Some of you know my real identity. You might know that I teach at two universities, on the one hand, and serve as a commander in the U.S. Army Reserve, on the other. (Until relatively recently, I also worked as a security guard, not to mention years ago as a part-time musician.) I’m hesitant to tell you that, while I find academia and the military rewarding, I don’t feel entirely at home in either career path. I say hesitant because most of you would probably roll your eyes at a sob story involving a poor misfit named Der Viator, an outsider looking in, someone living a solitary life on the fringes. I would roll my eyes, but not before getting out the air violin.
I suppose I should clarify what I mean, however. For the most part, I’m talking about the people and subculture inherent in these careers. As far as duties and responsibilities go, I’m fine. Admittedly, I’m more of an academic than a soldier in my heart of heart, if for no other reason than that education and research have shaped my life long before the opportunity arose to join the Army. Heck, reading and writing is a lifelong passion. In my graduate school days, I felt like the quintessential academic, publishing articles, finishing the dissertation, speaking at conferences, conducting archival research in Europe, and attending Christmas shindigs with pretentious grad students and professors. But somehow I lost my way; things didn’t pan out for me in terms of a full-blown academic career: a tenure-track position and all the rest of it. I haven’t felt a part of the “establishment” ever since.
And as far as the military is concerned, I have my good days and my bad days. Who doesn’t, right? Admittedly, I’ve been reconsidering my commission in light of the overload of duties that I’m expected to fulfill as a weekend warrior. This issue aside, I've noticed that most, but not all, of the soldiers I've interacted with in these past seven years or so seem to have a different Weltanschauung than I do, and I suppose using sesquipedalian words like Weltanschauung and sesquipedalian doesn’t help me in those settings. (In actuality I’m careful not to use big words in certain contexts, the military being one of them, lest I seemingly vindicate someone’s view about people with high degrees being pedantic and snobbish.) Perhaps the “problem” is that I bring my military sensibility into academia, and my “professorial” demeanor to the military. Is it so wrong to make a student perform 40 push-ups when he doesn’t participate sufficiently in class discussion? Seriously, though, this thesis of mismatching my identities doesn’t account for my feeling of anomie in these career paths–and frankly other experiences too.
I don’t know if I’ve always felt like an outsider. True, I’ve been a lone wolf since my early days. As I look back on my childhood, I see a rather odd boy. I’m not even sure the “lone wolf” metaphor properly characterizes me. After all, don’t wolves live in packs? Where’s my pack? My peeps? My posse? Lupus incomitatus. I’m cursed to mark my territory alone.