My piece today on the end of irreverent, creative, non-frat-party college fund has gotten a great response. Apparently the University of Chicago is not as uptight as I thought it was (though YOU ARE NO HAMPSHIRE, people, come on).
This has got me thinking: Is your college still weird? Are you weird? I WANT TO BE PROVEN WRONG so, so desperately badly. For the children. For the future.
So I hereby launch the Weird College Fun Project. Please send me any proof you have that what you are doing in college, right now, is weird, irreverent, subversive, mostly rule-free, but IN NO WAY CONNECTED TO YOUR SCHOOLWORK OR CV, and in no way heavily dependent upon alcohol or drugs. Pics, testimonials, links–anything. I will post the weirdest ones as they come in, with as much attribution as you’ll allow.
NOW GET WEIRD.
Today I’ve got two articles up at Slate, and one of them, on the Digital Humanities, contains actual reporting and very little sass! WHA? Yessssssss it’s true, Rebecca Schuman is capable of being a professional journalist.
The other one is full of sass–it excoriates helicopter parenting and laments the subsequent the loss of sass, irreverence and weirdness at college. In it I also manage come off as a Caitlin-Flanagan-level square who tsktsks about binge drinking (although I do also have a link that makes fun of Caitlin Flanagan).
I keep thinking back to a year ago, and the furious mixture of emotions that went with leaving academia in such a public way. I have few regrets about anything (really!)–I only wish that now-me had been around to help then-me through some of the darker times, so that then-me wouldn’t have wasted any time on the then-couch (which is also the now-couch! TIME IS A FLAT CIRCLE!), wishing I would “die in an accident.”
So it really is literally the least I can do to offer the odd listcicle to the latest round of kickee-outees, for whom I feel only compassion and empathy. I remember, still, about a year ago, when this one asshole on Twitter*–let’s call him the conservative caricature of Al Gore of alt-academia–got into it with me and was like “I INVENTED POST-AC” and all like, “You should have known” (how I was going to feel eight years into the future when I started graduate school), and, most memorably: “Wait until you’ve been out for awhile and someone writes something like this and see how you feel.”
Well, I’ve been out for awhile, and many someones have been writing many somethings like this, and I feel, as I thought I would…wait for it, nothing but compassion and empathy.
There is nothing–and I mean nothing–that can come of mocking someone for being earnest about wanting to be an academic, and being so damned earnest they ignored all the warning signs, and then having that dream die. I’m all for screaming in people’s faces what their futures will (probably) be like before it’s too late, but once it is too late, and once their hearts and spirits are broken, there is nothing to do but offer virtual hugs–and the odd listcicle, as I said.
So, without further ado:
Ten Buck-Up Reminders During Early Academic Recovery
- That eminent senior scholar who sneeringly insisted that you simply did not apply broadly enough, or that there was something wrong with your application materials–you know, the one who’s lived in the same subsidized dream house in Boston since 1972? His children hate him because he always ditched every family event for his “important” research. Which reminds me…
- You know that “important” research of his? Three people–at most–have ever read it, ever (of course, the same will be true of all of your articles–but hey).
- Many tenure-track–and tenured–people, even those at “great” schools in “desirable” locations, are staggeringly miserable. In fact, the reason they are currently sneering that “academia isn’t for everybody” is to make themselves feel better than someone, and thus feel better at all.
- Nobody outside of academia understands, knows or cares about the things academics are snobby about. Like one of my commenters nicely pointed out–most people believe an earned doctorate and experience teaching college are universally laudable achievements. Of course, they also hold professors under suspicion, which reminds me…
- Not being an academic means you never have to answer “college professor” when someone asks what you do for a living, which means you also never have to endure THEM responding with, “oo-OO-ooh.” Which means, “I bet you think you’re SO smart, and this makes me distrust you, Fancypants!” I thought I’d be proud to tell people I was a professor, but it just made me feel judged.
- Speaking of which, in the real world, it is considered not only socially acceptable, but downright welcome, to care about your clothing and grooming habits (I mean year-round, not just for four days at a conference). If you enjoy making your own clothes, nobody will ever regard you with suspicion because you dare have a hobby that does not include alcoholism or belittling.
- Speaking of those four miserable days at a conference: Enjoy getting your Christmas back, for real, no existential despair, hair-pulling nerves, interview prep or last-minute $1000 plane tickets. Ever, ever again.
- Ever wanted a job where your years of experience counted in your favor, rather than against you? Welcome to every single job in the world besides academia and the sex trade.
- It takes about three weeks after the veil is lifted to recognize the extent of your insane paranoia as an academic. No, department chairs will not pore over the comments on this blog, looking for people to blackball. No, search committees will not embark upon sleuthing missions based on a few personal characteristics revealed via this blog. The extent to which chickenshittery, just inexplicable batshit terror, defines the culture of academia–and the extent to which this is entirely unnecessary–will become manifest to you immediately, and you will fall over laughing about how much of your life you lived in the shadow of some mythical search committee somewhere.
- Any push-back from established academics about how your traumatic experiences on the job market are somehow your fault says far, far more about the academic establishment than it does about you.
Most importantly of all, though, what I hope you remember is that, as hackneyed as it is, time will help. It will. I know this. You have watched this happen before your eyes if you’ve been reading this blog for the past year.
You will feel better six months from now than you do now. You will feel even better six months from then. It might take years to repair what academia has broken, but it can be repaired. It can, and it will. Since this worked so well before, I’d like to invite contributions again–those of you just coming out or about to leave: What are the hardest things you’re hearing, from yourself or others? Those of you who have lived to tell the tale: What are your words of buck-uppery in this time of need?
*I just looked this guy up again, and I now have more Twitter followers than he does. SORRY THAT IS PETTY.