Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.~Confucius
As I sat down last week to write a post about why I chose to become a historian, I found it extremely difficult. There was so much to say, but I was unable to corral those ideas into a suitable post. Perhaps it was because I have been on the sidelines of the academic world for a while and feeling somewhat isolated. Or, maybe it was because many of the recent articles I’ve read about academia have been quite negative.
Over the weekend I attended the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association (SHA), and it rejuvenated my passion for history. It’s ironic that I have never been to this conference. It was the first historical association that I joined when I was in graduate school since my research was and is focused on the South.
It may sound silly, but in a way it was like “coming home” for me because there was such familiarity. The conference was held in St. Louis, and I lived in the St. Louis Metro area for four years. I attended the conference with one of my good friends that I’ve known since graduate school. I saw other friends, sorors, and colleagues that I’ve met over the years.
I enjoyed the presentations, receptions, the networking, and browsing the new book titles in the exhibit hall, but seeing my former professor, Theda Perdue, had the greatest impact on me. Her historiography course on the Old South was one of the first courses I took during my master’s program. She is a lovely person, but she is tough. I was petrified but so relieved when she found my writing to be sound. I felt as if all of the other students knew more than me (although they probably didn’t).
I had taken a Native American history course with Dr. Perdue’s husband, Michael Green, and I absolutely loved his passion. My excitement when I teach the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass or The Souls of Black Folk reminds me of how he behaved when we discussed From the Deep Woods to Civilization in his class. You could tell he loved what he was doing and that he was in his element. I was saddened to find out that he had recently passed away. Dr. Green was one of the professors who encouraged me to apply to graduate school, and I was flattered that he held me in such high regard.
I wanted to study history, in part, to tell the history of those who were unable to write it for themselves. I wanted to change students’ present and future by introducing them to the past. I’m glad this weekend I was able to attend the SHA and reconnect with the academic world.