Episode 10: Moving Beyond The Academy
I made my first dollar beyond academia. I can’t tell you how symbolic this moment is. I met someone who needed help with research, writing, and editing, and who was happy to have a brainstorming partner for issues of marketing, finding new clients, creating new programs, and organizing business procedures. She can appreciate philosophy, and is interested in finding a way to collaborate and bring philosophy into her programs. I started writing for her as an experiment. I had not done much non-academic writing. The topics interested me. The work was fun. It was not hard. It was not stressful. It meant dealing with problems that had solutions. I was able to make quick order out of chaos. I suddenly found myself bringing a calm and confident air to the work place, and to another person who was feeling really stressed out. (What a role reversal!) I felt, for the first time in a decade, valued for my work. I was doing something that utilized my skills, that was sort of fun, that was going to be happily used in some practical way, and that paid actual dollars. The job was not so different from one of the 5 service jobs I used to do on the side — with my hair on fire for no money — while I was a professor. (That realization, again, of all my uncompensated past work just nauseates me). It is amazing to me, after all this, how simple it is to feel valued, and to feel happy working. Maybe that is the phenomenon of someone who is starved and blissful at the taste of the tiniest crumb of something good and nourishing. Or maybe it means that it would not be hard for institutions to do a couple of important things to make their employees feel valued, alive, happy. I don’t know. Maybe I don’t care. I am so grateful to have a little work, and to have gotten past the major mental hurdle of “will you ever be able to do anything outside of academics?” The answer is, hell yes! And with academic training, you will kick ass at it, and people will love you for your hyper-diligent, efficient, clear, perfectionist, thoughtful, self-starter habits. Spread the wealth of your training to people who are happy to have you, and are happy to compensate you for your work.