"To be an academic and a real person at the same time...doesn't happen as often as it should. It's all too easy for academics, I think, to take refuge in the life of the mind and let their hearts (and everything else) atrophy. Those are the professors who take refuge in the library to escape the world and real interaction with other people. They may be brilliant at their specialty, but they're stunted as complete human beings.
But of course it's not fair to condemn all academia just because some professors are like that. I guess I might have a jaded view of nuns if I had known more of the sort who went into the convent to escape life and now go around dour-faced, beating small children with rulers. But I haven't. I've known so many joyful, young, life-embracing religious that it's kind of foreign to me that anyone would think nuns go into the convent to escape the world. And I'm glad that now I'm also getting to know some wonderful young intellectuals who are interested in real life too, who are fun and well-adjusted and loving and not just wrapped up in their footnotes. Shoutout to Gina and Jeff, Monica and Dave, Erika and Todd (hmm, they seem to come in pairs... fascinating...) and all the other grad students who are academics and real people too!
There's a quote I've carried around in my wallet since the day I started grad school. The bottom is torn off so I can't remember what random scholar said it, but here it is:
I never wanted to be an academic. I still don't. I wanted to be -- I know
this sounds pretentious -- I wanted to be an intellectual. I wanted to be
involved in the arts. I wanted to be in a place where people cared passionately
about ideas, about teaching, about discourse and about reflecting critically.
What I found was a world of small-minded, partisan professionals, many of whom
were there because they couldn't figure out what else to do. So I created a life
inside the academy that reflected the life I wanted to lead.
I don't think I'll ever be an academic myself -- I want to be a writer, and that's a somewhat different vocation. But I'm glad I've seen that being an academic doesn't have to mean renouncing the real world and the chance to be a whole person. Just like I'm grateful I know how good and joyful religious life can be -- I've seen it at its best, and even so, I know it's not for me. I think that's the most freeing way to find a vocation: to choose one good thing without needing to deny the real beauty and value of the alternative..."