I guess I just didn't take to the egotistical quality. That was a large part of it. To be a scholar, or to take the success of school and run with it, you had to have a big ego, one way or another. (Look at the egos of the academy today. Look at the egos of banking today.)
And that was never what I had learned. I had learned that scholarship was more about finding a traditional way, in the way that my father, being a professor of botany, was far from being egotistical. He knew the selflessness of real science. He knew the perspective, the engagement, the equality of real teaching, even if he was not particularly celebrated for what he did so well, even as it was often acknowledged, his deep moral sense of the spirituality of the teaching classroom on the planet Earth.
But where I went, you could kind of smell it. You did well, you went on and did well further, and then one day counted yourself a success and could look down on other people who had not done as well.
There was, of course, being a great school, still a lot of egoless intellect and art and real thinking. There were great people who could still be real and let their guard down. Along with the ambitious and the self-interested. Some people just slipped into the tradition of the place, which allowed them an excuse, or a way around it.
And so I found myself gravitated toward things like Irish music, or writing whatever I felt like I needed to put down, things that never really had to be done with the kind of greedy professionalism, given what professionalism has become in many sectors. I know. People think they don't have a choice but to be a professional of the sort, meaning an exaggerated sort of person, their humanity distorted by the identity they claim. Like the literary critic too self absorbed to engage with a honest student.
So I chose a line of work that got me far away from the big ego, and into a barroom, where I could not claim a Ph.D, but where doctors and smart people could come and talk and discuss interesting things, never held to a certain topic necessarily.
The problem with egotism, as opposed to something that is more of the soul, less of the intellect, is that there is distracting quality to it. There is a certain psychological divorce going on. And this is why we all feel weird now, doing something original, or sitting down and thinking on paper. There is always the successful person looking over the shoulder, offering the comparison of their own rewarding life within to yours without.