Today, Pursuing Academia Means…

… giving up Coachella to go to an academic conference. This weekend, while I was in Missoula for NCUR, several of my friends went to Indio, CA to see Jay-Z, Muse, Thom Yorke, and Gorillaz (among many many other amazing bands). Their pictures have been popping up all over my Facebook newsfeed for the last few days and I can’t help but be jealous. Clearly, their weekend was more epic than mine. (Although I did get to see a traditional Native American pow-wow and “meet” the Governor of Montana!)

More and more, I’m finding that pursuing academia means something different everyday. Tomorrow, it means giving up an A Fine Frenzy concert to oversee a Mark Twain Reading Marathon for Sigma Tau Delta. In August, it will mean moving away from the people I love to live on the other side of the country. For the next five years, it will mean earning one-fourth the starting salary of my engineering pals. In the future, it might mean putting off having children. It might mean never earning enough to buy my dream house. It might mean never having enough time for myself. Pursuing academia means missing out on a lot of fun. It means making sacrifices. Sometimes sacrifices so big you wonder if one day you’ll regret it.

Academia can be a cruel mistress. A professor of mine once told me that you should only pursue an academic career path if you honestly can’t imagine yourself doing anything else. You’re either in or you’re out. Go big or go home. There can be no wavering. You need to love your field that much, or else you won’t make it. Or else, you shouldn’t even bother. “Are you really willing to give up everything for some dead playwrights?” I can just hear my dad say. The years are long, the jobs are few, the pay is low, the work is hard. At the end of it all, you count up the sacrifices and wonder, “Is this all worth it?”

But pursuing academia also means many many beautiful, Coachella-level-amazing things too. And for now, those things are enough to make the sacrifices seem petty in comparison (after the occasional 10-min pityfest moment of weakness). Besides, I’ve always been a stubborn child. When people tell me I can’t have it all, I sense a challenge, a demand to prove them wrong. Maybe there will be sacrifices along the way, but I won’t let myself miss out on the important things. I will have it all one day. Even if “all” doesn’t include camping out at fancy music festivals (Hey, this could still happen one day. 🙂 )

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One thought on “Today, Pursuing Academia Means…

  1. Academia also means meeting a lot of other people who are into your field just as much as you are. And though you may miss Coachella this year, it also means there will be other concerts that you will be able to go. So make the sacrifices, but understand, that when you do–you change the world–its pace, understanding, and movement. Academia has lost this meaning as time continues to roll on, but I know you won’t forget that. You haven’t and I appreciate your commitment. You are a coachella for us all!

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