October 30, 2011
Ivory Tower or black hole?
There may not be a good metaphor for academia. Ivory tower is the traditional one with a clear delineation between academia and the rest of the world. Although that may have been apt at one time, it seems today as if academe is more open than ever in some ways, particularly with ties to the private sector and collaborating departments within and between universities. From the inside, from my perspective, it feels less ivory tower and more black hole; nothing escapes, or it rarely does. I know there are people who are post-academics, I just don't know of any to talk to just now about how they got away from the tractor beam that keeps people in academia for their lives. I'm not saying I don't want to be an academic for life (I'm just still not sure I can have a full and balanced life and still be a scientist- I know other people succeed in doing just that, but I am really struggling in that area). Exploring the alternative options out there in the universe is hard when you're a full time academic. The external pressure to stay is certainly present, but making it even harder is the inner pressure generated from my brain. I was trying to recall tonight the first time I got bitten by the science bug....it was a long time ago when I was young, for sure, but I don't remember a specific moment. Maybe I just got pulled in by the gravity of science via teachers I had. I still want to explore other things, but am still a bit stymied at the step of just how to do that. I'm fumbling about clumsily with it a bit, and maybe I'll find out it's not the ivory tower or the black hole and it's just a windowless, dark room and I just needed to grope around to find the doorknob.