The Dissertation Fellowship convenes.

The Importance of Fellowship

Absolutely no one is shocked to hear that I’m a complete nerd. I even hang out with nerds. It’s kind of hard not to do that anymore, to be utterly frank, since it has become acceptable to admit that you’re a nerd about something. Of course, I’m not just a nerd about something. I’m a nerd about almost everything. I’m an academic, which makes me an automatic nerd about my own subject matter, but I’m also a tech nerd, a D&D nerd, a sci-fi nerd, a book nerd, a science nerd (to some degree), and a pop culture nerd. I’m not making up the fact that my D&D group includes an academic (me), three chemists, and an IT professional, and even if you ask them, I tend to hold onto the title of Alpha Geek more often than not. The other member of our group, who has a cool career and flies helicopters for a living, doesn’t enter into this.

Being a nerd, though, isn’t all the glamour and good times it’s cracked up to be. In all seriousness, being a nerd is socially isolating by its very definition, and being an academic on top of that means that I spend a lot of my time feeling utterly cut off from the rest of humanity. There’s a reason I spend so much time watching news reports on YouTube, as I admitted in yesterday’s post: it helps me connect, if not with individuals, then at least with the society in which I live.

Add to that the fact that it’s spring break, so no one’s around, and it can feel like I’m trying to grow potatoes on Mars.

The good news, though, is that I’m sitting at my friend Sinae’s dinner table as I write this. It’s not quite noon, and I’m watching her get lunch ready for the group of us who will be gathering for our weekly peer-pressure writing session, which, because we’re all nerds, we have come to call the Dissertation Fellowship. Yes, an academic pun, a Tolkien reference, and a name for a group that wouldn’t usually need a name, all wrapped into one. That’s us. As I offer to help her prepare some Korean barbecue and she tells me that she’s got it under control, I can step back in my mind for a moment and realize how much like a family of academics we’ve become. It’s…very comforting to know that, even though we’re all pretty cut off in our own work, we can come together and be cut off with one another.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a kind of brother/sisterhood that allows us to be what we are without denying us the things that we need as human beings. It’s good to be in a room with people who get my love for literature, even if they don’t get the literature I love. I’m certainly not a Victorianist like Sinae, for example. She doesn’t expect me to be, but I totally get the fact that the 19th century is her jam, and I support her in that.

Others are showing up now, and we’re kind of settling into our little work zones. We talk and goof around a bit, but we do a lot of serious work, too, and that’s a good thing. That’s what this is for. It’s just not all of what it’s for.

I guess the moral of this story is that you don’t really need a group of individuals who are entirely like-minded in order to have a group of like-minded individuals. The word “individual” there is sort of the most important part of that puzzle. No one here is working on the same thing, and only a few of us are in the same field, but we’re all supporting one another, and doing so successfully might I add. If more academics would do this, if we would share the load a bit more, we might have fewer troubles with our selves.

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