Meta-whying

As I ate my lunch on Monday, I thought to myself: “Why am I doing this?”  Not, “Why am I eating lunch?”–it was PBJ, chips, cookie, and milk, so duh, I was eating because it’s the perfect meal–but “Why am I busting my ass with all of this work?”  A short list of things I’m trying to accomplish: finish my minor field, prepare for prelims, revise an article, stay up on blog reading/writing (sorry about that, by the way), stay up on journal reading, and teach three classes.  I’m not whining here–this isn’t real work; it’s reading, writing, and teaching, and it’s pretty awesome that I get to spend my time doing it.

But why, exactly, am I doing it?  The “because I love it” routine wasn’t working for me on Monday, because, frankly, on Monday I wasn’t loving it.  Instead, I started to wonder whether I have noble or selfish reasons for doing this.  Noble: to affect positive change in the world, no matter how small (i.e. help a student think critically about the past and thereby make good [frankly, leftist, and that’s where things get tricky] decisions in the present].  Selfish: get a tenure-track J-O-B for the stability and sabbatical.  Lately, it seems like I’ve been doing things for the purpose of my career.  Of course, the idea is that if I can establish myself in the profession, then I’ll be able to do that noble stuff.  But neck-deep in work and far from the end of the grad school tunnel, that explanation sometimes just isn’t satisfying.

That’s it.  What, you expected resolution?

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