On Academia vs the “Real World”

Disclaimer: there is no “real world”, nor is academia really separate from anything else.

Academia has been my safe space for nine years. Or all my life really. School is just pre-academia, a formatting that, should your personality match, encourages you to keep going, keep learning. Home, with a Doctor of Philosophy for a father, has always been an extension of the classroom – not in an austere, live-by-the-bell sort of way (though it was at times), but in a stimulating, you-can-learn-from-everything way. Game shows are not a waste of time but an opportunity to learn and memorise more. So that has been my whole life. And now it’s over.

My fears? To no longer be stimulated. No more deadlines, no more piles of articles and secondary literature to read. No more Jstor or Project Muse, no more abstracts to learn from in under 3 minutes, no more critical theories. But I never got to make an effort with Derrida! or Barthes! and I missed the class on marxism… I’ll never be able to join those conversations now it seeems. Then there are the Shakespeare plays I never read; not enough on postcolonial studies; what about in-depth black feminism? I’ve learned a lot, but somehow it doesn’t feel enough. And so leaving that world behind… am I really ready?

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Of course I am. I’m just hiding behind the safety of what I know. Of a system I know the inner workings of – what to do to get top marks, that 3 half-days are anough for 4000 words on the American West, that bringing Beyoncé into seminar conversations sounds good, just the right amount of recherché. I can read Keats in any of the greats and vice-versa, I’ve mastered essay-writing and can teach it to others.

Now what? The real world. Where my skills, really, are irrelevant. Or rather my detailed knowledge – Selfhood in Shakespeare, Sisterhood in The Colour Purple. The real world: new codes a different system, a whole new set of rules. Will I know how to play? Can they tell I’m a novice? Will I relive the awkwardness of teenage years, when I struggled to find my place, my way of being? Just as I had finally stoppped pretending, felt legitimate in my capacitites and skills – here we go again.

Excelling, for free, with my own satisfaction at stake was fun. Now they pay me: I have to show something for it.

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Turn back the pages – March 2010

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Brush up your windswept look
No need to hide those tear-prone eyes,
Darkness will descend over the lake
And its wave-ridden waters
Before you know it.
Only the haunting howling
Will be left.

It’s make or break time,
Maybe you’ve built something strong –
But even then, you never know
Where the next gust’ll come from.

 

All of us, messed up, in pain

You leave me with bite marks,
Fantasy plans of tying me up tight.
But when it comes to real tears
Or hearing my calls as I drown,
You turn your music louder
Cover my voice with drunk stutters.

Now, just the other day:
“Give it all up” you say, “come, let me show you the way”
Promised me an ear, “Come on, give up on the pain”
If I’d just let go of the meds, stop reaching out for professional help…

But now, where are you now, dicky dick dick
Enjoying my tears from afar, finding joy in my fear ?
Stroking your c*ck at the thought of me lost?

I promised I’d crown you and you laughed – not your play
Maybe the wisdom of your years (that you do have!)
Tells you you’re right, you’re too old to care,
And this girl? She’s too young to know.
Trouble, trouble. Just raw, needy trouble.

But what happened to love, to trusting, believing?
When did you become too lazy to care
And I, your light, become a burden,
A truth, too heavy to bear?

Yes, my pride’s hurt, and yes I’m messed up
No, I don’t hide it, fuck no, I don’t blame you.
Yes, I get scared and hey, yes, I’m scary
I scare you, I know, but aren’t you scared too?

YET behind these addictions, I know you hear it boo
The same fear rips through you, I’m sorry to say.
Shake your head all you like, give up on the world
Out-talk it, you’ll try: “No Silence, not you!
No! Peace, not your touch
Stop the voices, shut up, leave me be, stay away!”

—-

Whisperings, baby, turn your ear, just listen.
In truth, they say “Honey, don’t let go
I know you’re scared we’re leaving but –
No, angel, no,
We want to stay.
This burden you bear, shift it over here.”

Your addictions and mine, just chemical aids.
What if if we both found a wide open space,
Thick forest of fears, the depths of depression,
A sheer, blinding darkness…
And sat there a while.

The different parts of me, collection of us,
(Most of our friends are here too, if you let yourself see.)
All of us, messed up, pissed off, in pain, too proud,
Hiding and hidden. What for?
Open up, damn it. Don’t be ashamed,
I’m not – will not, accept to be told.

But I will hold your hand,
Yes, and sob in my sleep
Now here’s the cliché: I want to believe

Luxury and adventure await, if only we trust.