She sat down, not wanting to look up at me. She knew she hadn't done the work she promised to do, had made excuses, and sat here now after a couple days of avoidance knowing that she'd disappointed me.
"Look at me." I said. She looked up then down again. "Look at me." I repeated. Once I held her gaze, I had to do everything I could to keep my voice from cracking, especially as I saw her start to tear up.
"You haven't done the work. We both know it. But I refuse to create an unhealthy dynamic between us. I care about you too much and I just will not stand for unhealthy relationships in any aspect of my life. We will have a good, straightforward, trusting relationship of client to tutor. I already know you want to do the work, that you want to get through this class, that you have good intentions. You have to know I know that. What we both know is that we need to get you to take more action. Don't be fearful that I will get mad at you when you don't get things done. You let that fear paralyze you from actually doing it. Just do it, and if you don't, let me know without excuses, and then start again the next day. I care about your success today, but mostly I care about your well-being ten years from now. I do not want you, in your mid-twenties, to not be where you want to be and still be wrestling with the devastation from your lack of self-discipline. I know what its like to be a procrastinator. I know what it's like to be a play-first-work-later type of person. Believe me. You will have to fight this. I am on your side, fighting with you. Fight now or the fight will be harder later. The consequences will not come from me, they will come from no high school diploma, they will come from having to enter the workforce with no skills of follow through or self-discipline. We're doing good, you and me, and don't let this huge paper create a dynamic of fear with us. There will be no element of mistrust or manipulation between us, I will not stand for it."
She nodded. "Look at me again," I said one last time. "Do you believe we can have the kind of relationship I'm talking about? Do you trust me? Can we move forward together, no fear?"
"Yes." She wiped a tear away and gave a half smile. "Wonderful," I said. "Let's get to work."
I think about her every day. I fear for her, for her present, for her future. I'm literally one of her last options for getting through high school. Her private, imaginative, bookish, passionate, procrastinating, achingly perfectionistic nature tied her to my heartstrings from the beginning, I could see myself in her strengths and weaknesses. But she has other things holding her back, things I didn't have, her issues are deeply rooted, and I can only hope and instruct and affirm. And hope some more.
This conversation was today. Cross your fingers for tomorrow.