Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Old People: My Future

While being a student taught me what I needed to know about personal responsibility, learning, using common sense, and making contacts, being a teacher has taught me something quite different. The lessons learned have been a direct result of these different perspectives on education and academia, I feel, and although some of the lessons have been painfully deceiving and then in turn painfully revealing, they've been useful.

Four years in academia--five, if you count the year I spent as a supplemental instructor--has shown me a lot about the inner workings of that mysterious class of people I once regarded as celebrities: professors. I love my professors, still love them! Don't mistake what I am saying for an attempt to slander them backhandedly. In some ways, I still think of my professors as something of celebrity status because of the way they carefully and deliberately revealed to us the deepest secrets of the writers and texts that we loved. Because they were a part of the grand scheme that included our beloved literature, they were classed with that literature as infamous. Maybe that was where we went wrong then, I don't know. At any rate, it didn't take me long in the academic circle to realize that I had misunderstood most of what I was seeing from my undergraduate desk, and later, I realized, even more of what had been misrepresented by myself over my own undergraduates' desks.

The longer I spend my time mingling with members of university faculty--full professors or otherwise--the more I am surprised by what I learn. Granted, I am much less surprised now than I once was, when I first made my transition from one to the other side of the one-way mirror of academia.

Over the past five years, I have heard more professors than I want to admit say how much they wish they had done something else with their lives. In part, I dare not criticize them. After all, teaching never was my particular goal in life either. I've heard professors say grimly that we were all there because we loved to read, or that they wished they would have followed this dream or that dream, become independent novelists, whatever. It makes me sad to think of someone living this kind of drudgery (believe me, five years is enough to show me the career for what it is!) and all that time wishing they had done something else. It makes me wonder, why didn't they do something else then...really?

I think a lot of people fail to follow their dreams for one reason or another, but the point is that it is up to each person individually to decide if they can come to terms with giving up their dreams. There has to be a point in life when one looks at the dreams, faded and dust-covered, lying out on the table and admits that it's too late for some of them. As I grow older, I can imagine the sense of tiredness that enables the acceptance, but the younger part of me, the part that fights really hard against difficulties, tells me not to accept acceptance, not without raging epic war.

There are two dreams I don't want to part with, and these dreams used to not play very nicely together, but they're learning to get along. The first places me as a successful screenwriter learning to direct and produce my own films. The second is much more commonplace and yet as appealing. It places me into a small country house, as a wife and a mother (of one, perhaps two), doing mission work, living a happy and simple life. And oddly enough, that dream still gives me a room of my own where I write on the side. Apparently the dreams I have lead unquestionably toward a path of writing, and both lead me likewise to a path away from academia. I believe that my real dream is to support myself on my writing and my own creative work. I see too many people slaving away, unhappily, for a paycheck that is really little more than what they could earn working much more happily on their own.

So, that's what I want. Observation has spoken to me. The examples I've seen have helped me to see my future self, far down this same path, and I don't like her. She really can't play nicely with the other two dreams.

No comments:

Post a Comment