What it Means to be a Scholar

Being a scholar would seemingly be a dream job. Sit and think. Read. Come up with something new. Sit on your laptop and peruse Facebook amidst stacks of dusty library books, expensive anthologies and texts that you bought, printed out essays and articles, and crumpled up pieces of crappy material you’ve written. Sit on a broken couch with plywood under the cushions to prevent it from caving in. Sit with oatmeal. Sit with Ramen. Sit with oatmeal again.

Sit.

And think.

But being a scholar isn’t always that easy. Especially if you’re considering pursuing a Ph.D.; you have the lovely “pre-Ph.D.” work, “in-Ph.D.” work, and “post-Ph.D.” work. Being a scholar never ends, but rather has more work accumulated on top of it. Pre-Ph.D., where I am, means struggling to get into and pay for conferences, building up your CV, taking GREs (multiple), creating personal statements, statements of purpose, statements of how goddamn awesome you are, researching funding, researching program strengths, and–of course–working on top of all of that. In-Ph.D. requires teaching multiple (usually three or so) classes per semester while TAKING three or so classes per semester, learning a foreign language, passing translation exams, comprehensive exams, oral exams, defending why the work you will spend THREE YEARS WRITING is worth it, then ACTUALLY spending those three years writing it, and frequently discovering and rediscovering that you only get paid per credit-hour you teach, not for the syllabus-making, paper-grading, office-hour-sitting, and email-answering time you spend to be a great educator. Post-Ph.D. you need to sell your soul trying to get a tenure-track position, publishing articles, books, presenting at conferences, milking the politics of your department, only to not get a full-time job offer time after time again and have to move to some obsolete and remote destination to get some sort of recognition and tenure-track. Then, once you get tenure-track, you have the grueling process of getting tenure. And then you’re stuck. You will live there forever, work there forever, become a figure-head. The once young, eager energetic scholar has been worn thin by the system, beaten, battered, taken advantage of.

If you don’t love this work, if you wouldn’t sell your soul to debate literature, to beat into impressionable minds that their lives could be altered by a Tale of a Tub, then get the banana-split out.

Posted in Legacy.

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