Where is the Love?

Hannah Lebovits, PhD student, Cleveland State University

A few weeks ago, a scholar I follow on Twitter expressed some frustration with her studies (as many of us come to Twitter to do) and we wondered whether her field loved her. I got me thinking about how and where we can find love in academia.

Wait- not that kind of love.

While I’m always excited when I meet a “pair a docs,” I don’t mean scholarly couples. I’m referring to adoration, stomach-flipping excitement and nonsensical joy- things we don’t often associate with academia at all, let alone individual disciplines and departments. In short, as any 90’s kid would, wondered- where is the love?

Academia is not the most likely place to find love mostly because, in all honesty, academia doesn’t really care about you. Which is to say that the institution of academia isn’t interested in your love mostly because it doesn’t need it. It will outlast you (or so it thinks) and unlike the suave, lead character in a Rom-Com, its not secretly vulnerable and searching for meaning.

Since academia doesn’t really care about individuals, it can be difficult for an individual looking for love to find those feelings within the existing system. But we’re in luck! While academia as a context-less institution might not concern itself with your needs and will likely not support you in your endeavors- the people who make up the academic experience can help you find pockets full of sunshine along your journey.

So, the question now becomes, how do you develop and nurture that love?

You’ve got to give a heckuva lot of it to others. For free.

Seriously. The best way to absolutely kill any relationship is to forget that you’re in one. At every stage in the academic process, there are ample opportunities to give out lots of love and support. Just starting out? Get involved on campus, supporting issues you care about- give people your time and, more importantly, your full attention. Two years in? Support your peers ahead of you- help them with comps, tell them how much you admire them and bring them snacks. Working on your comps/dissertation prospectus? SHAMELESSLY promote your colleagues on the job market when you attend conferences or speak with people at other schools. Looking for a job? Heck, the system is completely a mess so you might as well focus less time and attention on worrying about your apps (once you’ve put in some good ones, of course) and start giving more support to the new PhD students.

The cycle continues regardless of whether you pass comps right away, get a tenure track job immediately or get tenure. There are endless opportunities to give out your love. And the more you give, the more you feel supported, seen and understood.

Because, this thing called academia starts to feel less like an institution and more like an intentional community. And when you invest enough in your community, you adore your friend who mows their lawn in their pajamas, you feel that stomach flip when a neighbor succeeds and for no reason other than the fact that its yours, you feel endless joy when you come back home.