by Marlene Samuels
About two months ago, I got a note from a long time friend describing the newly funded research project she was about to launch. While I know I was supposed to be totally thrilled for her, I may as well have gone off to suck lemons. A tenured anthropology professor at a huge eastern university, my friend is considered an expert in her field. So, what put me into my very bitter funk?
Attached to her email was her academic vita–ivory tower idiom for resume. Pages and pages and pages! Besides the four books under her belt, she’s also published more than three-hundred journal articles, monographs, and textbook chapters. Do I care that in probably no more than 500 scholars in the world will ever read her work? You bet I do!
I ought to be happy for her, right? Wrong! Instead I became obsessed taking a mental accounting of all the compromises we make for our families, spouses, parents, and offspring. But in order to minimize my nagging guilt about not having joy for her, I also considered that I ought to itemize all the life choices Dr. Anthropology had to make to so much “career path” accomplishment.
That got me moving along the regrets tangent–the notion of what could I have done, how much I compromised, and sure there really was, and still is, an awful lot of that. While I was decorating homemade fudge birthday cakes with gummy worms, my friend was poring over anthropology journals in the library, perhaps way into the wee wee hours. When I was hiding from my kids in the basement toilet just to get a five minute private gossip session with a friend, maybe Dr. Anthropology was trying to find a friend with whom to have an acceptable, politically correct gossip session–one that wouldn’t result in violating university ethics codes.
Now, in view of my comparatively paltry accomplishments, I have come to admit the surprising. There’s something indescribably magical about ascending the commencement dais of a renowned university, extending my hand forward to receive the PhD I’d worked on for so many years between carpools and snow days, between orthodontist appointments and paintball parties and looking out into a sea of faces to find my husband and two teenage sons, simultaneously teary-eyed. “Welcome to the ancient and honorable company of scholars.” says the university president to me.
“Hey Yo! Mom, way to go!” my younger son jumps up and screams then gives me the high-five wave.
Marlene is a sociologist and writer,earned her Ph.D. and M.A., from University of Chicago in Social Science and teaches research methodology to non-fiction writers. She’s completing a short story collection and co-hosts www.expendableedibles.com and www.expendableedibles.com/blog. Her writing has been widely published. Visit her writer’s website, www.marlenesamuels.com