On Advice

I do not want yet more discipline, I want to fall apart and sleep for a long time. Then, I want to work on my new life, not grind away at the old one on the theory that if I just motivate myself in the right way everything will be all right.

Unfortunately I really do experience my current life as punishment of me for having gotten a PhD. I did that against the family’s wishes and it hurt them a lot. I could not cause them further pain, and I came here so as not to upset them more than I had already. This is a hard place to work but it is more difficult for me because I feel incarcerated. So I have extra difficulty, and it is hard to treat myself decently.

*

I want to become a grownup, not a cringing child. I have wanted to become a grownup for as long as I remember. But I was only grown up in college and graduate school, and then for two years in my second assistant professorship, before I entered Reeducation. Otherwise I have simply been in a state of punishment — you see! we told you not to do this! and, who are you to think you can change or escape? what makes you think there are other things, that there is anything, you might enjoy or deserve to enjoy? there now, just take it and be brave!  This is the kind of psychic space I live in, and that want to leave.

I do not know that I can leave it without leaving academia entirely. I would have to be at a much higher level job to leave this kind of atmosphere, and I have kind of cooked my goose on that possibility. Still, I disagree with this advice, although I know it is technically true. I do not relate at all to the “fear of the blank page” that seems to be the problem so many professors have. Fear of teaching I have, and fear of destructive colleagues, but in the research world I feel completely animated and safe.

I definitely do know that publications are the only safety there is, and so on, and so forth. I have been hearing exhortations about this since learning to speak, and in fact one of the first words I remember learning was “publish.” I wrote serious research papers from sixth grade on, through graduate school and part of two assistant professordoms. And then I largely stopped, because I wanted to know what else one could do in life.

*

People do not understand this but I am serious about other kinds of projects. I feel guilty about it, and sorry about it, as I know it disappoints their view of who I should be. If academic jobs had not turned out to be such abusive environments for me, perhaps I would not have made research a secondary concern, and I really am interested in my projects.

I just find that others are doing projects similar enough to mine that I am not strictly needed, need not give up my life for the sake of these projects which, interesting though they may be, given my depression living as I do, I may not have the strength to accomplish.

That is why I find motivational literature so destructive. I am already motivated — just for the wrong things. I am motivated to do sinful things, things not involving arts and humanities, things involving the social sciences. Crass, “applied” work involving business, government, law.

*

As I keep saying, my favorite form of recreation is learning foreign languages. Esoteric literary research was something I learned to do as an offshoot of that, and that I would be happy with as a day job if it meant making enough to live on and living somewhere I liked. But I have much larger projects and I want another kind of life, and this is the problem I have.

I feel terrible about leaving the projects I have developed for here, especially given that I renounced my other plans on the idea that I owed it to this profession to complete my interesting projects. But there was someone else from my graduate program who left this university, and the profession, after the first year.

It was what I had wanted to do as well, although I did not have the economic situation or the confidence she had. But I remember that she had all her counterarguments to people who wanted her to stay, very well lined up. “Nothing I could write, no matter how good, could justify my spending the only life I have, here,” she said.

*

And I do not know whether anything I have said is true. But it is a fact that academic work was once my space of freedom. When it became a space of abuse, I was traumatized, and when Reeducation said I had no right to be an intellectual, I was traumatized further. This is why I am so damaged and overburdened, and why the idea that it is a mere question of time management is so oppressive to me.

I am not saying this is not good advice, though, or that I will not take it. I am noticing how much kinder it is than any advice I have given myself since Reeducation — trying to say, for instance, that leaving town was a luxury I could live without.

Axé.


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