I’m slowly coming out of the closet.
I’m telling a few close friends that I’m “probably” not going to hit the academic job market. I’ve yet to confess to certain key individuals–namely, my much-loved and respected diss advisers whom I’m terrified of disappointing. I suppose I’ve only committed 95%.
A dogged decade of pursuit doesn’t die easy.
My dear friend, a brilliant academic that struggled to land a job this year, sent me an email the other day. She’d been thinking about this text I sent her, one where I’d said some shit like “definitely leaving the academy no turning back now.” We’ve been partners through this whole academic journey–we once shared a bunk bed in Germany, so far have our travails intertwined–and I suppose it is a mind fuck to her, me leaving, me even thinking about leaving.
She’s staying. I’m leaving.
She sent me this email asking, “Are you really done? Are you sure about this?”
What follows is my response. Revealing details <omitted>: Dr. OH is still incognito.
* * *
“Why sign up for something I don’t want?
Moving, fucking with my family dynamics, losing my <vibrant artistic pursuit>, losing my great network of friends…not worth some random job in some random place.
The academy does not feel like home. It’s too staid for me, and honestly, and probably most importantly (second only to my quality of life) :
I don’t believe in it. Like, I think college is a racket. Especially grad school.
I can’t encourage anyone to take this route. While there are benefits–the flexibility and a “life of the mind”–the debt and the lack of practical return make this choice a bad one for most folks.
Intelligence and sophistication are lovely. I would also like a reasonable job.
Some people have a true academic vocation. I don’t. Some people enjoy reading PMLA. I don’t.
I write for a living. Yet no one reads my genius. Ten specialists *might* care. The writing is restrained, forced around an obscure topic; fuck, I’d rather be funny for an audience of normies.
(Normies = non-academics)
I talked a friend last night and he just got a visiting lectureship through networking alone. It was his only offer, and he only got it ’cause he knew somebody. Of course, he is brilliant. But though he and his wife are moving across the country for this job, he’s already talking about *going on the market AGAIN next year.* Sorry, what? Nope. Not gonna do that. I’m done with that! Scraping and begging for some obscure-ass shit? Later to that.
Fuck the prestige.
I don’t love scholarship enough to give up everything again (and again) and follow it to the ends of the earth.
You will never lose me as an intellectual peer. I am an intellectual for life. But–as Eudora Welty once wrote–“there are other ways to be.” Intellectuals, artists, geniuses, they’re everywhere.
I have been indoctrinated to think “academy or flippin burgers.” Not true. I can find a job that will pay me as much as any university, it won’t consume me, and we can live in <beloved current home> for life. Why can’t I have those things? They are more than reasonable.
In a dream world, honest-to-god–my life would look like this: I write ads at some hip agency with a workspace like Google; my job title is literally “creative;” I collaborate with young people in jeans; i get paid $40 k and feel like a fucking millionaire. We buy a new car and a house. DREAM LIFE.
My dad was an ex-prisoner mechanic and his life was more bangin’ than mine when he was my age. Time to get it.
I respect academics–I should probably say I respect a certain *sect* of academics–I should say, I respect you. More power to you. You personally have a situation that can make your life viable. Your husband can work from anywhere. Mine can’t. I have deeper roots here than I ever did anywhere. You are a feather on the wind, my friend, and if you enjoy it, if that breeze is part of your path, more power to you. I believe in you.
The bottom line for me, though, is this: I’m not willing to sacrifice what a successful career in the academy demands. I love other things more. I know what will make me happy and it’s not compatible with the academy.
It’s a bold move. I know.
But I haven’t been this inspired in ages. I’m writing creatively. I feel like the world is opening up to me. Options…exist? I can still have a career? There are other ways to be! Why not?
Forgive typos. Written quickly.