As my master's thesis advisor, John Higby often made me so angry that I could spit nails. In fact, frankly, the end of our relationship was not pretty. I had written no more than five drafts of my thesis (over 120 pages each time!) and at the time I had four children I was raising, plus the farm, drove more than an hour each way to graduate school, and was working full-time teaching. And, each time I submitted a draft, he would return it with one line, "Something is missing." Well, it came down to either publish or lose my full-time position; I pitched a fit to the graduate dean and showed her my drafts. In short, I was published within three days. John and I never spoke again.
In spite of all this, I learned a great deal from him: bibliography and research methods; never, never, never use a split infinitive no matter what the handbooks say; Samuel Johnson was the funniest and smartest man of the 18th century (and maybe even today); and stop talking before you talk yourself in a hole. But, the best thing I learned from him was this:
You can't choose who you work with; you can't choose who you vote with. But, by golly, you can choose who you eat and drink with.
(Notice the sentence ends with a preposition; maybe he wasn't so hard to get along with after all...)
One of the cardinal rules in our family is never, never, never socialize with anyone you work with beyond the average meal on campus or chit-chat in the hallway. And, I mostly observe this rule. The only exception was marrying the Mister, but he works in another section of the college and we never see each other at work unless there is a problem in my classroom with the technology and I call him. Otherwise, I do not and will not socialize with my co-workers.
It makes sense. First, people you work with will not forgive or forget anything you confide about another co-worker, family, or friend. And second, people you work with will lose respect for you if they know all about you. Familiarity breds contempt and all that.
It's that simple.
John was a wise man and many times I have thought of this over the past years. Whenever an invitation comes to an after-work event, I always decline. Beyond the fact that I really look at my teaching gig as just a way to pay my bills, which doesn't mean I don't work hard, I really just don't have much in common with most folks unless they have goats or enjoy needlework. I don't gossip; I don't drink; I don't eat meat. I think that covers most social functions, don't you?
So, Dr. Higby, whereever you are, thank you for the wisdom you imparted. You have saved me more than once with these sage words!
What about you? Do you think one should mix work with one's personal life?