Thursday, July 3, 2008

Loneliness and academia, part 40

Loneliness seems to come as a side-effect of the academic lifestyle. I am on a fairly large mailing list for an activity with a new faculty member in his early 40's who keeps sending updates on his mother's health. It seems strange to do, because he goes into such depth about which medical tests, and what the outcomes were. I know him personally, and I'm glad that I know that his mother is sick and he needs extra support, but I feel like knowing the details is kind-of intrusive even as a relative friend of his. For the many people on the list who don't know who he is, it's downright weird to know that this guy's mother had X and Y medical tests and treatments.

But then I realized that everyone needs someone that they can tell all the details to, and he doesn't have anyone. He's never mentioned a father, so apparently his father is no longer in the picture, perhaps no longer alive, and I don't remember if he has siblings, so his mother might be his only immediate family member, so it's even more traumatic that he's at risk of losing her.

He's moving to the same city as I am, and he's clearly reached out to me. He's refined and attractive, but so clearly lonely and longing. Not that there's anything wrong with those things. Being lonely is a good thing, in a way, because it means that someone likes people --- compare my misanthropic once-long-distance-boyfriend who broke up with me the morning of my job interview in his city --- but it also creates a vibe that makes others want to run away from them, at least when it comes to romantic involvement. This instinct to run away from loneliness and need is one of the tragedies of human nature.

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