Getting Out of Line and Liking It

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I started this blog as a way to start carving out an identity that moved beyond the academic one I’ve been living with for the past few years.  I’ve always felt more like a dilettante than an expert, and so I thought I’d start embracing not being defined as an expert.  Doing this has been difficult for me for many reasons. For one, academic training would have you believe that people are born to pick one damn Thing You Know Better Than Anyone and live accordingly. Well, I avoided that for about as long as I could, as I moved through English studies being someone who tried focusing on writing poetry, non-fiction, to studying Mary Shelley and feminist theory, eventually landing on rhetoric and composition. And then I got a job that required me to teach linguistics, so I learned that too. And it’s been amazing! I wouldn’t change a thing EXCEPT for feeling bad about not being able to settle on one thing.  You might think academia supports people like me who want to pursue different subjects and then teach people about them–and you’d be right and wrong to think that. Don’t worry: you won’t read any anti-academy screeds here. There’s plenty of that out there, much of it very thoughtful and spot-on.  I’ve got a lot to say about the state of higher ed, much of it informed by the work of Cathy Davidson and Tony Wagner, but I’ll save that for another post.  There are many amazing thinkers, writers, and all-around world-changers doing great things in this “biz”. And the truth is that academia is just that–a business that needs people to get in line, especially if you’re a tenure-track professor, which is what I’ve been doing for the last three years. So, I’ve decided that I want to get “out of line”–which is where I’ve always been anyway–and follow the example of folks who’ve used academia as point of departure to do other things on their own terms. I’m giving up what might have been a lifelong guaranteed gig because the thought of not doing it scares the crap out of me. I’m giving it up–and others are too— so I can keep not being an expert and liking it.