Breaking Up With Academia: Finding a New Way to “Do What You Love”

Breaking Up With Academia: Finding a New Way to “Do What You Love”

Roses are red
Thorns leave you weeping
If I “do what I love”
I’ll get paid to keep sleeping!

The other day, I posted this Alt-Ac Career Generator that I made last year and posted to Facebook. At the time, several of my grad friends and I had just attended an alt-ac all-day workshop. In one session, the poor presenter (who couldn’t have anticipated our collective angst) gave us a handout on using your interests to find a new career. One of the suggestions was along the lines of, “I like writing and architecture, so I could start a business building doll houses.”

You can probably guess how well that went over.

At the time, my own feeling was that following my passion was exactly what got me into this mess in the first place. All I wanted now was a job where I could work decent hours, take weekends off guilt-free, and make a good living already!

I can’t even afford Barbie’s dream house, let alone my own house, on a grad student salary. (And I’m sorry, Barbie gets an ELEVATOR now? She’s too good to walk up the stairs in her tiny pink shoes? Yeah, okay, grad school has reduced me to envying a plastic doll.)

In the year since that presentation, a time in which I’ve decided to leave the PhD, I’ve done a lot of rethinking about this money and love and work problem.

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Valentine’s Day, 18th Century-Style

Valentine’s Day, 18th Century-Style

Welcome to the weekend, 18th-centuryists! Do you find yourself swooning, and it’s not just from your corset? Do you feel like spending all day running through the meadows and reading love poems, just like Marianne Dashwood before a fall? Then you might be under the spell of Valentine’s Day.

Not sure who your valentine should be? Over at the John Hopkins University Press blog, Janine Barchas is celebrating with heartthrobs and pinup picks for Jane Austen’s characters.

In the 18th century, you could profess your love by pinning a slip of paper with your sweetheart’s name onto your clothes, leading to the idiom, “wear your heart on your sleeve.”

Of course, you could always get him or her a Founding Fathers valentine, from Publius Esquire:

Want to be a little more generous? Head over to Making History Now for an amazing 18th century-inspired Valentine’s gift guide. I would definitely commit improprieties if my boyfriend got me that Marquis de Lafayette necklace over shrub glass cocktails…

Regardless of how you celebrate or whom you celebrate with (or if you celebrate at all!), here are some sweet words from 1784 to wish you a happy weekend:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue
The honey’s sweet, and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and then I drew
And Fortune said it shou’d be you.

Get your flu shot, and other 18th-century tips for looking fabulous

Get your flu shot, and other 18th-century tips for looking fabulous

Maybe you’re like me, and you get the flu shot every year because you (1) have a weird sense of public duty about it and (2) can’t afford to get sick. Maybe you’re just particularly freaked out about diseases and public health these days. (Or maybe you’re wary and want to read about some flu shot myths.)

Regardless, let Marie-Antoinette’s vaccine-themed hairstyle persuade you to get your flu shot this year. Gio from History And Other Thoughts explains (excerpted from the book Rose Bertin, the Creator of Fashion at the Court of Marie-Antoinette by Emile Langlade):

The King had been vaccinated on June 18, 1774. The custom of inoculation in use for centuries among the peoples in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea had been imported into England from Constantinople in 1738, and into France in 1755. The operation on the King gave [celebrated royal dressmaker] Mlle. Bertin a new idea; the pouf a l’inoculation celebrated the occasion.

It represented a rising sun, and an olive-tree laden with fruit, round which a serpent was twisted, holding a flower-wreathed club. The classical serpent of Esculapius represented medicine, and the club was the force which could overcome disease. The rising sun was the young King himself, great-grandson of the Roi-Soleil, to whom all eyes were turned. The olive-tree was the symbol of peace, and also of the tender affection with which all were penetrated at the news of the happy success of the operation which the King and the Royal Family had undergone.

Sadly, I can’t find any pictures of this no-doubt-fabulous coiffure. However, Carlyn at The Raucous Royals has more info about these enormous hairdos, including this image of Marie-Antoinette in her coiffure a l’Independence (supporting the American Revolution):

Daaaamn, girl!

And finally, Dressed in Time points us toward some fascinating (and often gross!) tidbits about 18th century wigs. If you haven’t been eating as healthy as you should (and really, who does?), why not turn your head into an enormous salad bowl?

Marie also wore the poufalajardiniere, which included artichokes, carrots, radishes and even the head of a cabbage. This pouf may have been a poufausentiment. A hairstyle to express a feeling. One lady at court is quoted saying, “I shall never again wear anything but vegetables! It looks so simple, and is so much more natural than even flowers.”

You can laugh, but that would go GREAT with my kale sweater and potato peel jeggings.

PhDs at the Kiddie Table

PhDs at the Kiddie Table

(Or, “Why I Identify with Ryan the Temp”)


A weird thing’s happened since I’ve decided to leave: I find it easier to talk to faculty.

Let me backtrack and–at the risk of sounding like I’m bragging about basic people skills–say that I’m pretty fine with most social interactions. And yet I’ve had my fair share of shyness with professors. Not all professors, or all the time, but it’s definitely more self-consciousness than I’ve had with bosses or coworkers elsewhere.

And that’s the rub. I think this new confidence shows two things: (1) part of why I was shy is that I always dreaded the “how’s the research?” question, because deep down I didn’t want to do freaking academic research anymore; and (2) faculty and graduate students are not coworkers, which I’ve always known, and I’m sick of it, which is new.

This! This! It bites. (From PhD Comics, 7/25/08: .)

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Telling my adviser I’m leaving the PhD

Telling my adviser I’m leaving the PhD

Yesterday, I told my dissertation chair that I was going to leave the program.

I was completely stressed out about having this conversation (which is probably why it took me over two months to work up the courage). My chair is…hard to get a read on. Some people describe him as a teddy bear, albeit one who has an occasionally gruff, wildly intimidating, very British exterior. He’s incredibly well-established and an authoritative voice in the field, and he also wore a Hawaiian shirt to my prelim, which I appreciated.

He was not a person I wanted to disappoint, but I knew it was time to come clean. (And then I still dragged my feet for a few days…)

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Limbo is a weird place.

Limbo is a weird place.

(Or a weird dance move. However you want to conceptualize “limbo” is fine by me.)

Right now, I’m drinking my first cup of coffee of the day, conducting office hours, folding laundry, and doing a local job search.

It’s my FIRST cup because I’m still living like a grad school night owl, in bed until I get my “fine 9” every night (which is what I am calling my sleep schedule from now on).

I’m conducting office hours because this quarter I’m teaching an all-online composition class. My office hours are done through video chat, from home, and I wear a funny little telemarketer headset the department bought for me. Like regular office hours, no one shows up.

I’m folding laundry because I’ve gone through an inordinate amount of clothes in the past couple of weeks. Now that I’m leaving grad school, I’m spending a LOT of time at the gym–which is excellent for my physical and mental health, but expensive in laundry-quarters.

I spot a communications job for a local city government that looks decent. The pay is nothing to write home about  (communications puns!), but definitely better than I make right now, and the work appeals. But the application requires three references, which shouldn’t (but does!) send me off on a spiral of Post/Alt/Argh-Ac limbo anxiety.

None of the faculty know I’m leaving! My chair doesn’t know I’m leaving!! My committee can’t be references if they don’t know I’m leaving!!! Can I use my boss from the bookstore where I worked four years ago?!?! So much punctuation!!!!

Via pulptastic on LOLDogs


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