Why Academia?

This weekend, while we were wasting time before Captain America, we stopped by target. Their back to school displays reminded me that it’s that time of year again. I must say that I do miss the ebb and flow created from having your life dictated a semester at a time by school. Further, in all honesty, I miss the perception, however false it actually is, that there you’re starting with a fresh slate. It’s a lot easier to be an optimist when the failures of your past are behind some demarcation line.

Anyways, it’s got me thinking about my dream of returning to school. I often wonder if my attachment to the concept has little to do with the actual subject of learning rather than once again finding a place where I can optimistically look ahead. I’m not a fool. I know that having a degree, of any sort, no longer means much in the workplace outside of another requirement that must be met to even be considered. I’ve been told that it used to guarantee a hire pay grade or increase the certainty that there would be a job out in the ‘real world’. I’m not sure if this simply more ‘back in my day’ rose colored glasses crap.
In short, returning to school doesn’t really increase my chances of getting a higher paying job or that I’ll have a better go of it in corporate America… In fact, it might actually make me even more ‘overqualified’ and, as such, really come back to bite me in the ass.

So why do I look forward to it? It might be similar to the ever increasing urge to move. I’ve had the Wifey point this out to me numerous times. When I find that life isn’t going the way I’d like it to, I’m often tempted to pick up and try another place. Of course, this usually isn’t feasible so I usually just move the furniture around. My mother often jokes about this behavior when I was younger and it make the Wifey cringe every time I start to contemplate moving my desk once again. Perhaps it stems from my younger days when we moved every three years or so. It’s easy to get in habit of leaving problems behind when you’re always moving on.

Yeah, in some ways returning to school is indeed like that. It’s a new start, a do over in another environment. I’d be dishonest to say that, at least in part, that’s what I’m longing for.

Still, I think there is more than that. I’ve come to the conclusion, after spending a good bit of time in corporate America, that I’m just as ambitious as the next guy, but in the wrong way. I don’t aspire to make boat loads of money and I sure as hell don’t feel that the prestige I’m looking for is directly tied to a job title. Instead I want to have an impact on humanity in a deeper way. I don’t give a crap about pushing a product, I really aspire to have people question why they need it in the first place.

I’m often labeled as arrogant, and I suppose in some ways I am, it’s just I want to have a deeper impact on people’s lives. I want to be in conversations regarding religion and metaphysical concerns. I want to help give people the opportunity to step beyond their everyday normative perspectives and help develop tools which allow them to be comfortable there. I’d much rather be middle class and struggling with the multitude of life’s big questions than rich and happily ignorant.

From my limited experience, academia seems to provide the best opportunity to advance upon this path. Ideally, the purpose of the classroom is to explore, to question, to propose alternative to the norm and to develop the ability to communicate*. I think that’s why I look toward returning in there at some point in the future.

*Some might suggest that it’s also to find answers. For some that might be the case. However, I’m a relativist and a pragmatic one at that. Answers don’t move us forward…

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