As I look for things I could be doing, I realize that after the PhD that my sense of urgency is completely gone. Well, except for stuff regarding anti-racism and fighting inequality, but that’s always been the case.
I think a large part of that has to do with the fact that I was told for most of my life that I am unemployable and that I basically need to not be me in order to get a job that’ll chip away at my soul and that the inside of me will perish before my physical body does.
Which while that damaged my mental health a lot, it also shielded me from internalizing that. What would I internalize a system that doesn’t want me to exist simply because of who I am? In this case, I’m speaking more to ableism, the hatred and fear of disabled folks, but this does apply to multiple aspects of myself.
The last time I felt no sense of urgency like was shortly after I finished my master’s. I got a job right after I finished school and I had no further plans of graduate school. I was in a stable place financially finally, but I didn’t really have anything to look forward to. Furthermore, my life felt adrift since I recently went no contact on family for various reasons.
I quickly realized that as much struggle as I had during school that the full time work I had was substantially worse. Hiding my autistic traits, code switching, dealing with racist folks, dealing with just a generally toxic environment, I quit that position in 6 months. I am not saying that academia doesn’t have these issues, it has all of them. I guess the difference is that at least I get to also learn about some interesting things while being subjected to it and also that in the more egregious cases that you actually have better odds versus many work environments. Like dealing with multiple folks calling me the n word? In a corporate situation, nothing will be done most of the time. In school and university, I got a few teachers fired for that, some students forced to keep distance from me and so on. The response at least for me has been substantially different. Your experiences may vary. My mom had to get concrete documentation and threaten to take it to a news station before the schools did that. I had to record racist folks calling me those words before action was done. In corporate, they threatened to fire me and asked me to delete, I instead quit my various jobs and blasted them anonymously.
Your experiences may vary from mines. Maybe you worked for good places that didn’t tolerate that. Maybe your school does absolutely nothing on racism even if the local news media shames them. Please don’t take my experiences as indicative of anything, but how I guide myself. It’s why I gravitate to academia: It’s the least toxic environment I’ve been in besides self employment. The only environment I get proper respect is self-employment, but it tends to be even more precarious than my various positions. Maybe I’ll be able to have self employment that makes enough one day.
While working for those soul crushing jobs badly affected, it did eliminate all the school burnout I had quickly and I decided that I wanted to pursue a PhD. I also wanted to give a few pathways that are only available with a PhD a shot and if you look on the statistics of employment for Black autistic folks, it’s grim. You can read more here with this link: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/aut.2021.0086
Going back to the original point, I’m wondering if I even need a sense of urgency. This sense of urgency kept me alive for much of my life. It kept me going, literally and figuratively. It also prevented me from being subjected to even more ableism and getting railroaded into the prison pipeline as well.
But I’m wondering now if it’s needed. Minus the PhD program and the usual anti-racism / fighting inequality, I don’t really have that urgency sense. It’s also been affecting my driving as well. Like, not making a right turn when I could on a red light because I’m not in a rush and no cars are behind me. Just enjoying the little things and seeing what people are rushing to. Most of the time, they’re rushing to things that make them miserable.
I guess this is a result of detachment from hustle culture and related stuff. The idea of rushing to misery just seems ingrained in multiple cultures at this point. Like rushing to a job that you hate to or rushing to a grocery store that you despise shopping at. It’s just rush rush rush to misery. Like why are we just rushing ourselves to a miserable demise where we’ll be filled with regrets? I partially know why (white supremacy, rich folks using various means of pressure to keep the system going for as long as possible, lots of infighting within various groups, etc.), but I don’t think that’s the entire reason. I think another reason is fear of a better system. Will a better system imply that the previous suffering was unnecessary and just there for cruelty? The simple answer is yes. There’s a lot of cruelty for the sake of it in this world and the more you unlearn, the better. I’m still unlearning that myself and I truly think it’s going to be a lifelong journey for myself.
Anyways, maybe it’s best that this sense of urgency stays gone after the doctoral program. I’m not miserable if it’s not there. Typically, I’m more playful, creative, and get fewer things done. My concern is that a lack of sense of urgency would basically eliminate the chance of an academic career, but maybe I could do self employment instead and live with some nice folks to reduce the chance of a slow month drastically altering my life. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out as I go and use the remaining sense of urgency to go ahead and get this terminal degree done!
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