Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oh, Really?

Trust is a funny thing.  It can be blind, based on faith and hope and optimism, or it can be based on some actual facts.  Like a relationship, a contract, or what economists like to call repeated iterations.
But let's be honest, shall we?  It's always about hope.  Because in life there are no guarantees.  ( I am noticing a trend in the last few posts...but I'll leave that for someone else to discern.)
So just because someone promises or hasn't betrayed you before, there is still an element of hope and faith in any trust.  Trust definitionally defies an absolute guarantee.

I started a career in academia years ago specifically because I sought a certain type of lifestyle I'd seen modeled.  I saw my step dad, a English professor then approaching retirement, living a fairly luxurious lifestyle.  He went to the movies and out to dinner several times a week, spent time reading for pleasure and bought a nice car every few years.  Bills were paid on time and college was assumed.  That was the life I wanted to have for myself and my family.

Fast forward almost ten years from when I first started studying for the GRE and prepping for grad school applications, and the academic job market is tight, competitive, and a little wasteful.  Many great teachers hobble along on adjunct pay for years, bobbing around the poverty line.  Grad school faculty are self interested brats, fattened on the teat of the previously luxe system and drive by narcissism to abuse student collaborators at the drop of a poorly funded hat.  Increased specialization and increased competition, and  there is less money out there in terms of loans, grants, fellowships, etc.  My perception of a supportive yet challenging system of education that would push me to my limits and then reward my hard work has been tainted by the reality that connections still, even at this level, matter more than talent, intelligence, or effort.
And in the event that you do gain the opportunity to be on a project you care about with some funding, I've found things can easily degrade to middle school lunchroom tactics, and my trusted professor/mentor can steal my work without giving me any credit, pay, or recognition.

I type these words with fire in my blood; there is nothing more enraging than seeing the words you wrote on a paper submitted by your 'trusted' professor with four other peoples' names on it.

Pit of god damn snakes.
Trust, even within the confines of the so-called ivory tower of academia, with people who have sympathetically told you they want to help you, is really just ill-informed hope.

And, my sweet darlings, hope does not pay the bills.

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