In the last month, I’ve begun to think seriously of what my role in academia is. Perhaps the most surprising conclusion that I have begun to arrive upon is that our roles are constructed. Undoubtedly it would appear that such a conclusion offends the very grain of our existence as it doubts our very core assumption of personal power. Perhaps that is why I have not begun to consider this until now.
Familiarity makes us comfortable, but sometimes we stand on pedestillian prisons of our own making. We imagine a role as ours that we want, regardless of what our role may be. We cannot construct our own roles though. It may conflict with the popular conception of individualism to realize that our function is not exogenous, but we are better for appreciating it.
Resigning oneself to the fact of a world that we must fit into is at once frightfully pessimistic. But that world is already there. Recently, I read a book entitled “They Say, I say” that suggested the academic conversation is like a party:
- It has been going on a long time when you arrive
- Just as soon as you hear enough of the conversation to jump in, you do
- After hours of lively conversation and stimulating debate, you have to leave
- The conversation continues long after
The intellectual in all of us wants to stay at the party, and see what happens next. We are only given short time to learn from it and offer what we can though. I think this realization is crucial to intellectual growth, and any further understanding of what our role is. In many ways, then, life is just the party. All that you have to do is be attentive, forget shyness, and your role finds you!