Of other people’s career arcs, you mean? Well, yes, occasionally I am. Look, I’m not proud of my covetous nature, particularly not with the Day of Atonement fast approaching (note to self: get right with God). But there it is. And this interview with Jill Lepore didn’t exactly make me feel better. An endowed chair at Harvard, a published novelist, a staff writer for the New Yorker, sigh, it is to want.
Anyway, the interview is interesting. And you should read it. But the part that caught my eye was where Lepore talks about why she became a historian. Oddly enough, someone asked me that question over the weekend. Usually the issue doesn’t come up, because when people ask me what I do for a living, I say that I’m a teacher. Or a shepherd*. Anyway, before my older boy’s soccer game on Saturday, one of the other parents wanted to know why I became a historian. And I totally fumbled the answer, pointing to various teachers**; an untold number of childhood Shabbat dinners, during which my grandparents screamed**** at each other about their experiences during World War II; and my rather extraordinary success at National History Day*****. Thinking more deeply about it, I think the answer is probably some combination of those things. Regardless, I need a stock reply that I can get out in 30 seconds or less. And you? Why are you in this line of work?
* A guy can dream, right?
** Thanks Dr. Newby, Mrs. Stout, and Professor Sewell.***
*** This list is not exhaustive.
**** Always with love. Seriously, my grandfather insisted, ’til his dying day, that he and my grandmother never had an argument. They simply had loud discussions.
***** Ask me! Oh please, ask me!