Dreaming Again over Coffee
As you know, I’ve been a ticketed rider on the struggle bus of my post-PhD career. Since last November, my inbox is littered with “thank you, but unfortunately…” emails. Despite advice to the contrary, I take it quite personally.
I was ready to give up, you know… I mean, on everything. I wanted to quit academia, go back home, and sulk in a bath of bitterness for the rest of my days. I questioned it all. Why did I go to grad school? Why did I move here? What is the purpose of any of this?
Then, I had coffee.
Let me elaborate. In spite of periodically believing myself to be an utter academic failure, I maintain communication with my fellow professors. Some are in my same boat as adjuncts; others are tenured, soon-to-be tenured, and/or on sabbatical enjoying the fruits of a life-long career in higher education. As competitive as this industry is, you still find people willing to talk to one another, and I am in such a department. Many of these coffee dates, I was able to talk shop with people who knew what I was going through.
I’m sitting here right now having just returned from such a morning. One of my colleagues happened to be interested in the same TV show that I watch religiously. Not to bore you with scholarly research talk, but we saw all kind of parallels with different theories. Lots of fodder for journal articles and edited books. It was one of those conversations where we’re almost interrupting each other the entire time because the ideas are rushing in like a waterfall. And that’s how I began to recall something important.
See, it was never about the job. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t. It was about writing. It was about sharing ideas with people who want to do the same. I see all these fascinating narratives and rhetorical themes in the media—specifically around gender identity and politics—and I want to discuss them. I remember in grad school thinking, Wait. I can make a living learning and writing? How perfect is that for me? I’d finally found a place where questions and questioning wasn’t shunned or made me a bad person. I could spend my days exploring.
Now, of course, I know that there’s more to it than that. Every job has its BS element. University politics can be the worst of the worst. I’m living it right now as a runt of the lowest order in the caste system. Be that as it may, when I look up, I still see glimmer of my dream. I see the possibility. And I remember why I started.
Hopefully, that’s enough to keep me going. We’ll see.