Monday, September 11, 2006

Not fading away

Lately, I've been giving thought to the issue of fading away. Let me tell you a little story. There once was a woman. Let's call her Susanna Parafin. She was a pioneer in my true though as of yet mostly unrecognized subdiscipline (the focus of the Society for Innovative Interdisciplinarity), which properly is an interdiscipline, attracting a collection of scholars from a variety of fields. She published several pathbreaking articles, and one monograph in the late 1980s, which remain quoted to this day. But then... she faded away. By the time I entered the field, in the late 1990s, she was nowhere to be found, though some of her colleagues and co-authors still remain.

What happened to her, I wonder. My guess is she simply failed to get a tenure-track job, then passed from the field, to be remembered only for her early contributions. Did she lose interest in the field? Was she simply too discouraged? Perhaps I'll never know. There was potential there, great potential, that at least from the vantage I sit on, was wasted. I can't say for sure. Maybe her true passion was culinary art or architecture. Perhaps she's made her own mark in those realms, leaving no trace to the modern internet search savvy. But I wonder if it wasn't something altogether more mundane, something closer to home, something sad.

I don't wish to fade away, to drop off my chosen path, to take up a career in advertising or real estate. Many others have. It's not that I couldn't. It's simply that I don't want to. I'm discouraged, to be sure, frustrated at my so far unrequited efforts to gain a standing in academia that matches my expectations, my hopes, my dreams. I spent a good long time thinking about what drives me, before I returned for the PhD, which showed itself on my shirtsleeves so to speak.

Years ago, after having finished my Master's degree, wondering where it might lead me, what path I should tread, my wife listened patiently to my contemplations, my endless sifting through of possibilities. Perhaps I'll go back to gardening (a sole-proprietor landscaping business paid my way through the undergraduate years), or seek a manager position at a bookstore or a restaurant (both work I had done before).

No, she declared, that's not what keeps you up at nights. That's not what fires your passions, that brings a glint to your eyes. Your heart beats faster, and your face shines and sparkles when you tell me about [Field 1] and [Field 2]. Follow your passions. That's who you are.

She was right. I knew it then, and I believe it still today. I know who I am. I know where I belong. I know what work lies before me. My fear is simply not finding the means to get across this abyss which holds me back. I can't say for sure what lies on the other side. A fog and haze obscures it from me. What I do know is that I will be me, no matter where I land.

1 comment:

Lilian said...

Yes!! I have been thinking about these subjects a lot, particularly after the last advisory meetings (I posted about them today). I hope I can continue in the scholarly path... and that you do too.