How it Began

After I graduated from college, I moved back in with my mom for awhile.  She lives in a small town, quite unlike the city where we spent much of our adolescence.  I lived there for two years, and mostly hated it.   It didn’t have a bookstore or a real coffee shop and my sister and I used to drive 45 minutes for Indian food.  I worked 2 jobs and liked them both well enough.  But I felt I was destined for something else. Eventually the siren call of academia lured me away from small town to the university for fame and fortune.  AHAHAHAHAHA.  Ahem.  Anyway.

Now I look back at both of those jobs, and think about how I could have spun a solid, worthwhile job out of either of them.  I’m a little astonished at how blind I was to those early opportunities.  I remember inwardly scoffing when, at a meeting with one of my bosses, ze suggested the value of my job as a future career.  But neither job related to my “major” or to “intellectual pursuits.”  And I persisted in thinking that I was “too smart” for that kind of career. The combined falsity and pretentiousness of that belief still blows me away.

So I left for the Ivory Tower.

I went out of some pompous deep-seated belief that I was too smart to do anything other than academia.  I think I stayed because I didn’t know what else to do.  That and continuing to believe that I should be a professor, a goal based on some vague idea that I liked to teach conflated with a complete lack of knowledge about the realities of work in academia.

I have moments of regretting not staying in either of those jobs.  It would certainly have been more cost-effective to start my career at the age of 23 or 24.  I might have earned raises and promotions and developed a real career.  But I really do believe that had I stayed there, I certainly would have been haunted by the belief that I had missed my calling.  I think that I would have been plagued by some seductive vision of myself as a teacher at some idyllic liberal arts school, imparting wisdom upon my bright-eyed and attentive students.  I think that dream would have made me vaguely dissatisfied my entire life, and would have prevented any full-fledged commitment or joy in any career I could have developed.

If it took going to grad school to cure me of that alluring lie, so be it.  It cured me of my pretention too.  Had I stayed, I would have remained a pompous, dissatisfied melancholic convinced I was working in a job beneath my talents.  Grad school taught me that the life I had imagined had become virtually non-existent, and that I wasn’t nearly as special as I thought.  Eventually my profound dissatisfaction with academia would open up all sorts of new doors to me.  But it took the complete destruction of my ego, coupled with a realization of academia’s broken promise, to make me look for those doors at all.


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