A Glimpse of the Future

It's that time of the semester again. It's the time when you question why you're studying what you're studying. That leads to questioning why you're in school, then questioning what you want to do when you graduate, which leads to questioning your reason for living. Ah, good times, good times...

I have been through this many times before, of course. I have been enrolled in at least 6 credits for every semester since fall of 2001. I am coming to the close of my third degree now, so I suppose I have the right to be feeling a bit burned out. Usually, at this point in the semester I'm beginning to feel the pressure of a couple annotated bibliographies, perhaps a large presentation or two, and a big paper looming on the horizon. It makes you feel guilty every time you sit down without a book or article in your hands. Everything you do that isn't related to your work becomes a luxury - movies, games, friends, sex... for some real extremists, this comes to encompass food, sleep, and bathing as well. You reach a point where you can't enjoy anything until the semester is put to bed. Once that last assignment is turned in, you can breathe again. I love that feeling.

Now, I'm beginning to see, that feeling is gone forever. It's not long after you begin to think about being a lifer in the academy that you realize that means it is NEVER all done. My methods class has made it abundantly clear to me that there is always another paper, another article, another study. And it's not just your own work - there is the work of others in your field that you must keep up with, think about, and with which your work must ultimately compete. When I'm feeling upbeat and positive, I call it "job security." I'm not calling it that today.

It's not that my life is all that terrible; I am, in fact, quite privileged. It's not that my class load is all that onerous either; I have only two classes, both excellently taught by professors I respect. It's not even the fear of this all coming to an end (which it will, gods willing, in a few more years). It is the realization that so few other options are open to me. I am destined for a career in the academe because I am so unsuited to anything else.

-I am accustomed to speaking my mind- this disqualifies me for a great many vocations, ranging from sales to customer service to politics to religion.
-I do not suffer fools gladly, which makes untenable any position in which I must deal with non-academics - and a good many academics as well.
-I am both cynical and critical, which would make me a terrible manager.
-I talk far too much, which keeps me from fitting into most office settings.
-I often stumble onto a new topic that grabs my attention in a sudden fit of interest bordering on obsession, but the duration of these fits is generally not long enough to make any sort of profit from them. (Tonight's fit was on the viability of an in-depth survey of furries, but that's another post...)

In short, I am easily bored and mouthy about it when I get that way. I need the room to explore, colleagues to discuss my findings with, and students to pontificate at. Unfortunately, the price for that is continual publishing and wrangling over tenure. I knew that already - my mother is an academic - but there is a difference between knowing something intellectually, and suddenly feeling it in your bones. When I look to the future I see my thesis prospectus staring back at me. Just past it stands the thesis itself, and peeking over its shoulder is a dissertation. There are articles and chapters and a book or two as well, all standing in a line that stretches out of sight, waiting their turn under the hammer.

My fingers ache for the typing yet to come.

8 comments:

fleur said...

Not to mention conferences, service on committees, keeping up with a field that was so vast to begin with it often feels like catching up, not keeping up, never-ending grading, the transitory nature of the academic setting, and oh, yeah, and that next paper.

But, really, what else would we do?

His Sinfulness said...

Agreed. I am just not cut out for anything else.

Benjamin said...

[laughter] I rather miss being pontificated at. :)

His Sinfulness said...

Ben,

By me, or in general? ;)

Ducky said...

Academics are a haven for let's call it "strong" personalities. But I thought that this was all just a way to pass time until your real life cult following got off the ground. Theology is easy to keep up with when it's your own.

His Sinfulness said...

Yeah, when the Black Vatican goes viral, we won't have to worry about any of this, will we?

;)

Mayren said...

woah! i feel like you let us glimpse a tiny bit of your soul just now with that post and like a ditry minded co-ed i peek through the secret peep hole of your psyche and giggle.

(ok that was a lame attempt of a response... sorry. just missed you so wanted to be goofy)

His Sinfulness said...

Mayren,

There is always a peep hole for you, love...

(You're right - that's a tough metaphor to use without it sounding odd...)

;)

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