On Fear

Phew! I was really sweating bullets for a while last week after an old grad school chum encouraged me to apply for a full-time job at Local Community College, where apparently I might even be hired! (Or not.) At the mere suggestion that I might take this path, a pervasive sense of doom descended upon me and seriously screwed with my powers of logic and rationality.

Thank goodness for the post-academic bloggers who set me straight. JC, of From Grad School to Happiness, was basically all, “didn’t you just post something the other day about going with your gut? HMMMM?”

To which I must respond, sheepishly: Yes, yes I did.

Then, Recent PhD, of After Academe, reminded me that an academic job is just a job like any other. True! It’s just a J.O.B, yo! It’s not a life calling or any of that crap.

Finally, Anthea, of The Hour of the Bewilderness, concurred that leaving academia is not easy. Exactly. And I shouldn’t expect it to be.

So why did I consider the Community College route?

First, I wondered if God was speaking to me about my Purpose in Life. Ha. Then I remembered that there is no God, so God couldn’t be talking to me.

Instead, the reason for my sense of doom is much, much simpler and does not require a belief in a larger force in the universe. The reason is that I DO NOT WANT A JOB AT A COMMUNITY COLLEGE WHERE I WOULD HAVE TO TEACH A HUGE AMOUNT AND THEN STILL DO RESEARCH IN MY FIELD SOMEHOW BECAUSE I DO NOT WANT TO DO ANY OF THAT.

The whole thing got me thinking about fear and how very powerful it is. I have to admit that I am afraid of making the wrong choice. Mostly, I wonder if I can really afford to not apply for every job in the world. I’m afraid the income that I get for my part-time, PR gig will run out before I get a full-time position and then I will be poor. Like maybe someone will find me in a gutter in ten years and I’ll be talking some gibberish about how “I got a PhD in English one time!” And whoever finds me in the gutter will say, “yeah, sure you did, honey,” right before they check me into the nearest mental institution.

I think it’s a gender thing. You know, every woman’s fear of becoming a bag lady and all of that.

Fear is very real. It’s a visceral experience. And you can’t really escape it completely.

That’s why I decided to use fear to right myself. I sat down, closed my eyes, and imagined myself at Local Community College on the first day of my new job. I pictured myself getting ready to go to my first class with a stack of syllabi in my hand still warm from the copier.

I’d probably be wearing new shoes.

I imagined walking down the hall and into that first class. What would it feel like? Would I be full of happy anticipation? Would I think to myself, “this is going to be tough, but I am so glad I’m here”?

No. What I feel is basically the opposite of that.

In my imagination, when I walk into that classroom, the doom descends again. My heart sinks a little bit, and I approach my students thinking to myself, “this is wrong. This is all wrong.”

But at that point, I wouldn’t have a choice like I do now. The students would be there, waiting and deserving to be taught by someone who wants to be there teaching them. I’d have no option but to begin.

In the end, that beginning is far scarier than the one where I never end up in front of those students in the first place.








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One Response to On Fear

  1. JC says:

    Haha…I wasn’t trying to tell you not to do it if you really wanted to!!! 🙂

    But I agree with you … every time I start contemplating getting my foot back in the door of academia in some small way, and maybe I should, because obviously I’ll never find a job as meaningful and wonderful as academia…….I just have to take a minute and think about it. And then I remember that (as you say ) I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE.

    I mean, really, that’s what it comes down to. As recentPhd says (and I’ve tried to say at my place as well), academia’s just a job like any other. If you don’t want to do the job anymore, go find something else to do.

    The level to which we revere academia as if it’s the one true calling out there is a little ridiculous. We really shouldn’t have to resort to mental exercises to tell us that *it’s okay to not take a job that you don’t want.* You know?? But I have to do it too.

    Pardon my language, but academia is such a mindfuck.

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