On my 25th birthday, I had a quarter-life crisis. I had lived for one quarter of a century and what did I have to show for it? No house, no husband, no car, no job and no money. What on earth had I done with all of that time?
Of the 25 years that I have strolled this earth (or, perhaps more accurately, sat in a Starbucks drinking coffee, writing blogs, and laughing with friends), 20 of them have been spent in some sort of educational institution. Of course, the first 13 were not by choice, but the last 7 that I have spent in a post-secondary institution most certainly have been.
The other night as I lay in bed, scrolling through another article about communications theory while I could hear my friends watching a movie and laughing, I thought "Why am I still doing this to myself? Why am I paying to spend all day talking about theoretical issues and all night reading about them in preparation for talking about them again tomorrow?"And then, only as I begin my eighth year in university, did I realize it: Academia is the love of my life.
I distinctly recall the moment I fell in love with my degree. It was not in the first year: I hated it. I cried a lot, and threatened to drop out several times. I waxed poetic about how post-secondary isn't for everyone and why should I be forced to study more math and physics when they were the source of extreme distress in high school. Slowly things improved, as I finally chose the right degree path and started working at the Writing Centre, but I still wasn't really yet committed to academia and the idea of the institution.
But in the fall of my 4th year I took a Critical Theory course. I had never done philosophy, so I found it quite challenging. But for the first time, I realized that the right sort of challenging leads to an "expiating of the mind", a sort of opening up of thought processes and understanding of the world around you. It was thrilling! And for the first time, I knew what it meant to be excited about thinking, theorizing, discussing, and working through scholarly problems.
Of course we can talk about the romanticized notion of post-secondary institutions and the bureaucracy and the motivation behind research, blah blah blah. All of the external stuff can certainly taint you, and has many people, I'm sure. But it doesn't change the satisfaction that comes from struggling with a concept or theory, working through it on your own or with colleagues, and figuring out how it applies to the real world. There is no greater feeling of accomplishment. There is pride in striving for academic greatness, for integrity, for scholarship. There is a responsibility to uphold the values of the institution of academics.
And so, dear Academia, you are my longest relationship and I certainly don't plan on quitting you just yet. Sure, we've had our struggles, but you've been good to me (mostly). You have given me friendships and jobs. You have changed the way I see the world and myself. You have inspired me to think beyond the page. You have allowed me to find greater meaning in the things I love. And I've learned to love you. Most ardently.
Number of books read in 2012: 16
Current TV series: The Office (UK) series 1
Current nail colour: OPI's "My Very First Knockwurst"