I became a member of the Modern Language Association in 2014, mostly because I was on the job market, grad student memberships were cheap, the convention was in the city where I live, and I wanted free access to Interfolio. (I was already using the JIL as a non-member.)
Becoming an MLA member was sort of a deferred dream come true. There was a time in my life, probably around age 17-22, that I assumed, hoped, or wished that I would one day be an English professor. I have always loved to read, and even as my academic career took me further and further from literature (the last time I really engaged with the academic study of literature was reading almost all of Middlemarch for an aesthetics class at Humboldt State in 2006), and from English departments, I have often said that I see myself as an "English department person." My main interest in life (apart from first-order things like family) is books, and reading and writing.
But frankly, whenever I get a small glimpse of what goes on in of the humanities today (as opposed to education, applied linguistics, and TESOL, which are fields I actually work in), I feel like getting out of "English" was the right thing for me to do. I like where I am compared to where I might be if I had seriously considered literature as a career.
Yet I can't stop thinking about wanting to engage with the MLA, even though I have decided to let my membership lapse. It's not just that I still want to believe somehow that I have a future as a tweedy, bookish professor (rather than the sometimes obnoxiously practical non-tenure-track writing teacher I am); it's that the MLA represents a lot of stuff that I really do think is important.
When I think about jumping in to the conversation, though, I have to step back. (And not only because you have to submit things like 40 years in advance to get published in the PMLA.) I don't work in an English department. I don't even work in the humanities at all; much as I feel sad saying this, I'm just not trained to think like a humanist. (I might have a humanist's heart, but I have a language educator's brain.) And I don't work in the United States. (The MLA, like most American professional associations, is pretty US-centric, which is perhaps understable, though I did have to wonder at the sheer absurdity that the people who ran the conference put up signs referring to "ADA Elevators" -- that's elevators per the "Americans with Disabilities Act"-- when we were literally in Canada.)
So I don't think the MLA is for me, for a number of reasons, but I'm glad it does what it does, and I mourn my lapsed membership, in a small way, the way you might mourn leaving a country, or a community, or a religion: I don't speak the language any more (if I ever did), but I know I'm missing something by not making the effort.