I think everyone who reads this blog knows that I periodically threaten to drop out of grad school to open an ice cream shoppe (the “e” is not silent). I still haven’t given up on that idea, in fact, I declared yesterday that a particular abandoned building will be my premises. But I do have another back up career option in case this whole folklorist thing doesn’t work out:
I’m going to become a superhero.
I know you’re all thinking that grad school has finally made me crack, but bear with me a second.
The idea occurred to me last Spring at a midnight showing of The Avengers. No, I wasn’t inspired by the awesomeness of the movie. (Though it was pretty frellin’ awesome. I was going to write a review saying that, but we were on hiatus.) The movie hadn’t even started yet. But as I was sitting there waiting for it I realized that given the state of education funding in our country and the fact that so many of those who decide budgets for such things call the humanities and social sciences “frivolous”, my chances of becoming a superhero are equal to or better than my chances of getting a tenure track job any time soon. And then I thought, “Would that be such a bad thing?”
I didn’t know. I needed to do more research.
Fortunately, I was there with my friend J who teaches courses on comic books and therefore qualifies as a superhero expert. I turned to him and asked, “Do you think that superheroes get health insurance?”
He says he thinks that if you get on with a team like the Avengers or the Justice League or the X-Men you can, the problem is that you have to go “in network” with the team’s medical facilities for everything. Otherwise your copays are astronomical. The solo superheroes on the other hand we figure are like adjuncts with no coverage. Which has to suck big time because I’ve been told putting “juggler” as your occupation makes you a level 3 health risk, so putting “superhero” must make you something around a level 8. Sure, you can try to phrase it nicely and write “Man without Fear” or “Caped Crusader” but those wily insurance companies probably see right through that. (Of course, Batman can afford his own health care and Daredevil qualifies for disability coverage given that he’s blind, so this is all rhetorical.) We now know the real reason superheroes live double lives: they need a second career to get insurance!
Okay, so in this regard academia and superhero-dom (superheroics?) are about equal.
“What about retirement?” I asked. He says he figures there’s no retirement plan, they basically expect you’ll die before you get there. Fair enough. Still not much different than academia.
But here are the other perks you get as a superhero: cool clothes that might be made of unstable molecules (though if you go the solo route you’re gonna be making your own out of scraps from the college costume department like Daredevil); fame and possibly fortune; international and possibly interplanetary travel; housing possibly provided…
Academia offers… library access.
Now honestly, that’s a huge point in its favor. Because I love libraries and I love interlibrary loan even more.
In the end it all came down to this: in academia a huge chunk of your career will be spent writing grant proposals; as a superhero it will be spent battling the forces of evil.
If you’ve written a grant application recently, you know why the forces of evil are sounding like the easier option.
So there you have it: my new career trajectory. Stay tuned to the same peanutbuttery blog for a forthcoming post on my superhero qualifications.