Oh, academia. I have never been your friend. We have always been those two colleagues on campus who smile or maybe just nod in one another’s direction and maybe travel in somewhat the same circles, sitting perhaps near one another at the Bistro or attending the same on-campus lecture or maybe taking the same European Intellectual History course but never, really, having much to say to one another, really. This strange and admittedly strained relationship continues only so far, you know, for only so long before you, academia, some night at the Bistro stand up after an invigorating, not to mention stimulating, inordinately so, session of Intellectual European Enlightenment dialogue, discussion, whatever with the Leading Professor of your choice, casually packing up your bookbag and letting forth a tumbling of brilliant thoughts, intellectual words, before returning to the study hall at your sorority house or library pod or whatever for another six hours of freakish pre-PhD research crazyness while I just… go back to my dorm. Where I am an RA and a timid one at that, hardly admitting that I am afraid of my own shadow, afraid to lock the door behind me, afraid to leave it unlocked, afraid I will not ever find myself out of misery and out of wishing, waiting, desperately hoping that someone will tell me what I am doing here. Afraid, that is, that I am exactly who I thought I was and nothing more.
So you, and I, academia, are not friends. We can’t be. Though we attend the same university and purchase the same supplies, mine go unfettered and overused and yours go into making a perfect professor-in-training and a model dissertation outline. I can barely write my thesis statement twice–each time it wavers, just a little bit, and I have forgotten what it was I was here for, what I wanted to say. Who I am. You intimidate me, scholarship. You bully me only because I let you. You wonder why I am so sheepish, so much like Boo Radley but without the soap dolls, the broken watch, the chewing gum and their shiny wrappers. It is because I have not seen beyond the walls of scholarship, but have instead confined myself to a world in which I do not belong. You fit here, but I do not. An still you’ve challenged me, and I know we are not enemies, but colleagues truly. We must each to her own way: You to the Ivory Tower and I to the Mission Fields, to the ways of the Bedoin and the Shepherd, to the classrooms where students just like me are in want of a word of encouragement, which is, undoubtedly, something I can offer.