This is what I want to say to myself: Really? I keep thinking that I cannot possibly take anything else on. My life is entirely too full of stuff already. And, then, something comes to my mind and I think, I have to be doing this right now! I could say when it rains, it pours, because that often seems true of the universe. But, there really is no mystery here. No cosmic forces beyond me. It’s nothing more complicated than succeeding at something is empowering and when you feel empowered, waiting is just silly.
Last week, I was listening to one of my professors give a lecture and I had this realization that I have grown unhappy with my academic life. I’ve grown stagnant. I’m lost, but not seeking out new directions. There are so many people in my life who want to help me succeed and I’m not taking advantage of any of them. I’ve let grades be my measure of success and so I haven’t been forced to take any initiative in finding my place in the academy. In order to focus on other things, I have taken a getting through is good enough attitude to academics.
I’ve been in grad school long enough that it’s hard for me to gauge what people who are not part of this culture know about it. I know that I was surprised to learn a lot of things. Like, who you know is pretty much everything, so you’ll get nowhere unless you network. And if you’re getting an academic degree like me (and not a professional degree like a JD or MBA or MSW), then there is an incredible amount of pressure to be something unique. You have to produce original work that other people think is interesting and important.
It strikes me writing that it’s a strange life I lead where my career revolves around figuring out what I think about things. That’s the amazing and maddening thing about studying philosophy. I have thoughts like this that just seem so strange or I’ll be sitting in class and suddenly have a moment of perspective where I think of how weird it is that we all meet once a week to discuss things that have been debated for two thousand years as if we’re going to finally find the solutions. I’m having a hard time putting my grad school life into fiction, because in so many ways, it’s not that different from anything else. But, in other ways, it goes even beyond the stereotypes to near complete absurdity.
This is the absurd life I’ve chosen, but since I am constantly surrounded by people who have made the same absurd choice, most of the time it doesn’t feel that absurd. I’ve nearly forgotten that when I was in middle school it was weird to say that I like to read and when I was in high school it was weird to say that I like to write and when I was in college it was weird to say that I like school. Now I have to travel outside of my circle to feel weird. People on the outside can easily understand the frenzied pace of it all and the mountains of work, but what gets missed is just how deeply personal what I study is to me and how there’s a lot more at stake in it for me than a degree.
At the same time that I feel dissatisfied with my personal development as an academic, I feel incredibly lucky to have found a school of thought that speaks so strongly to me and a community of people who think it’s as important as I do. I’m really hopeful that I can find a way forward for myself and I think this is the perfect time in my life as a student to be questioning myself this way. It’s time for me to reach out and ask for advice from people who are willing to spend time letting me bounce ideas off of them. It’s hard to know what you think or where you want to go until you see what’s out there.
The Really? part only comes in when I think of how compromised by time already is. If I can just finish this semester without another sudden realization that turns into a time-consuming project, then I think I’ll be okay. Don’t hold me to that, though, because when it rains, it pours, and when it pours you can’t just sit there getting rained on!