introspective.

i know it’s been a while since i’ve written. i’ve wanted to comment on a number of topics regarding the war in (or against, or for) iraq but it seems like as soon as i was ready to write about one topic, it was already obsolete, old news. i’m not sure why, but the pace of this war has kept me off balance, and unsure how to respond to it.

part of my response has been to start a humanitarian aid drive here in the uci/irvine community. i’m working primarily through the local amnesty international chapter, and we hope to network and get as many campus and community groups involved as possible. essentially we are putting together health/hygiene kits for distribution by international humanitarian organizations.

i’m coming off of a week-long illness–a nasty cough that kept me from sleeping (and being able to work much). i don’t think i’ve ever been this sick before. this experience and the war and other things have left me quite pensive, and i’m hoping to articulate some of the thoughts going through my head tonight. i’ve always been the type to “think out loud”–sometimes the words i type are surprises, revelations unto myself, even as i watch them appear in choppy spurts across the screen.

for a long time, i have been very focused on becoming a professor. this has been my dream, and i have been surprised at the consistent drive and focus i’ve demonstrated over the years in pursuit of this goal. lately, however, even as i come closer to realizing my dream than ever before, serious doubts about the vaildity of this dream have crept into my head.

the job market for faculty in the humanities is extremely competitive. even those who get their phd’s from the top programs have a hard time finding work. even though i am the most passionate about 19th century mormonism and early christianity, i’ve focused more on japanese religious history because the job ratio is two overly qualified candidates for every one opening, instead of the 10:1 or 20:1 ratios found in the american religions or christian history sub-fields. and these opening include non-tenure track positions as well as ones which lead to tenure. when i returned to academia a couple of years ago, i was determined to not sacrifice my research passions in favor of boosting my grad-school-entry and job-hunting potential, and already i am relegating myself to a lesser interest, compromising passion for pragmatism.

jana also aspires towards grad school and the subsequent professorship. this past year has been much more taxing on me and on the children as jana has become more involved in her studies. i realize that this dual-parent focus is not healthy for me or for the family. i used to think that we could both do grad school together–now i realize that we could, but only by paying a great price in terms of our family investments.

finally, i’m not sure if i have the ability to focus on one subject to the exclusion of all others in the manner of a grad student working on their dissertation or a professor immersed in research. there are exceptions to this rule–professors who pursue multiple subjects or disciplines simultaneously, make tenure, are involved in the community, make time for their students, and somehow manage to be good parents as well–but these seem to be a rarity. i’m too interested in too many things–this world is a fascinating place! why limit my studies to one subject? why become the master of some esoteric material that only a handful of people in the world can comprehend?

i have a good friend who is going into a phd program in medieval studies. we sometimes joke about what it would be like to be on a cold, damp island off the coast of scotland or ireland, with a goat for milk and with only our research to keep us company. i am realizing more and more that such a hermitage is not for me. my exemplars–holy people like the dalai lama, mother theresa, st francis, gandhi–are learned, but they are found in the crowds, not in the mountain solitude or the empty plain.

sigh. i’m sorry to inflict my ramblings upon you–my writings are usually more coherent than this. but this has been therapeutic. i will pause my single-minded pursuit of my professorial dream. i will spend the next few months, at least, listening more, opening my heart and mind and soul to…to something. to inspiration, to divine whisperings, to introspection, to whatever.

i am still driven to learn, to create, to teach, to inspire, to use my life to make this world a better place. i’m just not sure what form my contributions will take::

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