Searching for the Purpose …

Tonight is one of those times when I’ve just had enough of it all.  I’m wondering if it is really worth all the energy and struggle.  I wonder where any of this is going and if it is so hard, if it is such a struggle, maybe it isn’t meant to be.

On the other hand, a little voice inside reminds me that the easy way is always more appealing.  But sometimes I am lost as to the purpose in the path I’ve chosen.  Where am I going and why?

I already feel like I’m behind with my work.  I don’t think I’ve ever been quite this stretched:  commuting 2 hours a day, teaching three courses that are new to me, one that is brand new entirely (my baby but still tough during the first offering), more students that I should have in 2 of my 3 courses and too many assignments even though I know that the only way for them to improve their writing is by writing.  My students in my last class today reminded me how important my feedback is – without it they don’t yet see a purpose in their work.  I want them to be able to critique their writing but there is so much scaffolding to do at this point in the term.  And, lord knows, I don’t like to do things by half measure.

But even after all that I wonder if this is where I’m meant to be.  I’m ignoring my own writing.  A very old friend of mine reminded me of this a year or so ago.  He said, “Cath, why don’t you just write – why are you trying so hard?  I think you are just avoiding the writing.”  And he’s right to a certain extent.  I am avoiding the writing.

Teaching is an energy drain.  It’s like being on stage every day – post-secondary students don’t have patience for off-days, although they are quick to forgive your mistakes.  When I’ve spent my whole day teaching I end up driving home utterly spent.  There is little time left for writing.

But beyond the writing and teaching, I suppose I’m searching for a purpose.  I see so much ugliness in academia.  People are always trying to prove how smart they are, how “educated” they can be.  It is a very me-focused industry.  And I don’t know that I’ll ever fit in.

For me, all the academic posturing does not come naturally.  I don’t know how to play this game, with constantly shifting rules and undercurrents that pull me along unaware.  I don’t know if I want to spend my life feeling like I’ll always be one step behind my colleagues.

On days like today, I want to escape to some imaginary faraway place, where I can sit by a fire and read my books and feel entirely contented whist sipping a bit of tea with milk and honey.  A grown-up version of fairy-tale dreams.

Driving home tonight a series of unpleasant memories flashed through my mind.  Classroom situations where I was a witness to horrible betrayals.  No, that’s not quite accurate.  If I’m honest I was more than a witness, I was a participant.  During my doctoral studies there were a number of occasions when I was utterly ashamed to be part of academia.  We separated ourselves from our humanity in order to become analytical and academic.  On two particular occasions, I remember several students brought to tears because of this betrayal.  I left those classes feeling despondent and angry.  I wanted to get as far away from this dispassionate way of being.

I swore that when I finished my doctoral studies I would teach.  Not research.  Not profess.  But teach and try to make a difference.  Somehow I would find a way to focus on helping my students rather than participating in the destructive side of academics.

Now I wonder if that is even possible.  And if not, I wonder if I belong here …

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