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Thursday, April 12, 2012

On Academic Failure

Academia is a cut-throat world. It demands the academic not only to dream up new insights in fields picked over by scholars much more intelligent and experienced, but also to keep on top of the insights of others on a daily basis. It demands that the academic practice foreign and ancient languages, not as part of course work, but simply as preparation for coursework. And it demands that the academic had already prepared his/her language and critical thinking skills from very early on in his/her academic endeavor. It's a life-long process best begun in youth. Not everyone has ample time, privilege, or energy to develop these skills, and that fact can ultimately lead to academic failure, even and especially after a long road of academic success. Some academics succeed through college and MA programs, only to hit a brick wall with PhD applications. I had hoped and prayed that I would not fall into that category, but I did, two years in a row. It hurts to devote one's life to an academic subject only to be rejected by that subject. And now, it appears as if I must 'reevaluate my life goals,' a consequence much more frightening than the rejection itself. I don't know what to do, and I don't want to do anything else. I love the academic world, even though it's stressful, even though it's uncertain, even though it doesn't yield much financial prospect. It's a world of constant learning, of the exchange of grand ideas both ancient and new, a guild of experts who live off education. I want desperately to be part of that world. I once was, and I miss it.
Since June 2011, I've been out of school. I've stayed close to the University of Chicago, residing in Hyde Park, participating in classes, that is, until recently. I've finally landed a day job after half a year of unemployment. I pour coffee. I never thought that I'd be working in service again. It's ok. I've met great friends at work, the coffee is top-notch, and I now have a steady paycheck, but I miss academia so much. I'm still reading when I can, both for leisure and to keep up on Greek and German. But at this point, I'm worried that I'll never get back into the field. It's very disheartening. There's no advice that anyone can give that isn't hard to accept. What do I do? I'll try again next year perhaps. Until then, there's job prospects. I'm done talking.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dostoevsky's words to live by...

"And with love one live even without happiness. Life is good even in sorrow, it's good to live in the world, no matter how." As a jaded son of a bitch, these words speak even to me. I want to believe them, and I think I do, especially the next part: "And what is there here except...stench. Phew!" So many times, everyday when I'm not so busied, do I ask myself if it's all worth it, and what does it mean for it to be worth it, or not worth it. Would it have been better for me to never be at all? I don't know. Magic 8-ball says signs point to yes. But inside me there's always been .099th% of doubt--doubt about everything, about my existence, about God, about everything--this time a healthy, life-saving doubt, the doubt that keeps one going, the doubt that says "you're wrong in the most wonderful way. You're wrong about the stench. You're wrong about it all being shit." Well, it is shit, but there's a gem of joy underneath all the shit. I don't know where it is. I don't know for sure that it's there. That's another doubt. But I can't be sure that it's all for nothing and that the nothing is not worth fighting for. Maybe, somehow, it really is better to live in the world. I don't know how. I don't know it's not. Maybe the not knowing is the is.