When I left my academic research job, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I’d moved to Atlanta hoping the postdoc position I took would propel me into a job of a similar nature in industry or government. I imagined myself working for the CDC or a state public health agency or a consulting firm. But by the end of my academic career, I wanted to make a much more radical change.
I told people I was going to write a novel, which I did although I never published it.
I also had a more obscure goal: watch Ken Burns’ Baseball in its entirety. It was a strange thing for me to want to do at the time because I’m not a particularly big fan of baseball. But something about its history called to me. As did the freedom to spend my time exploring something that fascinated me with no expectation of it furthering my career.
In that sense, my plan to watch Ken Burns’ Baseball was indicative of what was to follow. I’ve never resumed working full time since leaving academia, but I’ve found much joy in pursuing my curiosities: comedy, history, writing, and art.
It was curiosity that brought me back to Ken Burns recently. I’ve spent the past couple years steeped in Atlanta’s history, which has made me want to know more about the Civil War. Enter Ken Burns’ nine episode documentary on the topic.
With Baseball, I managed to finish most of the series, but then I took a road trip that disrupted my progress and I failed to make my way back to it. In contrast, with The Civil War, not only have I managed to finish the series, I’ve already started watching it a second time so I can retain more of the content.
I’m also looking forward to an upcoming documentary from the Ken Burns’ team about East Lake Meadows, a public housing project in Atlanta that was torn down in the mid-1990s and replaced with a mixed income development that’s become a national model for revitalization.
There’s so much to know in this world in terms of what’s happened and how that impacts what’s going on now. I’m grateful that there are people like Ken Burns and his team who are dedicated to sharing this information. Watching Baseball set off a passion for history that I’m still now stoking–a fire for knowledge that even a strained relationship with academia couldn’t squelch.