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#AcademicValentines or the elusive quest for love in academia

After reading a tweet from @NeinQuarterly (a Twitter account actually written by an academic, Eric Jarosinski), I couldn’t help but smile and attempt to contribute to the romanticization of February 14th through the lenses of an academic.

So I started tweeting a few pithy quotes from romantic comedies adapted to celebrate Valentine’s using academic wording and hashtagging it with #AcademicVAlentines. Because I started on February 11th, my fear was that the idea of Academic Valentines wouldn’t take off.

Strangely enough, the idea of #AcademicValentines did resonate with many people. Florence Chee, my colleague Brian Phillips, William Adler and a few other academics I follow and who follow me started tweeting their own. 2 hours later, Brian had the top retweeted tweet, a spot he held for a solid day or two.

#AcademicValentines has taken off alright, so much so, that it’s February 14th today (Happy Valentine’s!) and it is still going strong. This clearly shows that we are a nerdy, sometimes lovelorn bunch. I make fun of Valentines today because last year’s Valentines’ (a day that actually has a lot of meaning to me), I spent it talking over Skype with my (now former) partner. This year, for Valentines’, we are no longer together. While I can’t deny that it hurts (we were together for 8 years), I can’t also dwell on it.

Academia is a many splendored thing, yes. But it also has tremendous drawbacks. The two-body problem is not a small one. I have tried to solve the two-body problem issue twice, and both times, I’ve lost the battle. And while I love the accolades, seeing my name on published journal articles, books and book chapters, travelling the world for conferences and research fieldwork and to give seminar talks, I still am a human. A human who like any other, needs and wants to love and be loved in return.

Whenever I share my story with other colleagues (within and outside academia), the thing I say is “when considering a career in academia, you need to make sure to constantly communicate with your loved ones“. Be it parents, children, siblings, friends or partners/boyfriends/girlfriends, like in everything else, communication is key. Your goals need not only be aligned, but also talked about. If you are a PhD student, you need to a support network, and you have to tell your support network what you need, how you feel and where you are going. If you are going on the tenure-track or up for tenure, or seeking alt-ac career pathways, you’re going to need a support network, and you’ll need to communicate with them openly, clearly and directly.

Many fellow academics have reached out to me and said that they love my being frank, candid and open even on my academic/professional social media accounts. I appreciate the kind words, but more importantly, I think it is important for me that my fellow academics, my own PhD students, and the world in general can take a glimpse into academia that goes beyond the perception of individuals who live in ivory towers and are unreachable. I, for one, am never unreachable. If anything I do, write or tweet can help other fellow academics in their struggles to find balance in their academic and personal lives, it’ll be all worth it. Let’s call it “Contributions to Service to the Discipline and the Academic Community” 🙂

Happy Valentine’s, everyone.

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Posted in academia.

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