I’m four years into my new career.
Or my old career if you consider that my undergraduate degree was in teaching and one of my professional jobs out of college was teaching. Middle school at that.
But I diverged for several years, pursuing my writing career and all of that. Until 2006. When I began teaching college full time.
It’s hard to fathom that much time slipping by without noticing, but as we go sliding into the end of yet another year, I can’t help but count backwards.
Evaluate where I’m at and where I’m heading.
The reality is that I’m not sure I fit into the particularistic mold of academia. I’m certainly not classically trained in the writing styles and presentation styles of those around me. I feel, quite often, like a fish out of water.
And I have to continually ask myself a few questions regarding this, parsing through the feelings to determine whether I’m simply unwilling to learn these styles or I’d rather spend my time perfecting my own writing. Because if I am going to stay in the academy, it’s unlikely the entire university system will bend around my desires to write.
This particular decision has been percolating in my head for the past month as papers have piled up on my desk, administrative duties have piled up on my desk, conference deadlines have piled up and a host of other particularistic duties have surrounded me.
Meanwhile, the final stages of my books sit untouched. My research sits unboxed. The work that I so desperately want to do goes un-done because I run from deadline to deadline. Unable to get ahead of the workload.
It’s a slow death, really. One that, if not checked, can lead me down a path I am not sure I’m ready to go on. I still have things to write and if I’m not careful, those times will slip away for good.
These views are best expressed by David Foster Wallace during his interview with Charlie Rose. (His portion starts around the 25 minute section.)
I would point you to a specific part to illustrate the point, but really it’s the entire interview. It’s the experience of Wallace as much as the words.
“Because everybody talks about it.”
I’ve promised myself two things this summer: this would be my last great travel summer for some time and this would be the summer I would figure out what is next.
I’ve simply got too many projects going on to continually leave for 3 months at a time, traveling around and creating more projects that never seem to get finished. My mind is coming unglued with all of this. I can’t handle the fractured stresses anymore.
And I need to figure out where to devote my energies. I need to figure out if understanding this world in the academy is what is next for me. Or if I need to de-construct my life, go very simple and pursue the writing in unknown places.