Il mio gran male è stato sempre e sarà sempre uno: quello di desiderare e sognare, invece di volere e fare.
I find myself at a point where I’m about to start an academical career, trying, in the coming months, to get into a master’s thesis programme in comparative literature. That was something I decided over the past months, during which I was quite confused as to what to do after graduating early summer this year. I knew I wanted to do academia, but I was unsure which branch, which field, which topics, which ends I wanted to pursue. After months of confusion and stressful thinking, one day I figured out what end I wanted to pursue: study the forms of identity. Identity—ethnic, cultural, national, sexual, religious, etc.—is this weird mechanism which the masses—i.e. everybody—use to answer both existential and daily questions. Identity is what makes some parts of the world different—and subjectively worse or better—than other places. Identity is what defines borders (or maybe it’s borders that define identity). It’s something people fight for and die for and live by and live for. It’s an image of ourselves that we impose upon our very selves besides the others—including both our peers and the alterity. I have realised that, my struggle was to overcome identity, overcome and transcend all the artificial burden of it, all the ways it confines one to exist in; and to be, merely be. I wanted to replace in me identity with reason, habitual moods with actual emotions, I wanted to outdo both tradition and revolution. Observing I saw that the many ways the modern times suggest us that we can be, are nothing else than other forms of repressive and stereotypical identities requiring the individual to reshape himself for and fit himself in. Many marginalisms, many alternative ways of life were nothing else than new categories. I though wanted to carve my way to a natural, unique, reasonable way of being. Win over identity. And I found out that I wasn’t done with this, I still had to explore myself and the world I exist in, spot and bust remnants of many identities being born and raised not solitarily in a forest and by wolves or chimps has loaded me with. Thus, it was quite easy and seemingly obvious for me to deduce that I wanted to study identity, “its structure and substance”, if I use my favourite phrase nowadays. This quick train of thought brought me to the conclusion that I wanted to study some comparative branches of humanities: literature, and linguistics. And I still hold that these are the fields best for me in academia.
But the actual question that I haven’t answered is that, do I really want to go into academia, searching for the answers to these questions as a dayjob, dripping in finesse and getting paid for it? Or is this the way I am forcing myself into in order to avoid real work that I so despise (not philosophically, but empirically: I just can’t work, I’m extremely parsimonious when it comes to spending my time for someone else, even for money in return)? I openly tell it to people: I can earn a lot of money, I know me some languages and some computer programming; but I want to do academia because learning and searching for information is my favourite thing anyways, and I think I like and am probably good at teaching what I know; so going into academia would not really be like work, I’d do what I already love to do, and as a bonus, earn a living, most possibly abroad. But, is this the truth? Am I tricking myself into believing this? Or will I discover that this is not really for me at all when doing my master’s, or when I graduate and actually start working as an academician along with the doctorate (or PhD), like it usually happens with me? Am I exaggerating a simple curiosity?
I truly lack the answer to these questions, and that makes me nervous when I have nothing to distract me from them. While reading something or preparing to read something, while alone in the bathroom, when I’m bored in the metro and have a headache or a sore neck and can’t read a book or listen to music, while eating without watching a video, while sipping my coffee and beer without anybody to distract me around, while trying to sleep or wake up… I just end up immersing myself into these questions and swing between the two extremities like a pendulum. The two extremities being just diving into academical study for the decade to come, or to quit everything and try start a hippy caf with my relatives who live in some parts of Europe? Or maybe I should go back into programming, or do translation or work in tourism, or… Maybe this is the price you pay for curiosity and indeterminedness (if that’s a word): you end up with too much to pick from, you want to pick some from each, but can’t choose and end up with your hands empty like a desert.