Periodically I have a flash of insight on why the students say I am not like the other professors, why I only seem to feel kinship with a minority of them, and why standard academic advice seems not to speak to me (and even feels like a violation). These things are interrelated; here are some hypotheses from today.
They: had choices of what to do; felt called to teaching and committed to a particular field, followed the call.
Result: they discounted other viable choices at the outset; they felt a call; the twin commitment to teaching and to a particular field makes the instructions to “go anywhere; practice your craft at any level” viable. But there may not be work in their field and if not, it is a tragedy.
I: did not see a viable choice, but did see graduate school as a good option; was interested in a research career at a large institution. Chose, of the fields that interested me, one of those that was expanding, so there would be work.
Result: saw other viable choices later, not before; if “called,” was called to one of those options, not to the academic one; am only interested in my field and in teaching it, really, if I can do so at a fairly high level. There is always work in my field but if there were not, it would not be a tragedy.
The difference: I would have changed fields to be at the right kind of institution. They would go to any institution, with any focus, for the sake of staying in field.
I am not sure about this hypothesis, but it is what I have for now.