The story so far: Willem-Jan’s lack of academic progress is a running joke in the house. He’s noticed with embarrassment that the students around him these days are really very young.
Dragging his feet, Willem-Jan walked into the Lebo. He hadn’t slept a wink last night and he felt wretched. Plodding towards the wing with the study advisors’ offices he was overjoyed to be grabbed by someone he knew. But after drinking an espresso, he could escape no longer. He had to go and see his study advisor. Actually Willem-Jan no longer knew how long he had been working on his thesis. At any rate, it was more than two years ago that he had finally lost his way in the SPSS software, draft versions daubed with red and boring literature. ‘Are you looking for someone?’ asked a helpful secretary who saw him walking along the corridor. Willem-Jan started, shook his head and walked hastily to his study advisor’s room. After sighing deeply, he knocked on the open door. ‘Look what we have here,’ said Albert, looking up. ‘The lost son.’ He was still wearing the same checked tie and horn-rimmed spectacles he used to wear. With an expansive arm gesture, he directed Willem-Jan to the chair. Meanwhile, he typed something on his keyboard and swiveled the screen to show a long list of emails to Willem-Jan. Unanswered. The topmost subject line read: ‘EMAIL ME BACK! NOW!’ Willem-Jan dropped his gaze. ‘I am really very sorry, but I just didn’t know what to say. I wanted to sort it out myself first.’ Albert smiled and swiveled the monitor back into its regular position. ‘But that’s what I’m here for, isn’t it? To help you do that. Together, we need to get you back on track.’ Willem-Jan still hardly dared look at him. He stared at the Newtonian toy on the table; its metal balls hung unmoving on their wires. Willem-Jan mumbled that he really did want to resume work on his thesis. ‘I’d like that too,’ said Albert. ‘But I want to be sure that you are committed to completing your thesis. You can’t leave me in the lurch again.’ For the first time, Willem-Jan felt tears stinging his eyes. He swallowed. ‘There’s nothing I want more, but I just don’t know how anymore.’ His study advisor smiled paternally. ‘Of course, you’ll have to grit your teeth to start with. You’ll have to revisit all your old material and it won’t be any fun getting back in touch with your supervisor. Who was that, by the way?’ Willem-Jan mentioned a name. He saw Albert blanche and start fumbling nervously with his papers. ‘Is something the matter?’ asked Willem-Jan hesitantly. ‘Well... he hasn’t worked here for quite some time.’