Wednesday, January 05, 2011

MLA11: It Gets Better (pt 2)

1 comment:

ron alcalay said...

hanks for the original post, Kathi, and for your follow up.
I appreciate the invitation to share our refugee stories. I think of mine more as an immigrant story (from the old world to the new), or possibly a story of development. Leaving ...academia allowed me to interact and serve the world in ways I hadn't before. I discovered the green business community, a loose group of people (with many subgroups) who are actively engaged with the needs of people and the planet. Of course, I miss conversing with other intellectuals about interesting stories, films or ideas...but in retrospect, a lot of these conversations left me feeling ineffectual. What was the point of commenting on culture when, if the climate scientists' predictions came true, our world was poised on a tipping point, leaving the earth flooded, iced over or otherwise, inhospitable?
Just out of college, wondering what to do with my life (law, advertising, teaching?), my dad gave me some good advice. He said, "Stop worrying so much about what you want to do. Think about what the world needs, and how you can best fulfill those needs." For the first five years of the MA and Ph.D. programs at Berkeley, I thought education was my answer; for the last five years, I saw that it could not be (for many of the reasons you listed in your original post).
Nevertheless, the education I received was not lost. I still enjoy writing and storytelling. These skills, refined in grad school, inform my communication with the world. And the education my students received was not lost. A former film history student from a lecture gig at Loyola accosted me a couple of years in Santa Monica, telling me how much he loved the class, how it was the favorite of his entire college career, and how now he has a screening room in his condo on the beach! He even remembered a couple of the films I screened.
I still consider myself an educator of sorts. It's just that now I don't confine my teachings to classrooms and sanctioned publications, or my subjects to literature and film. *Bad Subjects* gave me a glimpse of how one can still respond thoughtfully to the world and serve it simultaneously. I am so grateful to Joe Sartelle, Annalee, Charlie, Steve and Jillian for their commitment to this early 'zine "for everyday life."
My hemp clothing business just takes me further down that road. Apart from the new sense of community with purpose, I've reconnected with my creative impulses--the sensual world of materials and color--in ways I could not before. So that feeds me too.
Like you, I'll always admire and respect the great profs. who shepherded us through, illuminating books like fireflys on a sometimes darkened path.
For them, academia was the best way to serve the world, and I'm so happy the academy found chairs for them.
As for me, I'm just as glad I chose to leave. I rarely think of returning, but would gladly meet with you for tea when you're in LA. We can discuss the present, the future we're co-creating, and maybe even "The Trauma of Tron: 3D escapism or cautionary clockwork?" a fanciful academic title I just made up after viewing that awful movie last night.... I'd write the essay if I didn't feel there were more important things to do.