“I want to use my time productively, not just sit with her and while my time”

This was an interesting conversation with one of my Ph.D. student coachee, Sonja. She is a single mom of an inquisitive, busy-bee 3-year-old boy. Her priorities are clear, get the Ph.D, spend time with her son, and get registered as a dentist in Canada. Her Ph.D. is on indigenous people of Canada and their oral health. Her supervisor recently changed and currently she is with a lady supervisor of indigenous origin.

“Do you know I have to spend 2 full days with AnnMae. And what do I do, just learn the history and importance of her tribe. What a waste of my time.” I waited for more and wanted to know why is it a waste of time.
“Knowing the history or life of these people is not exactly my research. I am just interested to know their oral status, period.”

What can you do in that two days, if not needed to be with AnnMae?

I can do my lab work, study for my National Board Exams, be with my son. These are productive work. But I am just sitting there hearing her story.”

May I know her story?

“Why? Well, she is of the lost generation. Her mother is a residential school survivor, who survived mental and physical abuse, and separated from her parents. AnnMae does not know her ancestry and is coming to terms with the loss of culture and language. Do you want to know more”

I wanted to but was pressed for time. I enquired, you seem to be interested when you relate her story and her pain. Is it interesting for you? I asked Sonja.

“Well, when I think, it is. They have lost their identity and dignity due to the ignorance and violence of her government. But still, I am wasting my time on this. What do I do?”

What can you do, I asked.

“Hmm, not much. Just sulk and listen, what else”


“Why should I sulk. Yes, I am against a wall, I cannot have my way. Why not I make the maximum use of my situation” Sonja said with a sparkle. I listened eagerly.

What will you do if pushed to the wall? Say in the comments.