Socially Maladjusted Loner? Excellent!

Another remark or two on that discussion at Invisible Adjunct (and I have the link right this time, which makes a change). There is something one person said, about what it takes to become an academic, that strikes such a chord with me.

The problem, of course, is that such people are not much fun to be around and aren’t well adjusted socially. I know this description fits me pretty well, and almost everyone I know (other than my colleagues) finds me odd beyond belief. In short, the best traits for success in grad school are being a socially maladjusted loner with the dedication of a religious penitent. Like priests, others won’t and can’t understand your sacrifices, and can’t even imagine how your life could be happy without all those things you have sacrificed. But you are happy. If you can’t imagine happiness as a relatively celibate, materially deprived (relative to other middle class folks, of course), misunderstood, and largely isolated person, don’t dream of being a professor.

But see those are the kind of people that I do think are fun to be around – for a few minutes every few months or so, which is all the time they can spare. But what’s wrong with that? People set too much store by sociability and conviviality and gregariousness and likability and social skills and all that trivial nonsense. What’s so great about nice people? Give me a good obsessive maniac any day! But then I would say that, wouldn’t I. So such people are ‘odd beyond belief’ – why is that a problem? Odd people are the best people! Normal people are a dime a dozen, it’s the odd ones who make things interesting.

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