Someone is President of an organization called Restore Louisiana Now and I am envious — that is the kind of job I want. I think of my law degree and work on globalization and prison industrial complex, or my Near Eastern Studies degree and the active job I would have found in a large, international organization, and the tension flows away. My headache eases, and my claustrophobia, and my general uneasiness. I do not have to goad my mind into focus.
I had motivation for graduate school because it was supporting an interesting life in a beautiful place, and it gave me an opportunity to heal myself. But professordom means renouncing beautiful places and interesting things, and engaging in self-harm.
Dame Eleanor Hull says I am describing the jobs I have had, not the profession. That is what I used to say to a perceptive, nonacademic friend who would watch me work and say I should quit because I did not like it, and I had talents I could use for many things.
I disagree with Dame Eleanor Hull now and agree with my other friend, but it is late. I was animating one of my also suffering colleagues the other night, about how we have to simply take over and do things in a pleasant and responsible way whether the university likes it or not. A friend of mine was animating me along the same lines.
We will decide we are right. We will take no discussion, and do as we see fit. I have never done that in an academic job before. I have always tried to fit in, tried to become less interesting and less challenging so I could survive. And I wish I had left as soon as I found out what academia really was, but I have determined it is too late. And we have been rendered unemployable elsewhere by working here too long.
But we will become ourselves again nonetheless, and we will take over even if this only means taking the kind of control over our jobs that professors have elsewhere as a matter of course.
And when I could afford to think more clearly, and I heard people say things like what I am saying now, I would think: “The fact that they have to try so hard to get themselves going is actually indicative of a serious problem.” I still think so, although the serious problem is how we have been treated and what that has done to us more than it is a question of where our interests lie.