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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PhDs at the Kiddie Table

PhDs at the Kiddie Table

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

Ryan

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: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1047 .)

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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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Out of Academia?

Out of Academia?

Wow, it has been a long time since I updated this blog! My “about” page said I was a third year who’d passed her prelims; I’m now a very ABD fifth year, still working on the eighteenth century and Romanticism.

And I’m planning to take the master’s degree and leave this year. [P.S. If you know me from the department, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t share this news with other people in the department. Thanks.]

It’s a decision that’s been a long time coming without my realizing it. (See my last post, for example.) I met with a faculty member recently to get his advice, and when he asked me if something had happened, I said, “I still love teaching. I still like my project, although I’ll do pretty much any other work to avoid actually writing it.”

He thought that was HILARIOUS. He laughed uproariously.

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