To Not Be An Academic

As you may have learned from previous posts on this blog, I am a math-English double major going into my junior year of college. The question now becomes, what do I plan to do with that degree? Both my parents are academics, so I’ve always assumed I’d go into academia; I’ve already concluded I’m not really interested in getting a PhD in math, but I’m still considering going for a PhD in English.

But then I read articles like this one and realize that prospect doesn’t really appeal to me either. Why would I want to spend all of my time writing literary criticism no one will ever read of works that have already been critiqued to death?

I would like, of course, to become a professional writer (of fiction, that is). (Wouldn’t everybody?) But that would be quite difficult, and I need some way to feed and clothe myself until when (if) I can support myself through writing alone; since that’s kind of unlikely to ever happen, it’d be great if I actually enjoyed whatever it is I would be getting paid to do.

Ah, the woes of the liberal-arts student.


6 Responses to To Not Be An Academic

  1. Brian Patrick Cork says:

    I barely fought my way into college – and, was, arguably illiterate when I arrived there.

    Now, even though my writing skills remain suspect, value those years above most everything other than my family.

    But, I must add that I have the perfect job. I leverage my life’s experiences (and expectations) and help other men make better decisions in their professional and personal lives.

    You have very keen insight and fabulous writing skills for anyone – let alone a college student.

    Ask yourself these three questions:

    1. What am I good at?
    2. What do I want to do?
    3. Who needs me?

    You may find yourself revisiting these questions throughout your life and career.

    You might also find it of interest to learn that the average duty post (job) will last only thirty six months. This number is expected to shrink over the next twenty year. So, if you graduate at the age of twenty three, you can expect to work until you are seventy five. This means you could likely have as many as sixteen jobs over the course of your career-path.

    Seek to finish well (even as you only begin).

    Along the way your expectations and desires – as well as opportunities will change and evolve. I hope I get to read about the adventures for years to come be they detailed through this Blog, through biographies or the media.

    Please feel free to reach out any time. You can call my offices at 877-843-2675.


  2. e7th04sh says:

    Now that last comment is what i eny you, Turin. :D Yeah, it’d be funny if in twenty years i’ll be reading newspapers, and every now and then they will mention what was said or done by Mr. President, J. Simmons.

    Anyways, i don’t think *everyone* want to have their name written into history books of future schools, but that’s nothing. I doubt that majority of people really want to enjoy their life, in a more consious way. Majority is not steering their lives, altough only minority really admits it.

    I know i’ll sound like a teenager rebel tormented with charisma-decreasing acne… but academia, just like public education (which is “arguably” compulsory in Poland), is not in service of science and knowledge, but rather a main obstacle.

    Anyways, i am experiencing similar problems. Tough, thanks to my beloved high school, i have one year more to think about it. I realized a lot, that many of my friends will fully realize in few years, and i don’t care as much as them. They are all surprized and worried about me, and vice versa – i am very worried about them all, and their degrees, diplomas, certificates, jobs, families… (Wasn’t there similar situation in “The Catcher in the Rye”? Gotta read this book again, when i grown a bit.)

    So, the point is i’m wondering wether i should really get formal education. Or rather to what extent i can steer my own life in this world? I feel like being punished for even trying, and the prospect is even worse. I firmly belive that if i took the steer of my life in my own hands (especially with current technology) i could be more useful for the society (being employee or employer), what should equal (more or less) to higher salary/income.

    More important, i realized long time ago, and each day i grow stronger in that perception, that it’s esential for my happiness, to feel control of my life… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    But i fear, that once i take the turn from the obvious way, i will lose some possibilities. Some goals will be harder to reach. I am really, like they say it here, “in a dot”.

    • Brian Patrick Cork says:


      Pardon my chiming in… But, if you have an opportunity to get a higher education, make it a priority. There are a FEW examples of wildly successful people, like Bill Gates, that did not pursue college degrees (he dropped out of college). However, statistically, you are at a disadvantage without a degree.

      The globe is shrinking in terms of opportunities for young people – especially those with advanced technical skills and knowledge. But, the differentiator is the disciplines that most organizations feel come with education.

      You can always start your own business. But, you need an idea, product or service that sets you apart. And, you have to fund your idea and the organizations around them. Ironically, not having a degree will often deter your ability to attract capita;. Mostly because investors will view you as undisciplined. But, this is only an example.

      Bottom-line, there are many reasons why you are impatient and might not be able to fully appreciate this. But, education will never hurt you. It’s always a plus. It represents seasoning and experience. Both are beyond valuation.

      I was raised in a military family. We moved constantly. I went to three High Schools in four years. I was advanced from one grade to the next mostly because I could run like the wind. I was almost illiterate and many people around me did not even realize this. I went to college on a scholarship. That did not go well. If not for the special interest of one professor in particular I would have been lost. But, he ignited a passion for learning in me. I did graduate. Those four years gave me a chance to develop a lot of discipline and skills. I went on to get an MBA. I have started several businesses and sold a few for very good profit. But, I will always point to my college years as those that prepared me with tools necessary to add credibility to my drive, ambition and fire in the belly.


  3. e7th04sh says:

    Thanks for the advice, and now let me exchange it for my own life experience. You see, i barely learnt anything useful from lectures. I put in question the usefulness of material that i was supposed to learn. I really, really spent too much time to fullfil not the educational demands, but irrational duties. I had to put up with disrespect of arrogant adult people. I witnessed and suffered common humane injustice. It all happened in schools, among these two years of private school.

    To the contrary, two years ago, when i decided i can’t stand it anymore, and ceased to appear in school for two or three last months, i lost a year in terms of certificates, but i earned more than year in terms of material, that i managed to absorb. And now, as i will pass lyceum/high school extrmurally, my upcoming birthday (september) will nominally mark the first year of my life, that i am managing absolutely on my won. I’m not yet employed nor do i live on my own, but i consider these options…

    One important thing that i realized early, and that made be especially cynical or even bitter, is what i percieve a great hoax of freedom expansion. At the end of every grade and every school me and most of my peers were dissatisfied with the way we’ve been taught this 1/3/6 year(s). But we were also succesfully beguiled with visions of more freedom, self-responsibility and more reasonable material in oncoming semesters.

    Of course it’s all true, but only relatively. Of course lyceum made more sense (in general) than gymnasium, and that one more than basic school (those are names of school types in my country for ages 7-19), and now being a university student will probably be a new experience… But i also have the feeling, that i’m having my leash loosened not because i am now mature enough, but because i am now too much aware.

    And i feel even more aware, because when my friends feel happy to have graduated, i ask myself a question – am i living a real life, or am i being “bred”? Not that the very idea of people breeding other people was intrinsicly evil – altough i can’t say i don;t mind – but i wonder wether i’m not being held back this way… Perhaps i could if i managed a firm grip over my life, i would have accomplished more ifself-teaching and gaining first real-life experience outside of Academia, rather then having to comply with these norms again?

    And i don’t get any positive feedback from friends who already made through junior year… The habit of doing croswords during lectures is even more common in universities than in high schools, it seems. Or during exercises from webdesigin a friend of mine used nice css/xml or xss/xhtml to solve the task, and the instructor was leery when he saw the code of website, and asked to see some “more”. Because for him webdesign got frozed 10 years ago, when people were still abusing tables and frames.

    It’s hard to express (especially in foreign language, with dictionary opened in another tab…) the sophisticated nature of my concerns. But one of many question, perhaps most obvious one, that come up is… which option is really the “mature” one?

  4. It sounds like your primary concern is that you don’t have enough control over what it is you study and learn. One thing I’ll say for college over high school is, you really do have a LOT more control there. You take the classes you want to take, you show up when you want to show up (professors sometimes take attendance but usually not), and you learn the material you want to learn.

    You can usually pass classes without learning much of anything, of course. And you can always learn stuff outside of school – but without guidance as to what to learn, it’s not nearly as useful, IMO. Most of what I’ve learned in the last few years came from taking topics from different classes I’ve had and then reading a lot of related stuff.

    Anyway, I think in general going to college is a good idea, but the emphasis should be less on “I’m at college” than on “I’m going to learn some stuff and going to college is a means to that end”.

  5. Brian Patrick Cork says:

    The hope might be that a school, like a good business culture, offers the opportunity and insight into the experiences of others that students and new hires can build from. The better schools help students learn and understand a process, for example, that become the foundations for tools. When they hit the open-market they have, at least a fundamental understanding of what is expected and what everyone else they interact with, and is talking about.

    Those who don’t go to school often have a tougher “learning curve” and often refer to their street education as the “school of hard knocks”. It sounds much more romantic than it is in reality.

    Thank you for the repartee gentlemen. And, the reminder of what I faced myself roughly twenty five years ago. It helps, in terms of perspective, as I walk with my own children and prepare them for their educational trajectories.

    Good luck e7th04sh.


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