This is dedicated to the memory of our academic colleague who just died in heartbreaking circumstances. May his soul Rest In Peace.)
One of the jobs that are worst misunderstood by most is that of a lecturer. The description of an academic’s job covers teaching, research and community service; a worthy academic is supposed to be great at the three. Each of these three is a job on its own and doing all requires good support, especially from family. Where that support fails, the ‘molecules’ get destabilized and the end result can only be great by chance, which someone like me would call ‘grace of God ‘.
The concept ‘academic freedom’ is perceived by many as the freedom to be lazy; hence someone reaches out to you and thinks you must do what they want immediately, after all you are not strictly tied to your office seat. Most times, you are tempted to explain the demands of a job that takes over your head absolutely, but you refrain from doing so because you do not know where to start from.
How do you explain that for academics, the brain never rests nor stops working, even in sleep? How do you explain the fact that the ‘so exaggerated salary’ people assume you earn is not correct and that what you really earn goes back into research, which has to be published in journals (international and local), and that your surviving in the academic ‘terrain’ and not ‘perishing’ depends on how much you are able to put into that? How do you explain the pains of difficult sleep with loads of scripts littering your house, up to your bed, round the year? A senior colleague told me his wife had to move to another room because their marital bed was half-covered with books. When he became a professor, after the ‘excited’ congratulations, the next question from the wife was, ‘Can I move back to our room now’?
How do you explain so many other things that make our university clinics get filled up with case files of high blood pressure traceable mainly to academic staff?
If you pass through all these and more that are not mentioned in this writeup, and there are other extraneous challenges, especially emotional issues, the combination is highly deadly. How do you get back home dejectedly after the rejection of a paper you felt would make selection, a paper you have mentally counted as part of the list you intend to present for promotion, only to face emotional stress from a spouse who does not understand the implication of that singular rejection which could mar your chance of moving to the next level in your career? I am sure this will be better understood by a spouse who is also an academic than any other. That is surely a time to encourage as well as stay out of their way till that moment has passed.
Where there is no solid support, it takes the grace of God to survive. I know this from personal experience.
All these are outside the pressure of people around you who erroneously assume the PhD is the key to unlocking world wealth and come from different directions demanding you do for them what you cannot even afford for yourself.
The desire to end it all is scalar; many are at the edge while some are at the lower end of the scale. We all need to reach out to people around us who are passing through difficult times. We all have one challenge or the other but the ability to cope with life challenges varies. You, at times, need to be strong about your challenge to save someone close to the edge of giving it all up.
My heart reaches out to the family, friends and acquaintances of our late colleague, who died in that heartbreaking circumstance, may such never happen again. May His soul Rest In Peace.