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Not About Politics

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
I know, I know, it's hard to believe.

To tell the truth, blogging has been somewhat of a chore lately. I haven't really been keeping up with what all of my wonderful blogfriends are up to, which makes me feel guilty. And I've been a bit burned out on politics, although I still write about it. Of course I'm somewhat disillusioned that the Democrats in Congress STILL won't stand up to Bush, but that's not actually what's got me down.

No, what's getting to me is this damned dissertation. I'm not worried about finishing it. I'm right on schedule to complete a working draft of the whole thing by the end of December, so that I can defend it in the spring. My committee hasn't really been a problem either. My advisor and the graduate coordinator have both been very supportive.

So what do I have to complain about? I feel like a liar. I have absolutely no intention of remaining in academia once I've finished my PhD. There are a lot of reasons (like how easy it is for 2 people to get tenure track jobs at the same school), but the biggest one is - I just don't want to. I liked teaching at first, but I grew to hate it. I'm deeply at odds with a the dominant mode in my discipline (All abstract modeling. Yuck.). And the idea of the whole tenure track grind just makes me tired. I don't know how you guys do it.

I feel like I'll be disappointing everyone when I don't go into academia. I have these horrible fantasies of finishing my defense and having to answer the question "So what are you going to do now?" Of having to explain to my family that I've spent 10 years and tons of money on a degree that I'm not going to use, that I have no interest in. It just sound stupid. And it makes me feel ashamed.

Brazen Hussy has been great about this (In fact I wonder if she ever thought I'd become a professor). But when I look at my student loan bills and the decade that's passed since I started my graduate work, it's hard not to feel like a fool. But I'm not foolish enough to compound my mistakes. Once I've received my PhD, I'm walking away from it for good. I just wish that I knew where I'll be walking to.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:52 PM
  • It's really cool to read you writing about your own life. :)

    I admire your bravery at doing what you want to do, entering into the challenge of figuring out what that is, and not feeling like you have to conform to other people's expectations of you. If you follow your heart, you are doing the right thing.

    One way of looking at a PhD is as a means to become an academic, sure. However, I think it's also a means to finding out who you are, and you're sure to have made progress on that journey.

    By Blogger BrightStar, at 9:12 PM  
  • I am kinda feeling your pain. I am not sure if I want to go do a post-doc, because I don't know if I really see myself doing the whole academic thing in the future. That being said, I don't know if I am jaded because I have spent a bunch of time in a crappy lab.

    A very wise old asian emeritus faculty told me that if I do a post-doc, I can always go into biotech later, the reverse will be much harder.

    By Blogger Geeka, at 9:14 PM  
  • Man, you're hard on yourself. Speaking as somebody who has a PhD and who has a lot of students working on theirs...getting the degree isn't about your advisor or your committee members. It's all for you. You don't want to advertise your decision not to pursue academic work to your committee, as they might put reviewing your stuff on the back burner if you do. But you don't have to feel guilty about wanting something different, nor should you feel foolish about taking a long road around to what you'd like to do or for having student loans. You'll find what you are looking for when it's time...have faith. I do.

    By Blogger Chaser, at 10:31 PM  
  • As Chaser says, you are really much too hard on yourself. Believe it or not, there are LOTS of people out there who have PhDs and aren't in academe. Most grad programs never tell you about these people, or how freaking HAPPY 99% of them are. Don't beat yourself up. You're going to finish, and have the degree, and you will have completed an important chapter in your life. And then you'll move on to the next. Nothing wrong with that.

    By Blogger MaggieMay, at 2:42 AM  
  • I think it is great that you realize that tidbit now. That will save you some pain and potential heartache in the future. I also agree with Chaser, don't make that information known to those on your committee. Play the game. Let them think what they are trained to think (and do), that they are molding their students to be future academics. 'Tis okay to have your own game plan, as it is your life.

    You have to be happy and satisfied. I've come to realize that I don't have to answer to anyone, but me. I am most important. In your case, you and Brazen have to be happy. Walk away into something that is fulfilling and that works for you and Brazen. That's all that matters. All of that other stuff, to quote a cliche, is water under the bridge.

    By Blogger RageyOne, at 8:42 AM  
  • I walked away before I finished my postrad degree -- so, especially considering student loans, I was significantly more the fool than you.

    You know, the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy is hiring. That's a nice change from @10 years ago, when there was no such thing, and thus is was even harder to see what one could do with a Ph.D., if one didn't want to teach.

    By Blogger Paul Curtis, at 3:53 PM  
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