Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Down Side of Breaking the Wall of Academic Shame

Around the time I was leaving my old tenure-track job, I conceptualized what I called the "wall of academic shame."  It was my way of coming to grips with the feelings of inadequacy and failure that overwhelmed me at the time.  The fact that I had not succeeded in my quest, an endeavor that lasted from the young age of 23 to the early middle-age of 35 and which had cost me my youth and years of earning power, persistently dogged me with shame.

Finally, two years later, I feel as if I have broken that wall to pieces and stomped its bricks into dust.  I have absolutely no desire to go back to academia, and I feel pride, rather than shame, at having escaped a horrible situation for a much better job and life.  Strangely enough, I have begun to see a down side of this life-affirming moment.  Whenever I contemplate the academic profession, rather than shame I feel a burning, bitter rage whose hate-filled power I can barely control.  I think academic writing is jargon-loaded sophistry and cant, professors insufferable bullshit artists, and academia itself to be ruled by confidence men and women who use blatant self promotion to turn their mediocre research into a major meal ticket.  Now that I am a teacher and surrounded by people dedicated to their craft, I feel absolute disgust with how so many in the academic world treat teaching as an inconvenience getting in the way of writing a monograph that nobody will read or care about.  Never mind that many of their students fought hard to be the first people in their families to go to college, the world must know about print culture in 18th century Leipzig!

The thought of it all fills me with hatred and revulsion.  These feelings are extremely visceral, and actually scare me, since I tend not to be like this.  These feelings are me turning the tables, rejecting a profession that made me feel such shame and worthlessness for abandoning it.  It's been helpful to unleash such anger and rage, and it has made me feel like it was academia, not me that was worthy of rejection all along.  All the same, I worry about the effect this is having on me, and on relationships I have with people I hold dear.  I will be attending the wedding of a friend this summer who has managed to land a good tenure track gig in the state where he grew up, and I am little afraid at the torrent of bitterness that might pour forth from my mouth once I get a few drinks in me.

Hopefully this anger is just one stage in the process of mourning my dead dream until I reach total acceptance.  Any other post-acs out there with similar feelings, or advice on how to handle them?

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