At times I think it's sheer momentum. There are times when I think half the reason I am still here is what I've always considered a sorry excuse: because I already have so much invested. It's like the current U.S. administration's excuse for continuing headstrong on one failed policy after another.
Am I as guilty as they?
Maybe it's pure selfishness. I'm shocked by the headlines in my news feeds. More bombings every day. Now dozens die in Iran from earthquakes. Tsunamis and Hurricanes.
In the face of that, what's it matter if little ole me is a professor or not? Who cares? Does my plight have any impact on the suffering in the world?
But at the moment, I'm too invested, or too afraid of considering any real alternative. I can't exactly pack up, abandon my family and head to Indonesia for the Peace Corps. To be fair, there are times (often enough) when I believe I have much to contribute in academia, when I know in my heart that I am a good teacher (my student evals, albethey yellowing from age at this point, attest to that), when I'm excited by research, and convinced that my efforts will ease us closer to some hidden domain of knowledge. There are times when I believe, as my Jewish heritage teaches me, that this too, a life dedicated to knowledge, perhaps even above all else, is worthy.
I miss the stage: the applause, yes; but the faces too. I miss looking into the faces in the audience, speaking directly to them, seeing their tears or fears. That's meaningful! That's doing something I can be proud of.
That's the point. We can (I have, I know) justify our lives in myriad ways. It is possible to find value and worth in waiting tables, or gardening, even in changing a diaper. It's just... I'm not sure I can, anymore. I want to be a professor. Damn it, I want that!
Just now I feel embarassed and ashamed. I'm a mere statistic: an unemployed PhD.
Ah. Tomorrow's another day.