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Memorandum on Ibidem

I used to write in the Chicago format. Footnote ideas from which I’d learned. Contextualized references in informative endnotes. Annotated bibliographies from broken spine archives. Chicago is a language I still speak fluently and I’ve taken to heart the abandon of Ibid. Ibidem served as both a present plug to the language of our history, and the bridge between individuality and community. Yet, my favorite thing about Chicago has always been teaching my peers about it. Helping them to see the format in a new light, something with which to engage their writing skills, something of which to not be afraid. But still, my own engagement with students on the intimate details of paper writing lack...confidence. The kind of confidence which comes with increased, unique training for knowing when to let go and when to direct. Knowing when and how to say “I can’t.”

Even in my enduring love for tutoring, I don’t always have good days. I’ve had a few hard years. I’ve been broken apart. I’ve been absolutely shattered, beaten by academic burden and personal challenge. About four years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It comes in uneasy waves, varying in strength and frequency. This year, it makes it hard for me to stand up. I’m forced to admit to myself that my brain can only do so much. And it is so hard to swallow all that humanness in me, put on my staff lanyard, and break down a citations page. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have four sessions in a day, to work word-by-word reconstructing areas with a writer. I can count on comma placement, and the importance of a semicolon. And still, I’m 22-years-old. I have my own mechanisms and processes for my feelings. My old staff lanyard could only provide me with so much added buoyancy, and my new GA office in my Mater’s program can only offer so much life preservation. What do I do then, when the waters of personhood rise and flood the bridge between professional and private?

I love my job. I love my job. I say it twice to really settle into that thought: that coming to work every day makes every day better. Still, there’s that nagging human element. I’m not the perfect tutor; there is so much I don’t know, so many questions I’m not confident answering and so many students I feel leave our sessions only a bit better off than before they came in. Thomas Aquinas said, “Love takes up where knowledge leaves off,” and my job so provides me with the opportunity to keep and love learning. Which makes it particularly difficult to come into work with my baggage. I experience cognitive dissonance whenever these days pop up; the days when I feel irretrievable in the depth of my depression, but my lanyard is on, and I’m supposed to love wearing it.

Where does the writing center end? Where is the edge, the one I’m not supposed to go past in giving of myself for this the job I so, so enjoy? I’m incredibly tired. I’m starting the process of adulthood and forming myself into a definable individual. My staff lanyard has helped me to become more solid in both of those determiners, but it has also blurred some lines into ambiguity. I’m allowed to be tired. I’m supposed to be nervous. I’m always a little bit anxious. Being a tutor doesn’t negate these validities, but sometimes it feels like my personhood is second to the grammar edits needed to be made to a writer’s paper.

When coding the personal tutoring philosophy I wrote one year ago, programing the document into a word cloud to identify the most prevalent language, the word love appears the largest. I say it the most often, of any word I could’ve chosen. I feel deeply, always doing my best to not shrink from the responsibility inherent to experiencing life this way. Here, Chicago calls out to me again; Ibidem is Latin for “in the same place” which I think is a fitting idea for the writing center. Love, fear, learning, confidence, insecurity...humanness, all happening in the same place.


  1. What an awesome reflection on writing center work, Kendyl!

  2. This is beautiful. i 'm so sorry for the depression part of it. In my own center, i see that many of us suffer from that or anxiety or both. i wonder how prevalent it is in our field... Both certainly have their place in my own life, though i wish they would depart.


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