When I decided to give up my life in pursuit of a doctorate, things were bad. I worked in a job I hated so much that it caused me to experience actual, physical resentment (which, in case you’re wondering, feels bit like how it would feel if you swallowed concrete). Every day from 9-5 I would do tedious things with excel spreadsheets and bits of paper and take orders from stupid people until it was time to go home. When I got home my flatmate would be snuggled on the sofa with her lover, and so I’d go inside my bedroom, play some Ashanti, neck a bottle of wine and cry.
I cried a lot. Often loudly in the street, for no reason, or for very feeble reasons – such as the sudden appearance of a puppy in my line of vision, or a dead baby bird, or the plot of the first Sex and the City movie. I kept bumping into girls from school who’d ask me about my job and my love life and then say hostile, patronising things like, ‘but, you used to be really clever’, or, ‘I’m sure you’ll get a man soon’. And, at weekends, I just could not stop sleeping with my ex-boyfriend and getting off with his mates at house parties.
Things had to change.
For a while, I toyed with the idea of travelling the world – but then I realised that I had no desire whatsoever to spend months living like a bourgeois hippy, existing out of a back-pack and trying to fool both myself and the world that an extended postcolonial holiday had made me spiritually rich. I did have the vague idea that it might be nice to one day have people address me as Dr, and that being forced to spend a period of years writing 100,000 words on an obscure subject would work wonders for my writing prowess.
So here I am. And, you’ll be glad to hear, things have improved. I very love my job. I very love my friends. I have reconnected with my intellect, such as it is. I only cry when I’m on my period, or at any film involving romance. And I hardly ever sleep with my ex boyfriend (or, indeed, anyone), although I’m saying nothing about his mates – mainly because I don’t want to close down any options.
But there are some things about the academic life that I did not think through. Such as that it is not a sexy profession. Nobody normal fantasises about doing it with a dusty old don. And, if they do, it’ll be because they haven’t met many. Academics are very weird, as a species. Because of the amount of time we spend conversing with books, we find human contact startling. We don’t know what to say, or how to say it flirtatiously. We talk to civilians using words like ‘demonstrably’ and ‘heterogeneous’, and then we wonder why they back away with watery repulsion in their eyes.
I have done my level best to avoid picking up such social habits by spending my leisure time reading Closer magazine and drinking whisky with friends from the old days, but I’m not convinced it has worked. I’ve definitely lost my mojo – if the state of my love life over the past 18 months is anything to go by.
So now that I’ve very nearly (please God, please) earned that Dr title I’m in a right Catch 22. I’m quite convinced that I will remain single forever and ever if I continue my academic life, unless I happen to stumble upon some handsome research cad on my journey (and I don’t see how that’s likely as, well, see my comments on the sex-appeal of academics, above. The alpha-male I favour tends to choose more a more aggressive career path). However, I have no other skills, apart from paper shuffling – which I refuse to return to, and blog writing – which is hardly viable financially. And I do enjoy academia, a large amount.
Is that a Catch 22? I’m not sure, but there you go. Academia – a reason to be single, because, I’m finding, it’s a thing that is probably worth being single for.
*picture by digitalart at freedigitalphotos.net