The Other Side of the Desk

I spent eighteen years of my life enrolled in school, and most of my life as a student. For my purposes, the term student denotes an orientation to the world, rather than enrollment status. Even as a teacher, I was a student. Students ask questions, they're concerned with getting things right, they struggle to understand. It paralyzes them. I spent the better part of the last decade pouring over what Nietzsche meant, what exactly he said. Writing was torture. Choosing every word like writing a crossword in pen; essays took me days to write. The remnants of scholasticism still cling to my keyboard. I have to constantly remind myself that the words I choose are good enough. They don't need to be Dostoyevsky.

During grad school, I didn't write creatively. Not a pithy saying, not a short story. Nothing. My brain only knew how to decipher, decode, and transcribe. I thought it was not reading philosophy and being away from school that allowed me to write again. False.

School crushes many would-be writers. It shows you the best that have ever lived and says, "Still want to pick up a pen?" It isn't until you start to look at your notebook differently that you cease to be a student. Most diligently play a stenographer during a lecture, fussing over minutia. I tried to internalize Heidegger, Kierkegaard, and Sartre. I wanted a carbon copy of their knowledge. When I read them now, my notebook is filled with objections, revelations, queries, and ideas to be written. It is a matter of seeing texts differently. Sometimes we care too much, in detrimental and unfruitful ways. When I was rejected from three top PhD programs in philosophy, I moved on with my life, pursued other dreams. It is a source of amusing irony to me that I had to leave philosophy to engage in it again.

This is not an indictment of academia. The time I spent as a graduate student is among the most rewarding experiences I've had. Instead, to serve as a lighthouse, warning all who pass that a tempest is on the horizon. One that swallows many worthy vessels. Permanent studenthood lingers long after graduation. It arrests fingers and starves the page. It keeps books unwritten and ideas unshared. We should all be so fortunate to spend time behind a desk and learn from the most brilliant minds in their field. But it is criminal to never see the world from the other side of the desk.

No comments :

Post a Comment