Since I sent in that first grad school application, I've been consumed by becoming a college professor. It took me 7 years to get my MA and PhD, and all during that I TA'd and taught classes, and did other odd jobs to pay the bills. (I was especially good at telephone sales for some reason!)
I got married right after the PhD while doing a postdoc job. And then after another year of postdoc work I got my first tenure track job that started in September of last year.
I struggled in that first semester, but worked hard through it. I was astonished at the students, how exquisitely dumb they were, how fantastically lazy, how creatively they avoided work. It was something I never noticed much as a TA. Back then I was working on my own classes. The undergrads I met were just elements or obstacles to deal with and get out of the way. But now, somehow, as they are the largest part of my job, I find myself mystified by them and their lack of sense.
I spoke to some colleagues about this - in general terms - after the fall term, and to a person they said, "This is what it's like. You must find career satisfaction somewhere other than through the students." I talked to my grad school advisors and colleagues, and found that they had similar advice. Some seemed to have better students than I did; some seemed more prepared for what they faced in their first jobs.
But somehow the entire illusion I had about the career has disappeared.
It is not just the students. My colleagues are closed off. My attempts to be collegial are often rebuffed or ignored. I haven't come in expecting to be beloved or anything, but I find that I'm just ignored, left to fend for myself. They are pleasant in a distant way, but there is no camaraderie, and I notice in other departments it appears the same.
I don't want this to sound like a pity party. I want to honestly express that this career is not at all what I thought it was. Was I naive? I suppose so. I had a romantic feeling about the life of a college professor, the so called life of the mind. But it's just drudgery, long hours, relatively mediocre pay, and a feeling that what I do doesn't have any meaning.
My students work harder at avoiding work than at anything I assign them. And even though they vex me, my main feeling about them is just disinterest. I don't even get mad at them. I just think to myself, "Why would I want to teach these lazy fucks?"
But how do I walk away from this now? For the better part of a decade my whole goal has to become this thing, a thing I clearly didn't understand or get prepared for. I think all day, every day, about quitting in May. How do I tell my wife, my friends, my family. What do I say when I quit? "I'm sorry; it wasn't what I thought it would be."
I feel shame about this. I feel stupid. How could I not know? I just want to say "stop" to the whole thing.