Saturday, November 20, 2010

We Was Po', Part III: Choices and Possibilities

I've written about privilege and dealing with it in academia before, so I will try not to repeat myself. This past week I've had a sort of panicky time of uncertainty about my future in the academic world. While discussing Annie Dillard in religion class Thursday, we had a short conversation about her background and how this affects her writing. She was raised in a wealthy family, and my argument was that given this, her choice of a life of pure introspection and writing was possible. People who are raised in low income environments are less likely to assume that such a life is a career choice. Now, this isn't to say that it isn't possible, just that it is not necessarily seen as a choice. The rest of the class did not agree. It was at this moment that I had my crisis point.

How can I reconcile my background and beliefs with a life among people who truly believe that a low SES background doesn't generally cause exclusions from the beginning or that a privileged background doesn't mean more possibilities than low SES? This is the very reason I decided against a graduate career in women's studies. I was constantly interjecting a low SES rural perspective into conversations mostly to no avail. I couldn't stomach the thought of spending the rest of my life beating my head against that wall. Now, true to my fears, I am facing the same issue in religion.

The major problem is what to do about it. I love, I mean absolutely love, the idea of making a living studying religion, writing about it, and teaching people about it. That, to me, sounds like a good time. However, if I continue along this path, will it mean an eventual nervous breakdown when my brain has to repeatedly bash against these issues of privilege? If so, what else can I do? I don't want to do social work, because I fear ending up in some tangentially governmental office being forced to perpetuate a cycle I would rather destroy. Yes, I know there are plenty of other job possibilities within social work, but still...I thought about library science. I do so love books, and I could maybe work in a public library helping kids love to read. I could be a public school teacher, but it's a bit late in my undergraduate career to start that.