Monday, February 20, 2006

extistential academia

Recently I have been having a sort of academic existential crisis. You know...Why am I here? What does this all mean? Etc, etc, etc.

I spent many years trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and waiting to go back to school until I felt confident about what I would be doing. Unfortunately, that actual process of returning to school has been somewhat destabilizing to my identity. Since I am in an academic program and not a professional program, all things are focused on the academic world. I am, unfortunately, very susceptible to peer pressure and have begun internalizing many of the values of academia. I find myself concerned with the importance of defining myself within a discipline. I'm worried that I'm spending too much time and effort teaching and not enough time on my research. Hot topics such as global migrations or GIS are beginning to seem appealing.

After reading way too many blogs by aspiring academics, all my thoughts seem to return, again and again, to how I can position myself to land myself a tenure track position. I haven't begun my research and I have already lost sight of what I'm doing and why.

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing in grad school. I seem to spend all of my time reading what other people want me to read, writing what other people want me to write, and teaching what other people want me to teach. Maybe I'm just overly naive but I'm wondering when does academic freedom come in? How can I have any freedom when I have to jump through so many hoops in order to get that freedom?

I'm also concerned because I doubt, in general, the validity and importance of much research being done. I read lots and lots of boring bullshit. Sorry, this post is extra self centered. Blogging is always narcissistic, but today it seems especially so.


Chaser said...

Hmmmm. This sounds like one of those moments where rest might give some clarity either way. But...good luck.

Leslie M-B said...

I think for many of us grad school is all about wondering why we're in grad school. I'm almost finished and I'm still not quite sure I know the answer. But it has something to do with taking a vow of relative poverty in exchange for being able to do intellectual work in a culture that doesn't tend to value this work. Since you are taking this very vow, you might as well do something you really enjoy. I mean, why study something you're not crazy about just to get a tenure-track job teaching something you're not crazy about? That's silly! Let's talk... Hugs to you!