Desire for Friendship or Desire for Dependency?

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Desire for Friendship or Desire for Dependency?
« on: February 23, 2017, 06:37:29 AM »
One of the professors I had in college affected my life in such a way that I doubt I would be here if I hadn't signed up for his class. Really the only reason I had picked it was because all the other classes I needed were full.

To give you an idea of what was going on with me, I barely slept or ate, was drowning in college work, had no money, and frequently considered throwing myself off of a bridge that connected two of the freshman dorms. I would go out and stand there at 2 or 3 am, wondering if that night was my last, but I always ended up thinking of that particular class and how I would be sad if I missed it.

The professor, let's call him Mr. Thoreau, praised the first project I turned in more heavily than anyone else's. Being neglected as a child, this obviously came as a surprise to me. How could anyone like anything I make that much?  It felt nice.

Things went downhill for me shortly after that because of unrelated reasons, and the second project I turned in was clearly inferior as a result. He emailed me asking if I could meet with him after class. I was terrified he'd yell at me or express his disappointment in my performance. Instead he told me that the drop in quality of my work had made him worried about me, and suggested that I go see the school's counselors (which I already was). I asked if he thought I was slacking off in his class and he said that isn't at all what he thought. The interaction was still nerve-wracking, but it was also a breath of fresh air compared to what I'm used to.

Throughout the course I feel like we bonded over some things we had in common, and shared a few small moments that still make me smile despite how dark and desolate things have been getting lately. I think about him a lot and I'd really like to be friends, at least, I think I do. It could be that I just want to be dependent on someone to give me support, I don't know how to tell. He seems like a kind and wise man who could talk about anything and make it sound interesting, and I'd love to just listen to him talk for hours,

The other issue is that he's a professor and I'm a student and I wouldn't want to jeopardize his job by being friends with him. I don't go to the same campus as him anymore, so maybe it's not as big of a deal, I don't know. I feel like the best way to interact with him would be in person, but since I changed campuses it's not really an option. Using his school email address for friendly emails seems weird, though, and the only other way I can contact him is though Facebook, which also seems weird. I never really got to tell him how much he helped me, but saying something like "hey, thanks for keeping me from dying!" seems a bit like oversharing.

I don't know what to do.


Three Roses

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Re: Desire for Friendship or Desire for Dependency?
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2017, 02:27:07 PM »
I always love hearing from people that I was able to help. It encourages me and makes it easier to reach out and try to help others.

I'll bet he remembers you. What if you just sent him a private message on Facebook and then see what happens?



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Re: Desire for Friendship or Desire for Dependency?
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2017, 04:20:31 PM »

I'd also encourage you to thank your professor and maybe even keep in touch. One thing it sounds as if you are asking is about boundaries. How do you recognize them and respect them given the circumstances of your meeting. To that, I say, your gut is already doing pretty well. Trust it.

Whether it's been a year or a decade, all of the educators I ever knew have always welcomed positive communication with previous students. They - in my experience - welcome stories of how their students are doing now and of the positive influence they may have had.

Your teacher seems to have been very in touch with student emotions. Yes, there may be a bit of the emotionally starving student who wants to return to the source of the first healthy emotional meal ever served. So, while I do insist you can trust your instincts, stay aware while communicating. Allow the professor to set the pace until you feel sure that you are NOT intruding. You may end up with a treasured mentor or an even more treasured friend.

Best of luck to you! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised AGAIN by his willingness to be friends with a former student. I sincerely hope so!