6.12.2007

Existential Pickle. That's What I Said.

I had one of those nights last night. A few random events coincided and left me in something of an existential pickle:

First, following the advice of this lady and this guy, I signed up to a few relevant H-Net categories so that I'd be helpfully spammed by groups of humanities scholars. 24 hours later, I was e-mailed by a French professor (from France) asking about my interests, in French. I am still reeling with intimidation and I have to get around to replying in my god-awful written French, probably tonight.

Second, an old friend from UO wrote to update a few of us on his comings and goings. There was nothing surprising: he's doing great, passed his QE's with flying colors, and is off to Europe to research. Reading his message, however, reminded me of everything I haven't done in my would-be academic career: been to a proper conference in my field, published anything, made any substantive connections with well-known scholars, done a damn bit of my own archival research. I feel like I'm perpetually spinning my wheels, reading books, writing reaction papers, and writing stuff on the same shit I've been doing since I was a senior in college.

In the end, I'm forced to confront the fact that I feel like I'm completely lacking the ineffable combination of drive, background, and luck that needs to coalesce to spawn a succesful academic career. This has nothing to do with so-called "intelligence" or writing ability or anything like that. I feel old to be doing this at 28 and I feel behind on jumping through most of the hoops. I know I'll pass my QEs next year, it's almost certain that I'll eventually get my PHD, but there's a snowball's chance in hell I'll get a proper academic job after that. That's ok with me on some level, since I'm pretty ambivalent about the long-term thing anyway, but it's still hard to come to terms with. I feel like I wish I'd done more as an undergrad all those years ago to prepare myself for what I'm doing now. What it comes down to is that this will all have been a long, weird trip to take to not end up a proper academic.

(The above is to be read as a position statement, not self-pity. I feel better for having thought through everything.)

(Anyone else watch the first two episodes of Hell's Kitchen this season? I'm all about Rock winning in the end. And I can't wait for Vinnie and Josh to be kicked off: they're assholes)

15 comments:

Chrissy said...

Dude, when comparing yourself to others, think about that crazy rambling guy on the bus that smells like piss, then tell yourself "at least Im not that guy".

This season of Hells Kitchen = awesome! Whats up with the guy that cant stop crying and passing out? Also, I loved it when chef Ramsey said "I've never seen an asian cowboy"
Ha! Yes!

kungfuramone said...

Yeah, my bitching is very, uh, localized and specific. I don't feel like a bad person, just a fairly bad wannabe academic. I am super stoked not to smell like piss.

I would think the passing-out guy on Hell's Kitchen is so pathetic he's funny except that it's kind of uncomfortable to watch him cry and fall over all the time. It's going to be brutal watching him until he gets kicked off...

And it reminds me of a Ween song:

"Like a Japanese cowboy...
or a brother on skates..."

quixote said...

Wow, usually that's the reaction I have when I compare myself to you, so I had to stop. You're being way harder on yourself than you need to be, said the pot, calling the kettle black. From what I've heard, most people do archival research for their disserations in the year after they pass their QE's. You're doing fine.

That's not to invalidate your frustration, just to let you know that from an outside perspective, it looks like you are KICKING ACADEMIC ASS.

quixote said...

Also, more importantly, baby otters: http://mfrost.typepad.com/cute_overload/images/2007/06/11/monterey_otts.jpg

kungfuramone said...

Oh holy hell is that adorable...

Man do I love baby otters.

The Goat said...

Try being thirty-three and still loudly resisting the very system that you are a part of. Make that thirty-four in a few months. Plus the no conference and no publishing thing. Yet, Alex Day gives me hope.

kungfuramone said...

Yeah, my man Alex Day, he doesn't give a SHIT (he's like a scruffy white academic Shaft of sorts.)

Elizabeth said...

So just remember, Alex is going to be making 53, 000 dollars a year next year (he got drunk at the end of year luncheon and told us when another fine drunk friend asked him what he'd be making). You are doing fine. If you really want to dig in boxes you'll be doing so soon and if not, you'll be making cool connections between all the published stuff you work with and in the meantime you are n'er without ideas, enthusiasm or cogent comments. I think your feeling of slumpiness is just the last shouts before you turn over a new leaf or a new leaf turns you. Something is going to gel. Or something like that. I need to sleep. I can't decide on a metaphor. I promise no county fair goldfish for your situation.

The Hamster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Hamster said...

I turfed my last comment because it didn't make any sense. Nothing makes sense at the end of the quater.

Anyway, here is the second shot at what I wrote before. I agree with Sister Act: I don't think that Alex is the person we should be making feel good comparisons with. How can comparing yourself with a charming, well-liked person who has 4 publications (one of them recently translated in Italian), taught a couple of classes, run a few conferences, has hundreds of contacts and a Fulbright under his belt make you feel better about yourself? It doesn't help me out.

The Hamster said...

God! That last post was hideous. It was like I was speaking in tongues.

kungfuramone said...

Yeah, I'm nowhere near the Alex league. This is obvious. Perhaps J's point was that Alex is an accessibly intelligent, goofy guy, similar in many ways to the rest of us, just much more experienced and successful.

So: we all want to be Alex when we grow up.

Becky said...

mmm... pickles.

The Hamster said...

I'm not sure what that last comment was about, but it made me laugh. See you in late September. I'll make sure that I bring you two something nice. I was thinking about something like some his and hers fertility candies. What do you think? No? Or maybe I just bring you back a shirt with a ninja on it.

kungfuramone said...

Ninja shirt please.