Self-Reclamation

This is my first post, which I originally wrote on December 10, 2013.  It had been posted on my other site http://altacthis.wix.com/altacliberation, but I have decided to try and blog here from now on, while still organizing resources at the Wix site. all great changes are preceded by chaos copy

I was inspired from reading a blog post written Eric Anthony Grollman entitled Academia is a Warzone. I am grateful for the space that Grollman has created for the marginalized in academia with his blog, Conditionally Accepted. I am also thankful for the risks he takes without hiding behind a pseudonym.

I, on the other hand, am hiding. And it is precisely because of the reasons mentioned in Grollman’s post. As a queer person, I do not feel safe in academia. I was crying while reading Grollman’s post because it reminded me of what it feels like to live in a constant state of vulnerability. While reading, I painfully remembered the many incidents for which I wasn’t prepared. I’ve now realized that I must arm myself with a rainbow protective shield. I must actively find ways to prevent emotional derailments from crippling me as severely as they usually do. The problem is how to create the resources necessary for the debriefing that should come after incidents occur. In addition, daily indignities and microaggressions can cause minor derailments.

The repeated injustices perpetuated by those in power in academia has really worn me down. I have lost respect for many academics, especially those who claim they care about a diverse representation of ideas and people in academia, yet they fail to take any concrete actions to make that a reality. On a recent hiring committee, I witnessed how laws demanding institutional equity and affirmative action were ignored. And once again, academia perpetuates a myopia of privilege.

Another reason that I am I also hiding is that I am scared that my identity will be discovered. I am on the tenure-track and I am strongly considering leaving academia, in order to pursue an altac/postac career. There are many reasons for this probable academic departure, but the most important one is that I don’t have my family near me in order to debrief, in order to cushion academia’s blows.

I have trouble engaging in self-care, a practice critical to survival in academia. Yet I’m realizing that self-care isn’t fully possibly if you are living apart from your family. Because my partner is also an academic, the “two body problem” of academia is a daily reality. This reality includes constant assaults on our emotional, physical, and financial health. It’s nice that academics have come up with a pithy phrase for it, but honestly, this is much more than a problem – it’s a part of a process of obliteration and soul destruction, similar to the practices of a warzone.

It is for these reasons and so many more, that I am thinking of leaving the tenure track and maybe even leaving the academy as a whole. I feel that grad school damaged me, and I allowed it. It is now my choice to begin recovery. I can advocate for myself and my family, and declare that no amount of toxicity is worth being apart from my family. Even the joy I occasionally find in teaching is not worth having my primary source of anti-toxin protection, my family, hours and hours away from me.

Is it worth having 2 pets and 1 person in one household and 2 pets and 1 person in another household with 2 sets of everything in each of those locations? Is it worth it if I so often feel unsafe in academia? Can a meaningful life focused on social justice be achieved elsewhere? I believe it can be.

For so many years the tasty Kool-Aid I gulped down told me that there was only one way to be, and only one job worth having. Part of healing from the PTSD created by grad school (thanks How To Leave Academia) will entail forging a new path for myself. It’s unclear what this path will look like, but I must embrace this uncertainty in order to reclaim myself and my family.

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