Chapter 185: Out of Session

on November 1, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 6: Career Counseling, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Really Needs To Sort Out Her Priorities

“So, you didn’t tell your instructor what you and your coach think she did?” Teddi Lundegard asked me when I’d finished describing my day to her.

I’d only stopped by her office in the Mental Healing Center in order to drop off the shielding circlet she’d lent me, but a no-show had left her with some time to fill and we’d started chatting. The conversation had turned pretty quickly from how things stood with Emily to how things had been going for me generally.

Between any two other people, this might have been small talk, but between me and my mental healer it pretty much became an impromptu de facto session. Teddi didn’t seem to mind… but then, students didn’t pay for the service per session anyway.

“No,” I replied. “She seemed to take it for granted that Coach Callahan would be suspicious of her, and she wasn’t interested in what those suspicions were… at least not openly. This… this is still confidential, right?”

“Even if you bumped me into in the street, off campus and outside office hours, and told me something, you could expect my confidences,” Teddi said. “You don’t stop being my patient when we’re not in my office and you’re not on the couch… or on the floor.”

“I get that,” I said. “I just thought there might be kind of a gray area.”

“There might arguably be some gray areas, but any situation where you actually come to the building where we have our sessions and tell me something in my office is as clear-cut as it gets,” Teddi said. “Also, the thing about gray areas is that the law and ethics boards have to figure out what to do with them other than throwing up their hands and saying, ‘Well, it’s kind of a gray area,’ so what we do with gray areas is mostly stay out of them.”

“I guess that’s the easiest way to cover your ass,” I said.

“Well, it serves a purpose,” she said. “It’s ultimately for your benefit that the privacy rules exist… but in that regard, I can understand your teacher’s advice as you’ve told it to me as not necessarily being self-serving. If I were to betray your interests, it would be harmful to my ability to provide healing to others in the future. Even absent things licensing boards, I need the trust of those in my care in order to help them.”

“I don’t think Acantha is as big an altruist as you are,” I said.

“No? Well, consider this,” Teddi said. “This is how I make my living. If I lost my license, most of my marketable skills would be worthless.”

“So you went into student healing to get rich?” I said.

“No, actually, I went into student healing because it was the easiest path into the career I wanted,” she said.

“Which is helping people,” I said.

“We could argue that every… or at least nearly every… profession is about helping people,” Teddi said. “One person doing one thing for others is the basis of specialization, which is where the whole idea of jobs and careers comes from… I mean, you’re not trying to get into applied enchantment in order to make things harder for people, are you?”

“Well, no,” I said. “The general idea is to make things that make people’s lives better… add convenience, add excitement, add capabilities… but you’re really not saying that’s the same thing as mental healing, are you?”

“You’d better believe I’m not,” she said. “I’m just pointing out that altruism and self-interest are slipperier than you’d think. But… there are more things in philosophy than anyone has time for. Acantha could be helping others or helping herself, but chances are it’s somewhere in-between.”

“I suppose the question is what I’m going to do about it,” I said.

“Or the question could be, what’s it got to do with you?” Teddi asked.

“I’m involved…”

“She gave you the opportunity to bow out of that,” Teddi pointed out. “From an ethical standpoint, it would be hard to argue that you owe anyone anything… Coach Callahan knows as much as you do, and you don’t owe a spy or saboteur any warning.”

“She could be innocent, though,” I said.

“Well, that’s the great thing about it not being your responsibility,” Teddi said. “She could be guilty, she could be innocent… you’re still not responsible.”

“You’re being a lot more direct then when we’re actually having a session,” I said.

“Maybe I’m trying to save myself work further down the line,” she said, then she laughed. “Seriously, Mackenzie… at the risk of walking into a cliché, the real question here is how you feel about Acantha.”

“…conflicted,” I said. “It’s not just that she could help me establish my career… maybe ten years from now I’ll look back and regret not caring more about that, but right now that’s abstract and distant. When I saw her standing in front of the class for the first time trying to gain respect and take control, I kind of fell a little bit in love with her. When I realized she’d manipulated me and was possibly only here to steal a valuable product idea, I felt… well… manipulated. But the two things seem almost unrelated. Whatever she is outside the classroom, what I see when she’s teaching seems pretty genuine.”

“Could that be part of an act?”

“…I guess there’s no upper limit on recursive deceptions, but no, I don’t think so,” I said. “The ‘act’ she’s putting on in front of the class is that she’s smooth, polished, and in control.”

“Okay. Well, if that’s not an act, have you considered the possibility that she could be genuine in her teaching and also a criminal?”

“Not very actively,” I said. “I mean, I’m aware that it’s a possibility, but my brain slides off of it. I get that public speaking and teaching a class take different skill sets than stealing trade secrets, but… I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that I want her to be one or the other… the approachable, earnest, awkward, and knowledgeable teacher with a lot to offer or the underhanded thief I should just avoid. I don’t want her to be a good teacher I should avoid, because then… well… then I have to choose.”

“See how much work I saved there?” Teddi said, and this time I laughed.

“Yeah,” I said. “But that doesn’t help me figure out what to do.”

“No, but you’ve identified the obstacle in your path,” Teddi said. “And remember: even if this Acantha represents an amazing, completely unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity… there will be other ones of those. They won’t be the same, of course, but that’s the nature of unique opportunities.”

“That’s true,” I said. “I mean, Professor Stone could help me in different ways… but again, I don’t like having to choose, especially when I feel like I don’t know enough to make a really informed decision.”

“Do you have to? Choose, I mean?”

“Well, if I don’t pick either one of them then I’ll be missing out on two opportunities,” I said.

“Let me back up and rephrase that,” she said. “Is either one of them extending you an offer to fill an exclusive mentor slot in your life right now?”

“No, that would be stupid,” I said. “That would be like something Sooni would come up with… oh.”

“It’s a pretty common tendency to think of life as a series of either/or choices, to create dichotomies where none exist,” Teddi said. “It’s a pretty easy trap to walk into, if you’re not paying attention.”

“Walking into things and not paying attention are two of my better skills,” I said. “Though… I have been working on that.”

“Maybe that’s why my job’s getting easier.”

“That’s got to be a relief,” I said.

“It’s not so much relief as satisfaction,” she said. “The biggest thing you should be taking away from our sessions are the skills you’ll need to heal on your own.”

“So, if you’re really successful, you’ll put yourself out of a job?” I said. “That kind of conflicts with the idea of self-interest aligning with client interest, doesn’t it?”

“Believe me, there are no shortages of work for a qualified mental healer around here,” she said. “Remember, the population my patients are drawn from turns over by about twenty-five percent every year, sure as the sunrise. There’s always going to be someone who needs my help.”

“Yeah, but… like I do?” I asked.

She looked at me like she wasn’t taking my meaning or wasn’t sure that she’d heard me right, then she blinked and gave a little shake of the head.

“Sorry,” she said. “I’m afraid anything I say right now is going to sound dismissive, but… well… let me say that while everyone is unique, you’re probably a lot closer to the average than you think. I can’t really say anything more without hitting one of those gray areas, since you have a pretty good idea what cases I tend to get assigned.”

The mental healing center and its healers and counselors were required to take any student who came to them, but the fact that Teddi would actually deal with non-human students willingly meant that her co-workers foisted all of us off onto her.

And while I thought about the girls I’d shared the floor with when I’d roomed in Harlowe, the designated non-human dorm, I realized that she probably wasn’t kidding. There had been a pair of human girls… twins… forced to share a body by a teleportation accident. They’d had issues, though they’d mostly seemed to take them out on other people, including myself. Then there was Sooni, who seemed to have been raised by a distant father, a doting mother, and a television right up until the point where her frustrated parents sent her to a foreign country so she could learn to interact with the world with no kind of oversight or guidance through the transition.

I mainly thought of a lot of my former floormates in terms of the problems they inflicted on the people around them, but they certainly would have presented a lot of work for a mental healer.

“That’s not to say that you’re only average compared to the sort of cases I end up with,” Teddi said, as if she could read my mind… I mean, as if she could have read my mind safely and had, since she actually could if she’d wanted to. “Even compared to the masses of human students I’ve treated, you’re only exceptional in the way that everyone is. That’s my point… but an even better point, and the point I should be making is that it doesn’t matter if your problems are worse than anyone else’s or if they barely seem worth mentioning or if you’re right in the middle of a very crowded field. They’re yours, they need dealing with, and if you need help doing so, you’re entitled to it.”

“That’s… a useful perspective,” I said. My instinct was to argue against it, since obviously it wouldmatter if my problems were barely worth mentioning… but of all the areas I’d ever felt inadequate in, that wasn’t one of them. After all, a minute ago I’d been thinking that I was probably among the worst that Teddi dealt with.

“Useful perspectives are a specialty of mine,” she said.

“The thing is… it’s not just not wanting to have to choose,” I said. “That’s a factor. But it’s also… one of the reasons I don’t want to have to make up my mind is that it’s one more problem that needs to be solved, and I kind of want my life to be simpler. Things went so well over the summer, and it’s mostly because I wasn’t doing anything except going to class. I wouldn’t my whole life to be that. I don’t think I could live that way for much longer than a few months at a time, and I think even if I did, complications would still eventually creep in. Stuff would happen, and it would continue to happen, and it wouldn’t happen on a timetable or schedule or one thing at a time. But I want to deal with things one at a time, even if they don’t happen that way.”

“You’re talking about prioritizing,” Teddi said.

“Am I?”

“If you’re not, then you should be,” she said. “I get the feeling that resolving your problem with Emily has been your highest priority lately.”

“Not really by choice, though, that was something that needed to be dealt with.”

“You recognized that and made the determination,” Teddi said. “Minimizing the choice doesn’t mean it was a choice.”

“Well, it was a pretty clear one,” I said. “Figuring out what to do about Acantha and if I should be talking to her and/or Professor Stone outside of class is different. It’s… nothing bad happens, necessarily, if I don’t deal with it. I just ignore it quietly and eventually it either goes away or blows up in my face. But it might do that anyway if I try to mess with it. So if I don’t do anything, I could either get nothing out of it or have it blow up in my face… and if I deal with it now, it could blow up, or I could get valuable career advice and contacts, or it could blow up and I could get valuable career advice and contacts… so short of any ability to actually know in advance how it would really turn out, I guess it makes more sense to deal with it now?”

“That’s your new priority, then?”

“I guess it is,” I said. “I mean, behind the stuff that’s always important, like class and personal relationships…”

“Obviously,” Teddi said. “This has been a great little talk, but I’ve got to get ready for someone whose problems were important enough for them to schedule an appointment today.”

“I can take a hint,” I said.

“Then we’ve made all kinds of progress today,” she said.

I kind of liked Teddi when she wasn’t actually working… though, as she’d said, she didn’t stop being my healer when she wasn’t.

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26 Responses to “Chapter 185: Out of Session”

  1. YayGasm says:

    This chapter leaves me to wondering about two things. 1) What happened to Sooni? And 2) What happened to Mac’s case against the school? It seems forever since we heard anything about either of those items.

    Current score: 1
    • tomclark says:

      Yeah, I miss Sooni and the nekos too. They were always so much fun!

      Current score: 0
  2. froish says:

    Didnt the case get resolved during the big skip?

    Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      If it did, I missed the mention.

      Current score: 0
    • Drakkonan says:

      Still unresolved, I think the only thing established by the time skip was Mackenzie’s settlement terms; a non-human Dean of non-human students, and reforms in recruiting and housing of non-humans.

      Current score: 0
    • Kaila says:

      …it’s a legal case. Even settled out-of-court…give it a few years?

      Current score: 0
  3. pedestrian says:

    I like how Teddy is encouraging Mackenzie towards a mature mindset. Understanding her problems, having the courage to deal with her problems and learning how to resolve her problems. And then go on to the next problem life throws at her.

    Current score: 0
  4. Xicree says:

    I kinda miss Sooni and Feejee… All of that special Crazy!

    Current score: 0
    • Anne says:

      Well we know (or assume) that Feejee left when the other mermaid got eaten. Sooni though is a question mark. Then again Mack’s life has taken a turn away from Sooni.

      Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        She said something about Feejee feeling lost and leaving.

        Current score: 0
  5. Not her, the other girl says:

    “Well, it serves a purpose,” she said. “It’s ultimately for your benefit that the privacy rules exist…

    Ha, I just started reading this tab after closing the tab for the Guardian’s latest thing about the NSA/Snowden/privacy stuff.

    Current score: 0
    • Anne says:

      Snowden makes you think that John Twelve Hawks was spot on. Or George Orwell….

      Current score: 0
    • Ducky says:

      Mental healing, either in this world or MU’s, is an incredibly sensitive subject. I’m actually making an appointment with a therapist now, and the friend referring me has repeatedly told me NOT to have her therapist, as this could create a conflict of interest. Since it’s important to her, it doesn’t matter if the therapist could partition and work like Teddi does – my friend’s privacy concerns are what matters.

      Personal privacy and individual privacy are actually two different things.

      Current score: 0
  6. Anne says:

    I caught this: since obviously it wouldmatter if my problems were barely worth mentioning…

    Missing space between would and matter….

    Current score: 0
  7. x says:

    a lot more direct then [than]
    I wouldn’t my whole life to be that. [missing word]
    Minimizing the choice doesn’t mean it was a choice. [was not a choice]

    Current score: 0
    • Luke Licens says:

      Further Typo:

      Even if you bumped me into in the street, [into me]

      Current score: 0
  8. tomclark says:

    >Even absent things licensing boards,

    This appears to be missing the word “like”.

    Current score: 0
  9. Glenn says:

    Sooni is in Prof. Stone’s design class along with Mack. She’s shifted her major from Applied Enchanting, and minors in Transportation and Communication to a Design major and (maybe a minor) in Applied Enchanting. She was successful in making money designing and making costumes. She’s also cut her hair and adopted a more western clothing style. We haven’t heard anything about what the Nekos are doing this semester.

    Current score: 1
    • Kanta says:

      And none of that has been mentioned since the first day of class. Makes me wonder what she’s been up to that she’s been so quiet.

      Current score: 0
  10. Rafinius says:

    A singular OT regarding Sooni and the Nekos (all three of them) would be cool, or else maybe one for Sooni and one for the one who always had to dress like a baby, but I think Alexandra did the restart exactly as to get rid of some of all these convoluted side stories, of which a few I had the feeling she herself didn’t enjoy anymore.

    Current score: 0
    • Anthony says:

      Awww… I. Really hope not. MU needs moar crazy sometimes!

      Current score: 0
  11. Zathras IX says:

    Walking into things
    And not paying attention
    Are essential skills

    Current score: 0
  12. Cadnawes says:

    Feejee was mentioned as looking a bit lost after Iona’s vanishing, but it was never mentioned that she dropped out that I recall. If I were Mack I wouldn’t seek her out tho, for an elaborate layer cake of reasons.

    Last I knew the case was stalled. A counteroffer had been made, and nothing settled. That is rather how these things roll.

    Teddi’s outlook on work came up at my job yeaterday. Oddly, just like that. I work in massage, and voiced it to a client.

    Current score: 0
  13. OhPun says:

    Teddi said. “Minimizing the choice doesn’t mean it was a choice.”

    Maybe you meant “… WASN’T a choice.”

    I’m really enjoying the character development.

    Current score: 0
  14. Mist42nz says:

    Why yes I am one of those making things harder.
    And yes as a party to the event, Mac and all members of a community have a duty of responsibility to the community regarding guilt and ethics. (Note: prisoners dilemma)

    Often the easy and fun choice is to abrogate responsibility, or to delegate it to some incompetent scapegoats and moan about the results. Old cliche, taking the easy path is what makes people and rivers run crooked. Nature and magic (and thermodynamics), excepting the practice effect, tend to sameness of disorder, ie they run down without extra input. That input is work. Without work, hard work, your society and your magic and your education will decay.
    Deciding it’s not your responsibility is the first step.

    Being willing to support others in their work is the opposite first step.

    Current score: 0
  15. Daez says:

    I still wonder when Mack will learn the truth about Sooni’s mum.

    I still miss Semele….

    Current score: 0