Big League Academia

New WriterTwo months into my first year of graduate school, I think I’ve finally started to settle in. The workload is not beyond my management (I somehow function better with less sleep), the faculty are just as thoughtful and thought-provoking, and my descent deeper into the cult of academia is going smoothly; soon, I’m told, I’ll be a card-carrying postmodernist. The support my writing receives is frequent, and the possibility of a writing career is even starting to take shape.

For example, this past week I had the opportunity to meet with two agents and two editors, to have them critique a section of my novel-in-progress and discuss the publishing industry. They told me what they liked about the short section, offered insights, made revision suggestions, and allowed me to see the project in grander terms. I learned that when I eventually get an agent and editor, publishing becomes a collaborative effort, a group project. They offered to stay in contact when I have a polished draft. Suddenly, the fantasy of publication no longer feels so impossible.

Is this it? Is this the next step for my writing? Or is this just the next phase in my hike up the ranks into academia? I ask myself this question because I’m surrounded by people who have it figured out already. I’m surrounded by serious academics, doctoral students devoting years to studying, students fulfilling long-term plans. Many of them took a break after college to figure out the rest of their lives, get married, travel, go on adventures, experience things they can then write about. And here I am, fresh out of my undergraduate career.

Am I here because I want to be a writer, or because I want to be an academic? I feel like a kid who doesn’t yet know what he wants to be when he grows up, and time is running out. Do I teach? Get a PhD? Another MA? An MFA? Is there life after publication? Or should I let my ambitions dictate my future? Tired of studying tragedy but never taking that study out of the classroom, I still want to join a charity, volunteer in a hospital in Palestine or Afghanistan or Jordan, or work on an organic farm in Chile or Brazil. I want to see the world, because I know if I stay in the confines of an English Department, I’ll run out of things to write about.

I’m still just a kid, academically speaking, and I’m surrounded by intellectual adults. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked about my PhD, as if that’s the only end in sight, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve silently shrugged and changed the subject. I only have until next fall to figure it out, though. Do I become a career academic? Teach? Work? Let me know in the comments your own thoughts or plans.

-jk

2 thoughts on “Big League Academia

  1. Annamarie Carlson

    I relate to this on a level I imagine only a recent graduate could. For my job here in Japan it is already time for us to discuss recontracting for next year, so the question of “What are you doing after JET?” is constantly hanging over me. Do I want to pursue writing? Do I want to teach? Do I want to move to a new country every two years and just see what happens? I feel like I’m staring at a dart board of futures and I just need to close my eyes and throw the dart because I have no idea what is the better path. I think what is most difficult is that there isn’t a correct answer. All of the options are good choices, it just comes down to which one we choose.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. keeneshort Post author

      I like the dartboard imagery a lot, because certainly chance plays a much bigger role in this than many, myself included, would like to admit. I’m sure whatever option I pick will work out, or else I’ll find a way to make it work out. But still, making that choice when I so many options can be overwhelming! Thank you! I hope you’ve had a splendid time so far in Japan, and I’ve enjoyed following your adventures!

      Liked by 1 person

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