Thursday, 9 May 2013

On Quitting

On Quitting

This post is one of the most beautiful things I've read in a long time.

From the way the words are arranged on the page, the various sizing of the typeface, the mad black scribbles outside the margins, to the thoughts contained within it; issues of identity, place, race, academia and subscribing to the 'successful life', it is a work of art in itself.

Besides introducing me to the word precarity (which sums up so much of my own mental state at the moment its a bit of a revelation to be able to put a word to it), it says the unsayable in regards to the academic life. As someone grappling with the possibility of going back to university and pursuing my graduate studies, it is both a relief and a terror to hear somebody else say that they are opting out of it. Somebody who is well set on the track to tenureship and success too, and not just a struggling Phd student who fails to get funding or any teaching posts. Because a Phd is not just about the research, the hours spent sitting in a library perusing fabulously obscure books on areas of human knowledge most people don't even know how to spell. It is manipulating the politics of the individual institution, and trying to communicate your own enthusiasm to too many first years who just want to get out of a stuffy lecture hall and into the pub, and it is constantly hitting the right people up for acknowledgements and networking at conferences and the constant battle for funding, defending your private interests to public bodies. And not to mention the mental struggle of actually sitting down and writing your own research for hours each day, wrestling with the words as they appear and erase, appear and erase, crawling oh-so painfully across your computer screen. The toll the dragging out of words from a brain jumbled with thoughts and ideas can have on your daily functioning. And yet we are led to believe it is worth it, Universities own all the books you know. Something I find out to my increasing frustration each time I go to look up more information on an artist I encounter, and all I can pull up is the scantiest of wikipedia entries, and the link to one or two exhibition catalogues in French.

So to have another person so succinctly describe all the feelings I fear are waiting at the other end of the long road to those two letters at the beginning of my name, is both terrifying and a huge relief. It doesn't solve my own personal dilemma, but it makes my future seem a little less black and white, and a little more human. And I applaud the author's own bravery, in putting his mental health above all the weights of social, academic and peer pressure.

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