Academic Circle-jerk: Call me Doctor
I sat in class tonight admittedly very annoyed at the fact that we often get swept away in lots of grandiose conversations about nothing (and everything) partially because the class is set up for open discussion and our professor definitely encourages thought and processing, but namely because we have a lot of people who need to be heard. I suppose that it is a bit arrogant of me to suggest such a thing but I have more than tonight's class to believe my claim. Now, as I sit in what any outsider would presume to be a highly intellectual discussion I sat and wondered, "What am I doing here?" Not that I do not belong here as I am absolutely capable of analyzing, forming an opinion and discussing ideas, etc. However what am I getting from this experience? I wondered briefly if I am where I am because it is safe. I mean sure, it is courageous to move 2100 miles away from home to a new city where you don't know anyone and not only make a life there, but study there and begin to blossom your career there. However, I have to wonder if the whole idea of getting a Doctorate was a decision made by my ego. Read: out of fear. The thing that I hold most dearly is freedom, and what I do not want is to be:
- Financially unstable
- Intellectually stagnant
- Unable to stay home with my children
- Unable to travel the world, write, and make a living archiving my experiences
Now tell me why I couldn't do that without a doctorate? Let me pause and say that I am not considering quitting my program, this was simply a thought that I chose to explore in class, but I find that it is important to continually question the rationale behind my actions and decisions. It is my desire to be purposeful and mindful throughout the course of this program but also my life. So I sat and I thought, was this major life decision made out of fear? And I have to say, well admit to myself that perhaps on some level the answer is "yes," and that is okay.
Does it interest me to one day participate in academic circle-jerk where intellectuals sit around with other intellectuals talking about abstract ideas and philosophical theory? No. I knew upon beginning and it has not changed that I want to be a practitioner. Is it even important, then, to get this degree? Yes, but for me it is much more about the experience of learning about leadership and learning the academic way (Academic Tao) . I believe that as much as we can learn about leadership the practice of being a leader is largely unable to be described. Those things you cannot put your finger on, but are certain of. I have to presume that to some extent isn't everyone's purpose simply to learn about a thing we already know?
How does this formal study of leadership make me any more capable of guiding? Maybe I will have an answer for that that doesn't feel like lip service in a few years, maybe I won't. Perhaps I will have nothing to show for four years of hoop jumping besides a few letters behind my name and the meaning those letters hold to others. I am not really sure, yet, what they mean to me. If anything its an external acknowledgement of my hard work. So now I'm no different than the people that initiated my question. If it takes someone telling me there is something wrong, because I should know.
The fact of the matter is, sometimes I just get irritated having to participate in the charade of who knows what and who can prove XYZ in class. I have more interest in the personal satisfaction gained from my knowledge and am much more proud of growth shown here than grades on my papers written for class. In fact I think I need to care a bit more about the academic component of my current academic career. Do I need to be told how impressive it is to have a doctorate? No. Do I need to be called doctor? I would much prefer to be called Jessica. Do I want to talk about Shein, Kuhn, Ghandi, and Mandela? I would much rather hear someone's "story". I don't know what I'm doing here other than living an experience that not a lot of people get to live. For that alone I am grateful. Is getting my Doctorate the thing that excites me, the thing that wakes me up in the morning, my passion? No, not by a long shot. People are. Conversation is. Learning is. Perhaps that is why I get frustrated in class...none of that is happening. There is dialogue but we are not sharing ideas, there is no reception. We spit out words and they stay there heavy in the air until it is so thick you cannot breathe. Then we hold our breathe and speak until we can't anymore. It just has to get out. Somebody acknowledge me. Affirm that I am here. That is what they are saying. That is what the academics are in constant fear of, going unnoticed. So we sit in that circle and look left and say "I see you" look right and say "I hear you" and on and on all the while blind and deaf.
And now that I know it, I think I can deal a little better. So what am I getting from it? You know, besides a great lesson in patience and humility? I am getting an opportunity to listen. I am getting, also, an opportunity to ask for more, to call a spade a spade and to incite some ingestion of thought (self included). Or I can sit quietly like I usually do and wait for time to pass.