Tension physical pain headache fatigue sorrow regret anger nostalgia depression desire claustrophobia frustration oppression … these were some of my feelings last night and this morning.
Then there is this:
When I was teaching — especially at the University of Oregon and the University of Texas — my experience was always defined by limits. How many copies I could make; how much space I could take up in the shared grad student office; how little money I had for research. That’s not a problem inherent to the engaged and in-depth study of a discipline; rather, it’s born of the fundamental insecurities of academia as a contemporary institution.
Humanities academia is defined by lack and thus by its fraternal twin, desire: for jobs, sure, but also for systemic change, for less exploitative treatment of graduate students, for a staunching of the gradual adjunctification of the workforce. Operating in an atmosphere increasingly defined by limits and fear, it was no surprise that the atmosphere often felt toxic, competitive, and imbued with paranoia.
I had wonderful and supportive academic friends. But so much of what we talked about was undergirded with anger and despair. It was so difficult to keep ourselves buoyed by hope and altruism when the walls seemed to be falling down around us.
I taught at Oregon and did not find 10,000 photocopies a quarter stingy. Especially coming form Louisiana where we got none. But I understand the larger point. Limits and fear, anger and despair, the walls falling down around us. Also: looking in through the glass like the little match girl, at the people who get to do the jobs we, too, trained for — and who are the ones who say we betray the field when we say we can imagine a research job in another one.
They think we should be willing to suffer anything just for the sake of staying in field, and at the same time they say research is first; they do not allow anyone to leave the field because of also feeling that research is first.
Trying to be grateful for the porridge that is Spanish 4 when it was what one went on after the M.A. not to have to do again, and in fact never had to do again even in graduate school. One would rather have done something else, and has not found it is possible to become a major scholar when one’s days are filled with Spanish 4: although it is not as bad as one fears, at least not in those semesters in which one has a “smart” classroom and the students say it is so very much better than Spanish 1, 2, and 3.
I went to a dissertation defense yesterday and met with my research student, and they were good events and good things to do but they threw into relief the life I actually want and have to turn my face from. When I am able to resign myself to language teaching and recreational art I stay content enough, I am glad not to be homeless for example, but when I catch glimpses of the things I wanted I feel sad.