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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.