Two weeks ago I had the pleasure to go to Pittsburgh and hang out with two friends who I met while in the contingent faculty trenches. Like front veterans we traded war stories over beers and remembered some of the more ridiculous indignities we've suffered. At some point I asked my buddies, who are both regular readers of this blog, which kinds of posts they like best, since I've been unsure of which direction to go in recently. Both of them told me that while my three foci have been politics, music, and academia, it might be time to give writing about academia a rest.
I've long thought the same thing, except that whenever I write my screeds about academia, they tend to get the most traffic. They've also been very satisfying, a kind of exorcism of the bitterness and hate left over from my experience in higher ed. However, I think my friends are right. I am more than two years removed from that world, and am fast losing touch with it. My life has gone on, and it has gone on in a much better direction than I could have possibly imagined.
I've known this over the last two years, but it was so hard to let go of the rage. My absolute blinding anger over what I was put through has faded a bit, but I still feel a knot in the pit of my stomach over my dear friends who are still being wronged by what must be the most hypocritical and exploitative profession in America today.
Those feelings haven't gone away, but there are other people out there still in the trenches who are closer to the action and better suited to sound the alarm about academia's complete and utter moral bankruptcy. I also know in my heart of hearts that as angry and aggrieved as I have been at my treatment, that I just can't see myself having taken another path in life as a young person. I met the best people I've ever known along the way, expanded my mind, and rubbed shoulders with some truly fantastic scholars, my advisor included.
Then again, now that I am buying a house I sometimes think about how much easier it would be to pay for it had I not squandered my 20s in the academic monastery. After bitterly contemplating this fact, I also tell myself that what I experienced was priceless. My rational mind replies by telling me that thought could just be a load of bullshit, and maybe it is. But it's what I've had to tell myself so as not to get swamped by regret, and it helps me better appreciate what I have now. Anger and bitterness weigh down the soul, and if I am going to be a good teacher, husband, and father, it's time to stop rueing the slings and arrows of my academic past, and just let it slide into oblivion. That chapter of my life is over and done, and I'd prefer to let its pages get a little dusty.