I’m confused about my career. (Welcome to academia, please join every other graduate student on the bench.)
I have two areas of specialization right now: Who the Hell Cares is my primary field and Change the World is my secondary field. This is how they end up being caricatured in my brain. The answer to Who the Hell Cares is easy enough, I do. I’m sure it’s something every medievalist faces at some point. Change the World is seeing the most action right now. I’m presenting, researching, writing about Change the World. I’m not sure what’s happening with Change the World, it’s a crazy ride that I can’t quite control yet. I keep trying to set it aside so that I can focus on Who the Hell Cares, but like I said, I am currently being swept along on the current of Change the World, and I’m digging around in the boat for the oars. This topic is happening to me. It is not a topic that “I’m pursuing.” I’m starting to wonder what I’m supposed to do with it. Should I throw in all my energy and focus on Change the World?
The problem is, I actually really do love Who the Hell Cares. It’s been the focus of my work, interests, and energies for almost fifteen years. Unfortunately, my hiatus tripped up my momentum, and I’ve been trying to stand back up in this field ever since. I had hoped to regain my footing over this past year, but Change the World kept getting in the way. And now what I had hoped to be my dissertation topic probably won’t be a possibility, leaving me even more afloat. Who the Hell Cares has been my dream, has been what got me back into grad school. The faculty/advising situation in my department is a dream team for Who the Hell Cares; nonexistent for Change the World.
On the one hand, I shouldn’t have to panic about what to specialize in so early in my graduate career. On the other, I do. I need to get funding for things. I need to write a dissertation, get a job. It’s different for grad students these days–there’s not a lot of time for letting things simmer. I think of my dissertation as the opportunity to gain skills and begin networking my academic community. I’m more interested in making that investment into Who the Hell Cares.
Change the World is taking me so far outside of my comfort zone that i don’t even know what’s going on. And, to be honest, I think I’m more employable if Who the Hell Cares is my primary field, because I’ll be able to teach the canon, with Change the World providing some nice side show electives. If I were to specialize in Change the World, the kinds of places I could get a job may be places with hyper-specialized study centers.
So what do I write my dissertation on? And how do I tame the wild ride that is Change the World?