in Delhi.  We had a really good relationship and we were really comfortable with each other.  Paragraphs-long emails, friendly texting comfortable.  We had dinner together a few times at an Indian restaurant down the street from our university, and I’d spend a fair amount of time in his office after I had finished classes for the day.  We’d talk about history, Hindi, food, anything, and when the sun set we’d realize it was time for us to head home.

When I finally got to Delhi, my advisor was so MIA even though I had two classes with him.  I told him I felt like shit the first three weeks and that my anxiety was acting up, and he knew I had anxiety disorders and still failed to really reach out to me and show me that he cared that I felt like shit.  Basically the rest of the semester was like this.  When I got home for the following semester, I was struggling a lot and I emailed him since, you know, he was my advisor and all, and he sent me a one-line reply simply telling me to set up an appointment with the graduate chair.  I understand that he was still in India on a research sabbatical, but I just needed some encouragement or advice from him…anything.  I felt as though I had done something; why was I suddenly on the back burner?  Why, one year ago, were we emailing and texting each other constantly and grabbing dinner after class when now it was almost as though we were strangers, an advisor and student thrown together based on similar research interests?

I never told him that I withdrew from the program, though I’m sure he was informed by the current graduate chair since I was at one time the graduate chair’s student (I aced his class and he tried to talk me out of withdrawing) and they’re close friends.  I was going to write him a detailed email as to why I decided to withdraw, but I never sent it because the thought of him reading it and just saying “okay, best wishes” hurt.  Maybe I’m too emotional, sure, but I really needed my advisor for that year of my life and he was not there.  We saw each other almost every day of the school week while we were in Delhi and he acted like he hadn’t met me before.  We had lunch with my roommate (also a student from our uni studying abroad with me) and Thanksgiving dinner at a colleague’s house, but that was the extent of our friendly interactions.  I don’t know why he suddenly decided to do that to me (sorry for sounding overly dramatic).  A friend of mine who is also on friendly terms with him suggested that it may have been because he had a girlfriend while we were in Delhi and that she may have played a role in the lack of our communication.  A fried of mine also informed me that my advisor’s girlfriend is “psycho” (his friend dated her for a while).  Either way, it irked me to no end that someone who encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree and who encouraged me to study abroad now acted like I was just some student in class.  All of our inside jokes were gone, all of our conversations about growing up and life stories had disappeared.  I just went to class and did what he asked of me, and that was that.  Even when I tried to be lighthearted in my emails to him, I got nothing.

I don’t know why I’m so angry, but I am.  And I’m mad that he’s back home and suddenly liking my things on Facebook like he used to last summer.  He hasn’t asked me about school, either.  I’m just…hurt and confused.


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