Why I’m Leaving Academia

Don’t worry: this isn’t yet another rant about why academia is horrible and no one should ever go to graduate school. Yes, the ivory tower has its problems. But that’s not why I’m leaving.

Speaking openly, frankly and with optimism about “alt-ac” or “post-ac” careers is becoming increasingly common. But, with some notable exceptions, the conversation still seems focused primarily on how to use these careers as a back-up option when the academic track turns out to be terrible–the thing we do when we’re exhausted, buried under debt, and can’t get a good tenure track job. The thing we do only when Plan A goes horribly awry and gets too awful to deal with.

Even Karen Kelsky–who chose to leave her great tenured position because it wasn’t what she wanted–frames the decision to leave in this light:

It’s OK to quit. It’s OK to decide to move on and do something else. What started out as an inspired quest for new knowledge and social impact can devolve into endless days in an airless room, broke, in debt, staring at a computer, exploited by departments, dismissed by professors, ignored by colleagues, disrespected by students.

It’s OK to decide that’s not what you want.” (The Professor Is In, p. 385)

I can hardly fault her for this. For countless scholars, these are the reasons for leaving. Framing “leaving the cult” this way also makes a lot of sense in the context of Kelsky’s (excellent) book, which focuses in part on the exploitative labour relations inherent to academia. What she says here is absolutely, unquestionably important for academics to hear.

But I found this passage thought-provoking because, for the most part, the horrors Kelsky describes have not been my experience.

Over the course of my PhD, I’ve enjoyed plenty of funding, great colleagues, helpful professors, rigorous classes, useful resources, good TAship experiences, and a wonderful, supportive adviser. I’m about to graduate from the top program in the country for my field. I have no reason to believe my committee members won’t approve my dissertation. I’ve had the opportunity to study what I wanted to study, and to write the dissertation I wanted to write. I’m broke, but I have no debt. I’m no scholarly rock star, but I’ve done reasonably well for myself, and it’s possible that, with a few more additions to my CV, I could eventually snag a decent (or good?) tenure-track job. I have been profoundly lucky.

I have everything a graduate student could dream of, which I think is one of the reasons I’ve had such a hard time deciding to leave after finishing my PhD. Hearing about the horrific circumstances many graduate students and professors deal with makes me bitter about some aspects of academia, but they also make me feel a bit ungrateful and overly picky for thinking about calling it quits. I keep thinking maybe I should just give it a try for a little bit longer, and at least see what being a professor is like. Maybe turn my dissertation into a book, to make all that work seem a bit more worthwhile. Maybe not “give up” so easily, when so many scholars have endured so much more just for the privilege of writing and teaching.

…Which brings me to the Gilmore Girls.

(I am convinced that most of the important things in life can be explained via references to Star Trek or Gilmore Girls. Don’t judge. You know it’s true.)

Season two, episode three. Lorelai is about to marry Max. At her bachelorette party, her mother Emily fondly reminisces about her own wedding experience:

…the thing I remember most was that for the entire week before my wedding, I’d wait ’til my mother went to sleep, and I’d sneak out of bed and I’d put on my wedding dress and my tiara and my gloves, and I would stare at myself in the mirror and think how very safe I felt. How very right and wise and honored.

The next day, Lorelai suddenly cancels her wedding. When Rory asks why, she explains:

I didn’t want to try on my wedding dress every night.

The delightful drag bar where Emily tells her wedding dress story.

And then Lorelai and Rory go on an amazing road trip involving a horrible bed and breakfast called the Cheshire Cat. Which I suppose isn’t relevant here, although I do like the idea of escaping my career path by way of a road trip to nowhere. Note to self.

The point is, there wasn’t anything terribly wrong with Max. He had no major character flaws; nothing to make him hate-worthy. He was generally good to Lorelai, and some might say she was lucky to have him. But the thought of marrying him wasn’t exciting or comforting. It didn’t inspire the kind of joy or anticipation she needed for a life-long commitment.

That’s more or less how I feel about being a professor. When I picture myself in a comfortable, tenure-track job, I feel no excitement or joy or anticipation or comfort. I don’t daydream about what a nice life that would be. It doesn’t feel right.

I’ve felt this way for quite a while, but I’ve insisted on remaining open to the possibility of the academic life anyway. This is in part because I’m stubborn and don’t like to quit things, in part because I don’t want my eight years of graduate school to be for naught, and in part because I couldn’t tell whether my occasional feelings of anxiety and dread were indicative of my incompatibility with academia, or just my fear of failure. Did I want out just so I wouldn’t have to find out, after years of work, that I’m not really cut out for this–that I make a decent graduate student but an awful professor? Was I just afraid of the inevitable impostor syndrome, and of the hard work it takes to get tenure?

The dissertation-writing process has been kind of miserable for me. I’ve found ways to make it more pleasant and more doable, and it’s certainly had its moments. But despite all that, it’s still mostly pretty miserable. But what if all the anxiety and dissatisfaction I’ve experienced while writing is just me? Maybe I’m just like this, and I’d feel the same way about any other job? Or maybe this is something I could fix. After all, I did successfully emerge from what from Inger Mewburn calls the “Valley of Shit,” and managed to make writing a bit more enjoyable. Maybe, with enough work, I could learn to really love it? I mean, sometimes I feel like I do. Every so often.

Before Lorelai decides to call off the wedding, she keeps trying to tell herself that marrying Max is the right decision. “People can evolve together, don’t you think?” She has to expend such effort to convince herself that marrying him is the right thing to do. There seem to be a lot of reasons to stay with him, but she keeps having to remind herself of those reasons because her gut is screaming at her to run the other way.

I think I’ve been doing this with my academic career. I keep going over and over the reasons to stick with it. Every time I think I’ve decided to leave, I’ll have a good writing day or a great class or a mentor I admire will praise my work, and I think… maybe I should just give it a shot. Maybe it will be better than it’s been. Maybe it’ll turn out that I love lecturing. Maybe I’ll feel more motivated when tenure deadlines are looming. Maybe I’ll like scholarly writing better when my job is so busy that writing is a luxury, rather than a thing I’m stuck doing every single day. Maybe I should stay just to prove that I can do it. I object ethically to some of the inner workings of the university system, but maybe I can help change that. Maybe I can make a difference in students’ lives. Maybe!

“Maybe things will be different.” I sound like I’m trying to fix my relationship by marrying the guy. I’m pretty sure that’s a bad idea.

And yet, the annoying, doubtful voice inside my head persists: “Marriage isn’t anything like your career! Becoming a professor isn’t legally binding. You can leave at any time. What’s the harm in just trying?”

But this isn’t the kind of career you try on for a bit because there’s a chance you might like it. It’s an enormous amount of work–not that I’m opposed to working hard, but I’ve learned that work-life balance is something I need. It requires you to move to wherever you’re lucky enough to get a job. If that turns out to be a university in rural Nebraska, that’s where you go. (No offense, rural Nebraska! You’re just not for me.) The road to tenure is grueling and stressful. Even just the process of applying for jobs is grueling and stressful. Some academic jobs are much better than others, but they pretty much all share these characteristics. It’s a labour of love, and for many people, it’s entirely worth it, because they can’t imagine doing anything else.

But I don’t love this job. I love parts of it, sometimes. But sometimes I don’t even like it, let alone love it.

A lot of the time, I don’t like who I am when I’m doing academic work. I don’t much care for this anxious, unmotivated, self-deprecating and somewhat self-absorbed version of myself who emerges when I don’t reach my own (often unrealistic) standards. But I also don’t much care for the obsessive, insomnia-ridden, and very self-absorbed person I sometimes become when I’m working 12 hours a day and can’t stop thinking about it. Every so often my academic self is fascinated, confident, rigorous, helpful, caring and creative. But that person doesn’t come out as often as I would like.

I think these less-than-pleasant versions of myself emerge mostly because I never quite feel like I’ve done enough. No matter how much praise I get for my work quality or productivity, I rarely feel like I’ve achieved anything. Whether I write zero words or 3,000, at the end of almost every day I feel unaccomplished. I know in theory that, little by little, I’m contributing to our understanding of our world and our past. Someone might even find it a little bit helpful for their own projects. But I need more tangible evidence that my work has some kind of small effect on the world. I need someone to say, “thanks, that thing you did was really helpful!” I need to finish something every so often–to have proof that I made something, and that it does something good.

Despite the fact that I like writing and I like my dissertation topic, I’ve had a really hard time motivating myself to write at all. For a long time, I thought I was just lazy. Then I thought I just didn’t like the way I was working, and needed to find a way to make the process more enjoyable. The latter turned out to be true, but even now–even after I’ve worked so hard to find a process I don’t hate–I still have trouble dragging myself out of bed to work on my dissertation. I think it’s because, whether I write a whole chapter or nothing at all, I know I probably won’t feel accomplished at the end of the day.

Let me be clear: I do think humanities research is worth doing (if any government agencies are reading this: please keep funding the humanities!). I know all those small contributions lead to big changes in our thinking, and I believe those changes are essential for humanity’s continued development. And I hope my dissertation will be a part of that in some small way.

But it turns out I need frequent, tangible affirmation that I’m doing something helpful. The thought that maybe, one day, the work I do today might have some tiny, intangible effect on the world just isn’t enough. Somehow, even doing one small thing that one coworker finds helpful feels more rewarding to me. I’m aware of how irrational that will sound to some, but I think that’s just the way I am. I can’t just hope I’m doing something helpful; I need evidence, and I need it often.

The internship I did last year as a nonprofit grant writer made me feel more fulfilled than graduate school ever has. I wasn’t changing the world or anything, but I was both helping my team and raising money for educational programs in underfunded schools. There was frequent, obvious evidence that I was helping someone, if only my coworkers, and if only in some small way. I went home every day with a sense that I’d done something. With the exception of the occasional frustrating day, I usually went home relaxed and happy, feeling like I’d earned my break that evening.

Not so with academic writing. Sometimes I’m pleased with myself when I have a good idea or when someone praises my work. But the sensation is often fleeting, and it almost inevitably leads to feeling like I need to work more, or I need to work harder, or I’m not sure what I’m doing really matters, or any number of not-so-positive reactions. When I won an extremely competitive national fellowship, I thought, “Do I really deserve this? Have I really done anything award-worthy?” I was glad to have the money, but I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished much.

I want to really care when I achieve something big. I want to like who I am when I’m doing my job; I want that to be the rule, not the exception. I want to be excited about my work. I don’t want to have to work so hard to love it.

After doing that internship, I think maybe I can have all this while also getting to choose where I live and take weekends off. Maybe also while feeling challenged and intellectually stimulated at work. I think that might be possible. At the very least, I feel like I owe it to myself to strive for that–to stop blaming myself for not enjoying academia enough and go figure out what I really want.

So, I’m going to be something other than a professor–not because I can’t or it’s horrible or it’s treated me terribly, but because it’s just not what I want. I know I can use what I’ve learned in graduate school in other settings, and I think I can find intellectual fulfillment elsewhere. I can’t just stick with this because it’s what I’m supposed to do, or because it hasn’t all been bad, or because I dislike the idea of “giving up,” or because there are some things I’ll really miss about it. Those are bad reasons to advance a relationship to the next level. They’re also bad reasons to stick with this career. Ultimately, I’m a lot more excited to see what I can do beyond the academic bubble.

Sorry, ivory tower. We’ve had a good run, but I don’t want to try on my professor suit every night. It’s time to call off the wedding.

But thanks for all the daisies!

106 thoughts on “Why I’m Leaving Academia

  1. I work at a university and I often see students have these kind of big decions to make. It is a very good idea to have a back-up plan if, for example funding is withdrawn or something goes badly wrong, but I’d always advise someone to see things through unless there was a very good reason not to.


  2. This is a fantastic post Susan! You have exactly captured my thoughts as I’m also finishing up my PhD and planning on leaving academia for pretty much the exact same reasons! It can certainly get frustrated explaining to people that you aren’t leaving academia because you “quit” or “failed”, but instead because you simply don’t see the spark (or work-life balance) in a tenure-tracked job.
    Best of luck with your job search!


  3. Reblogged this on PhDadventure and commented:
    An excellent read for all those PhDs who are thinking of leaving mainstream academia! No we aren’t “quitting” or “giving up” on academia, we’re just looking for the spark and excitement of our dream job!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, so many thoughts. Stop speaking my truths. Lol. I’m in the place where I have finished thecoursework and loved it but not feeling the dissertation. I’m back and forth with what will it allow me to do that I cannot do now? The conversations that I have with tenure track professors is alarming. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m all in heart, mind and soul for academica, but I salute you for your courage! .. I mean life is just as simple as you put it, and it doesn’t really work out by pretending… Congratulations for being you.. A Well written peace… Thank you for the morale…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I can relate strongly to what you are saying, and perhaps my perspective from the other end might be helpful. (I’m retired from a tenured position.) I love writing, I love learning, I love what academia is supposed to be but not what it is. I spent 7 years studying advanced math as an undergrad and grad student, and I never for a second think that was time wasted. It was one of the most enriching experiences of my long life, even though I never “used” it in a practical way.

    I never got my PhD in math; I enjoyed learning math but realized I didn’t want to “do” math, get published, etc. At some point, practicality took hold and I got my PhD in Accounting and taught for 23 years. Ok life, but not great, and no passion or patience with the academic games one has to play. Academic writing left me cold, and unmotivated students were a problem. Finally with encouragement from my wife, I left to pursue other possibilities. This is not necessarily an easy path. It took me 13+ years to regain my footing, and now I’m writing, learning and loving it, but it was a huge struggle to get to where I am now. I am not employed and there is financial stress, but I can work on what I want, and contribute how I want.

    As Scott Peck said in The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I can totally relate with you in the second half of your article. I’m not a PhD student. But I have been having the same feeling about my career. Not so much of a career, as there is a striking dissonance between my age and the amount of experience I have in my field. Again it;s not really my field is as I only happened to get a degree in that field which was a circumstantial event. Out of college and into the ‘real world’ I was completely disillusioned when I did my first internship. I seemed to be the only one who cared about this disillusionment while the rest happily carried on, maybe fully accepting it, or not being bothered by it. At times I have felt I had either of these 2 attitudes. Despite getting appreciation for work, just like you I did not feel fulfilled. I took the risk of listening to my heart every time and left whenever I felt it was not going to work for me any more. With no regrets. Today I’m having fun and using the time to learn new things. I am trying to get my foot in the door to try something else unrelated to my education. My only fear is what if this too is not…?


    1. Maybe your next step will be one you really enjoy, and maybe it won’t. A linear career path sounds easier, but jumping around a bit gives us the freedom to try new things and change course based on our changing needs and interests. Which I suppose is why many (most?) people’s career paths aren’t quite linear. Anyway, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying what you’re doing right now!

      Also, thanks for your perspective. It’s great to see that some non-academics can relate to my post. A helpful reminder that the situations we encounter in the ivory tower aren’t all that unique.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What you are saying sounds very similar to what I recently heard. That there exists no ultimate passion. It’s a disillusionment when one tries so hard to find it. Of course there is something inside each of us at the core which we identify with. But it may or may not be permanent, doesn’t have to be ‘the passion.’ Bombarded with this perspective was something synonymous with someone pulling the rug from under my feet as I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to find my calling. And to be told that it doesn’t have to be that way was uncomfortable. However, I am coming to terms with it now as being open to new perspectives teaches you so much. I am travelling to build on new experiences. Without the regret that it may not mean so much on a resume.

        It’s great to know your thoughts Susan and to know I can relate with them. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. thanks a lot for this post, i can totally relate to it (even the Gilmore Girls reference). I felt the same way when i made the decision to leave clinical medicine after my internship. I liked some parts of it but i hated who i was becoming, i didn’t love it and i couldn’t imagine doing it for the rest of my life.
    I fought with the feeling for a long time and found myself trying to convince myself to stay at every opportunity. It couldn’t be that great if i had to keep searching for reasons to stay. I went back to school, did a Masters course and although i’m still job-hunting, my decision to leave brought me so much peace. I still have moments when i question my decision especially in the face of unemployment but i also remember why i left and i’m glad i did.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it’s always better to go with your gut when it comes to these kinds of things. You’re absolutely right–that kind of mentality might not make sense to a lot of people, or it might sound irrational. But you’re only given this one life, and if you aren’t feeling fulfilled, then what is any of it worth? Not a whole lot. I also don’t think you can really do what academia strives to do–that is, move humanity forward–if you yourself aren’t fully committed to it or convinced by it.

    Major kudos to you. I’m sure this was a really difficult decision to make, but it sounds like you’ve definitely made the right one.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It looked like I also would have had a good future in academia. But they made the mistake of giving me a class to teach, which made me fall in love with teaching and made me realize I was needed at the high school level where I could teach students to write before they arrive at C.U.N.Y. Left that first year of the M.A. and never looked back. Getting paid for doing what I loved! Priceless. And tenure after three years of probation, a blessing I didn’t ask for.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The quote of Karen Kelsky’s that you included could not have possibly done a better job at describing my current predicament. With me though, you can just add some cultural pressure from my parents. At this point, I’m so close to finishing a degree, yet I have never felt so far away from it, mentally. I know my future is not in the academic world, whatsoever. I want to be a writer, I want to explore, to document the things that I experience. And for me, a degree under my belt is my plan B. It’s a bit twisted, but that’s what my education has slowly turned into. The education system in this country has become so corrupt that it’s not even about the education anymore. The cycle really takes a toll on you, depresses you. Especially in your college years.
    Mind my words, it can be quite a wonderful experience for many people. It just wasn’t for me. So this post really and truly hit home, even though you were coming at it from a different angle.
    I’m only in the process of obtaining a Bachelors degree and I am already feeling this way, so I applaud the fact that you have accomplished so much academically, I think anyone who accomplished any kind of a graduate degree is a hero in my eyes.
    Then you brought up the Gilmore Girls, which just so happens to be my favorite show of all time (Shout out to the re-boot!) And I wondered how you were going to tie the show into your main point.
    And it. was. WONDERFUL.
    I’ve always thought about why she decided not to marry Max and at times I didn’t understand how she could leave such a seemingly perfect guy, but the more I reflected on it the more I realized that that’s indeed how I make most of my decisions. Your gut instinct says a lot.
    When it’s not right, it’s not right.
    “I want to really care when I achieve something big. I want to like who I am when I’m doing my job; I want that to be the rule, not the exception. I want to be excited about my work. I don’t want to have to work so hard to love it.”
    Gah, this was all just so well worded. I sincerely hope that you find all that makes you happy. Thank you so much for this post, it makes me feel better about my predicament, and it was also just fantastic to read. Partly because Lorelai Gilmore is my favorite character of all time.
    It’s snowing outside, my present 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for your courage and honesty. I have a degree in English and have contemplated going to graduate school and becoming a professor, because it’s safer than what I know I’m called to do, which is to write non-academically. The safety of the “ivory tower” is appealing, but unless it’s what we live and breathe, it isn’t for us. The professors I know who thrive absolutely LOVE to teach. That provides them with the validation you were talking about–it meets their need of having their work validated, in addition to academic accolades. I have tried teaching, and I don’t feel the same way. Thank you for your testimony of realizing this isn’t what you’re called to do, because it helps those of us who have looked down that road longingly and need to realize it isn’t meant to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Write. Don’t waste your time going to grad school. It’s really tough, not just mentally, but physically too. You are always tired because you can’t get enough sleep between the over 1,000 pages of assigned reading that week and the planning and grading for the course you teach, it’s impossible. Then you have your oral exams. And finally the dissertation. But, in-between all of this, you are expected to attend and present papers at academic conferences and publish an article in a peer reviewed academic journal. Fortunately, I fell in love with teaching. And I have a greater purpose in my quest for an academic position. I am losing my sight. I use a guide dog and I change 54 attitudes toward blindness every semester.


      1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It means a lot. I’ve suspected what you’re telling me to be true but it’s good to hear it from someone who’s been there. I’m glad to hear that you love to teach, and that you are making the loss of your sight so meaningful.


  13. I would set sail on a travel adventure, if you can afford to, for at least three months. See the world and really reflect on the possibilities for you and your future. Find your calling -one that feeds your soul-on your freedom quest. What an adventure that would be, to have inspiration hit at the right time in some memorable spot in the world…


  14. Reblogged this on The Word Board and commented:
    All in all this post is amazing. Honestly it’s a bit long compared compared to most of the other blog posts I read and the piece of information I understood the best was the Gilmore Girls Reference, this aside this post is still one I greatly enjoyed reading. It gave some interesting insight into I world I know nothing about and from start to finish I was completely enthralled.

    To anyone reading this, I highly recommend you take the time to sit down and give it a read!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you so much for this great posts. I usually don’t read posts this long, but I found the title interesting and when I started reading I was sold. I’m starting the last year of my BA this month and everyone keeps telling me to do a MA after because that’s what you do (at least in Norway), but honestly I want to work and to create something! I don’t want to keep reading and writing about things that aren’t challenging me just because that’s what society expects me to do. I know that you’ve way more years of reading and writing behind you than me, but I still related to this post because of my discontent with that kind of life. I love to learn, but maybe spending hours and hours writing essays isn’t my way of learning?! I don’t know if this made any sense, but I wanted to say that you helped me understand that things can be done differently. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ive recently come to the almost exact same realisation, but for me it was after turning the dissertation into a well received book, once I did that I felt I’d achieved something and that it was the end of a line rather than the beginning of one.having kids probably gave me the time out to realise this. It took a while to confirm it wasn’t fear of failure that was putting me off the next step, a permanent post (I’m in the uk).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. On a much smaller (tuition and time commitment) scale, I came to a similar decision. I graduated with a BA in English Lit. Everyone at the time assumed I would go into teaching, as if that was the only option with that degree. Teaching was only a fleeting thought my junior year. I’m glad I didn’t give into social expectations. Good for you for staying true to yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I also enjoyed your post and and encourage you in this decision. If it helps, I have an M.A. in English after deciding way back when that I could do better for myself than a PhD and a life in academia. I got to use every single thing I learned in school in every corporate job and entrepreneurial role I ever had. My career took me all over the world with a family and no regrets. You can always return to teaching and writing later on; I did, and it was much more rewarding to be there by choice. I didn’t stay long; I would imagine a five year limit on any academic job would be an ideal time frame to stay fresh and present for the students and the work. Best of luck to you whatever you do and wherever you land.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This was me 22 years ago. I was working on a PhD in Medieval/Renaissance literature, a dissertation in Shakespeare’s histories–till then, I’d won every full-ride scholarship, assistantship and fellowship I came across. I passed my three comprehensive exams with 12 perfect scores, but I just wasn’t “feeling it”. Well, there was more going on, but you know. I spent many years after wandering away from academia (I kind of wandered–got a full-time job with health benefits which I needed, kind of said I wanted to finish the dissertation for awhile) trying to figure out the uzhe: was it fear of failure or fear of success? What was WRONG with me? I wondered and I was painfully aware that others wondered, too.
    But what I felt was pretty simple: I’d lost my passion the more I was asked to specialize. I proved I could do it: I could research soundly, write convincingly, and teach effectively (I enjoyed finding out I could teach well and even love it), but had lost the excitement of being an under-grad when I could throw myself into all of it: astronomy, art classes, my music minor, history.
    The phrase “independent scholar” existed and I decided that if it was an existing concept I would hop on it and I would never have to stop learning. I could one day return to my undergrad major of writing–fiction, not New Historicism (but I kind of use it to this day…)
    To this day I find myself making excuses for walking away from a PhD but privately I know it was the best thing I could have done. I had a neurological disorder that needed some time and attention, I had some father-less nieces back home I wanted to be around to help raise, and I needed the security of a job to allow me to travel and write and play with a few more interests before I was too old to fit them in. (I don’t mean to be age-ist–I really did need to be younger to scuba dive and get a black belt in tae kwon do, because now at the half-century mark there are some joints etc. that wouldn’t cooperate).
    Who knew the undergrad who sought the security and purpose of being a student for as long as society would allow could be so blissfully happy out in Real World? I don’t regret a moment of my 12 years of formal study; they made me who I am. And I don’t regret the “ABD” (all-but-degree) stigma I carry around with me: now it’s a badge of honor, a different kind of degree, a testimony to taking-control of my life and learning.
    Best of luck to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Please, if you would spare the time, take a look at my post: https://pardonmyblogs.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/black-enough/

    My recent project, ‘Black Enough’, highlights social injustices, and aims to tackle a few of life’s hardships with humorous fictional incidents and anecdotes in a light series of blog posts.

    I really do hope that you are inspired to read it, and would be great full if you were to share it with others.
    God bless and best of luck to you


  21. Thank you for well thought out post! However, it leaves me to wonder if we had the time to explore every single possibility that is laid before us, would we find the belonging in satisfaction we really want? Isn’t there always an ache even in the best of times sometimes making it the worst of times?

    Is there a reason Anyone cannot be a successful writer if you write about happy endings today? The same goes for movies. In all of our success, wealth, fulfilled aspirations and failures, have we found what we really wanted, the world is a very sad place with no hope. Has the reality of the world changed for the better because we’re doing something that you’re happy with or even unhappy with?

    Is there something more out there? Maybe something we’ve been told that is not a good thing for us. I think I’m still in the search for something. Something that can transcend this existence. What I do here has great worth because this hope invites me in just as I am.

    I do not believe in the X-Files! But, I do believe the truth is out there! Somewhere hidden in plain sight there is a hope that will fulfill my need to be accepted, valued, understood, and loved. Not loved of my performance and abilities but, loved in my failures in the rest of all who I am. Can it be out there? I have not found it in success or failing just a haunting deep notion a Happy Ending is out there….


  22. I very much enjoyed your story. More and more of these stories need to be written. I think breaking out of academia is un-learning the sort of helplessness that has become an inherent part of our training. I’m also glad that more and more academics are willing to lean into the discomfort that leads to richer and fuller lives. Best of luck to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I loved your post and agree with just about everything you have written. I also read the comments that others have made and I cant but envy those who made the “right choice”. Of course one can only connect the dots in retrospect. Having said that I think its important to reinforce the necessity of taking charge of one’s life and of changing lanes by thinking of the consequences of not acting.
    I couldn’t help but think about my own situation. In many ways I took the other road.. I gave up a career elsewhere because I wanted to be a scientist, solve puzzles and perhaps leave something meaningful behind when it all ended. This was 15 years ago… 15 years of working for a Phd and a disappointing post doc I am left wondering if I just flushed my life down the drain for a fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I loved working on the bench, teaching students, bouncing ideas off colleagues (the few who were in it for the same reasons as I), but in the end none of that made a difference because I could never get past the politics. In the end all the good science, the sacrifice both monetary and in terms of personal life wasn’t enough. Perhaps part of the explanation lies in the fact that I tried to do serious science in a system no one is interested in doing serious science, but mostly I think its the nature of academia. There is a small chance that I might have a second shot, that I might be able to employ what I have learnt over the past few years, that I have crossed out all the ways not to do things and I might just be able to do it right. But then again life is not a romantic comedy, it does not necessarily have a happy ending.
    The reason I wrote this comment is not to whine.. but to tell those of you who are ambivalent about your choices to sort them out before its too late.
    If you have realized it early enough and you are willing to do something about it, I can only wish you the very best of luck. To those of you who got it right, kudos.. to those who did not, I only hope you do and soon.


    1. Sorry for taking such a ridiculously long time to approve your (very insightful) comment–I’ve been ignoring my blog to the extent that I managed to forget my password!
      I just wanted to say that although I imagine it’s incredibly frustrating to feel like you’ve wasted your time doing something you don’t really want to do, it’s *never* too late to make a change. I personally believe that there is no one “right” path for each person. Needs, wants and priorities change over time, and as a result I think many people change paths numerous times throughout their lives. It’s not an easy thing to do, to be sure, but I don’t think it’s ever impossible. I agree that you may as well give your career choices a good, long think sooner rather than later, but I’d like to think that “too late” doesn’t exist.


  24. Oh my God…are you me? Because this is describing me. This is exactly how I’ve felt during the slog of my dissertation during the last couple years. I’m getting out to pursue teaching full-time because I feel like I haven’t been useful to anyone in ages, I’ve just been in my little corner failing to have the insights I’m supposed to have. And then I feel guilty about it because I know my grad school experience has been comparatively pretty good.

    It’s so good to know one is not alone. Good luck in your own “alt-ac” search!


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