(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!!!!
What I’m trying to say is that I’m in a very strange place right now. I don’t really know what I’m doing with my time, or what I SHOULD be doing. Like I said, I’ve been going to the gym a lot; I’m teaching one class; I’m doing an internship in communications here at the university; I’m on a committee that meets once or twice a quarter; and I’m starting a weekly knitting class, because I’m a white woman turning 30 soon. All of that combined still leaves me with a lot of time every day.
I’m not trying to complain. It’s not a BAD place to be–it lets me run errands and catch up on TV and blog–just a WEIRD place. An in-between place, like a highway rest stop or the sixth grade. What exactly am I doing here?
Part of this is, I suspect, the ongoing legacy of grad-school guilt. I CAN work at any time, so I SHOULD work at any time, even though I’m not sure what to work on or where any of it would lead, anyway. (Why would I write my master’s thesis as a chapter instead of just revising a seminar paper? Does it really matter if the research and writing I’ve done so far on this chapter goes to “waste”?)
From Grad School to Happiness has a great post about guilt and self-blame in academia. It’s more about the job search than about leaving, but relevant nonetheless on what it means to just “work harder”:
But how hard was “hard enough?” No one ever seemed to know. So we just worked constantly. Or tried to, anyway. And if we didn’t work on any given day or evening or hour in the lab, we’d talk about what “slackers” we were. How “unmotivated” we were. How we “really needed to step it up next week.” Anything short of working every single day and evening was unacceptable.
The author, JC, goes on to discuss one PhD’s self-blame at failing on the job market:
See the focus on hirself again? It’s not that there are too few teaching jobs out there for excited candidates like this poster. It’s that zie didn’t stop pursuing what zie was actually interested in to pursue something zie wasn’t interested in. All hir fault, again. For not working hard enough and for not putting “getting a job” before the things zie is actually, you know, interested in doing. Guilt and self-blame.
(Read the rest of the post here: http://leavingacademia.blogspot.com/2012/07/on-guilt-self-blame-and-magical_31.html#more)
I’m not in exactly the same position, but I can empathize. No matter how many times I tell myself that I’m not working on the dissertation because it’s not the work I want to do anymore, and it won’t lead to a satisfying career path even if I slogged through anyway, my doubt-brain chimes in with, “Yeah, but you’re being so LAZY.” As if I’m going to get some kind of merit badge or like 500 bonus points if I keep working for working’s sake. This is what the post I referred to above would call “magical thinking.” It’s also shitty, useless thinking.
I guess the truth is that I’m just not going to feel comfortable or fulfilled if I stick around the grad program for another 8 months, working through my teaching contracts and unpaid internships. I need to “come clean” to my committee so that I can cross the thesis off my list and start applying for “real” jobs.
Anyone know what I mean? How did/do YOU deal with limbo?