Imagine "a person" who may or may not be brilliant in her field, but certainly has new things to contribute, some of them (in her opinion) fascinating.
Imagine she adores her field, relates to it spiritually, and has been convinced for years that her life purpose is to do this research. She cannot imagine spending her time on this planet in any other way.
Of course, she has poured hours into it already, devoting her undergraduate career and much of her personal time to her area of interest. But she knows that it takes years of full-time commitment, study, and mentorship to become an expert in a field and to become qualified to break ground in a specific area.
But suppose it is not in her nature, nor particularly within her abilities, to meet the demands of today's academic culture. She is absent-minded and spacey; she is idealistic; she is in certain ways immature. She crumbles easily under stress and is psychologically vulnerable. She has difficulty making time for everything even without the demands of a graduate or postgraduate workload. She hates filling out forms and (especially) soliciting recommendations, even though her kind and charitable professors are always eager to write for her.
Please answer one or both of these questions:
Should the person in my example "go into academe"--that is, should she go to graduate school for an academic PhD? If not, what should she do?
Does the "absent-minded professor" exist anymore, and if so, how do/did they get through the hurdles?