Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Am I setting myself up?

I am quite absorbed these days in my research, in trying to solve some logistical problems of manipulating the data in the sorts of ways I will find useful, in analyzing it, and comparing it, finding patterns, qualifying and quantifying those patterns. And most of all, in testing my hypotheses.

I go to sleep at night thinking about these things, and awake in the morning with them on my mind. Sometimes, I rise at 4:00 or 5:00 to scribble some notes in the lab notebook I keep in preparation for the day I draft up a patent application. I am close, I feel. And yet...

I am still very much on my own, afraid in a sense to seek out too much extensive help. In part this is because I don't want to seem the fool. The bane of the interdisciplinary: you never know if what you consider a difficult problem hasn't already been solved by another field; you never know if what appears to you as profound is not trivial to those expert in some discipline.

But part of this is simply because I wish to protect my ideas until I'm ready to share them. To protect them as ideas, until I've tested and proven them.

I look at the job listings in academia in the discipline of my PhD with complete lack of enthusiasm. "Assistant Professor of..." That doesn't really feel like me anymore. I think of prepping for the upcoming term for my classes as adjunct with the same lack of excitement.

Perhaps this is a sign of my heart. I went back to grad school for the PhD largely at the urging of my wife. I had completed a Master's, moved from Texas to Colorado to follow her in her new job, and sought a means to contribute to our income. I performed, and taught privately and at a community college. Each time I contemplated chucking it all, and seeking a manager's post at a bookstore or some such, Rocket would remark but that's not what keeps you up at night; that's not what puts a sparkle in your eye as you expound on some idea or another. Indeed!

And that sparkle is back! I'm excited, energized. I've got that passion once again. In ways I've come back to what I was hoping to find in my PhD (which I didn't). I feel much of the time was wasted, taking classes that were irrelevant to my real research, writing papers that had nothing to do with my interests, working hard to prove myself in that discipline, when my heart has always led me to new territory, lying between the borders of disciplines. Not any disciplines mind you, nor interdisciplinarity for its own sake.

No, my questions are fairly specific. They simply aren't served by any established discipline. They cross boundaries. They're not better than other people's questions. They're just mine. It's not that I disdain disciplinarity, it's simply a matter of finding the means to answer the questions that inflame my mind.

But I wonder, I fear: am I just setting myself up to fail? Am I really prepared to sit out this season of academic job applications? I keep looking at the listings, wondering if I'll regain some interest in them, if some posting won't pique my interests. I'm jaded at the moment, worn down from all the applications and rejection, like a once-jagged stone smoothed down by the relentless water-motion of a stream.

I'm like that fish out of water, who flopped himself upon the shore to see if another stream might not lie a little ways off. I'm tired of this stream; it's all too familiar, and seems to lead nowhere. If only I can flop myself into the next stream, I might find new adventures. But what if... what if I don't make it?

1 comment:

Lilian said...

Good thing you're energized again. And I hope that you're not setting yourself up to fail.

About my PhD, I guess that I'm luckier than most because all the papers I wrote were about things that genuinely interested me. But I guess it's like that in literature, but not in other fields...