Hello, post-academic world!

Well, after months of obsessively reading my way through the post-academic blogosphere, I’ve finally decided to throw my own blog into the mix. I’m hoping it will give me a place to exorcise some of my angst towards academia, think through what I want to do next with my life, and maybe even be helpful to others going through a similar experience.

I guess since this is my first post I should say a little bit about myself! I completed my M.A. a few months ago at a top 20 English PhD program (I’m including rankings not to brag, but to emphasize that the problems with academia exist regardless of where one’s program happens to sit on that U.S. News list). I decided I’d had enough while I was preparing to take my PhD qualifying exams. The year that I was preparing for the exams was one of the darkest and unhappiest of my life, and feeling miserable while working crazy hours to get through my reading lists forced me to take a step back and evaluate what I was doing. I stumbled across some postacademic blogs at this point (a facebook friend in a different department at my university posted a link to this post at Post-Academic in NYC, which led me into a vortex of other post-ac blogs) and I would procrastinate on exam reading by going back through the archives of every blog I found. Seriously, I read all of them! And they helped me so much. Everything I read resonated with what I was feeling and helped me to recognize what the source of my unhappiness was.

So, a month before the exams, I decided I would quit once I had passed them. After another truly hellacious month, I passed them, and then taught a summer course I was already signed up to teach that ran shortly after the exams. A few weeks before the class was finished, I made the official announcement that I would be leaving when the summer session was over. I’ll write about the reactions I got some other time. Since the class finished, I’ve done some networking and looking into different kinds of jobs. I still don’t know what I want to do yet, but I’ve recently started temping to have a paycheck and get some exposure to different kinds of workplaces (like PAINYC, I am also temping in NYC – which I will post about some other time as well!). And even though I am doing pretty menial work and have no idea where my life is going, I feel so, so much better than I did at any point during grad school.

I guess that, using JC’s useful schema, I would describe myself as a Type 1 leaver. For much of my life, all I wanted to be was a professor – I went straight through from undergrad (something I am regretting now!) and never seriously considered other options. Then somehow, during exam prep, something snapped, and I just stopped caring about or enjoying the work. It suddenly seemed insane to be working so hard for crappy pay and crappier career prospects. It was like waking from an intense, scary dream and realizing that nothing in the dream actually matched up to reality. It was an incredible relief to realize that nothing was preventing me from quitting if I didn’t want to be a professor anymore.

My blog title, for those of you who don’t recognize it, refers to a song from Avenue Q –  where it is really about a B.A. in English, and the lyrics go like this:

What do you do with a B.A. in English?
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college and plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree!
I can’t pay the bills yet
Cause I have no skills yet
The world is a big scary place…
But somehow I can’t shake
The feeling I might make
A difference to the human race

And I’m going to link to the video so you too can have it stuck in your head…

I thought this was hilarious when I first heard it in undergrad. Now the humor is more painful (oof, especially that heady idealism at the end). But I guess I am still trying to figure out the answer to this question. Maybe this blog will help me. In the meantime, I am excited to join the wonderful community of other post-academic bloggers!

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9 thoughts on “Hello, post-academic world!

  1. Hey there! Welcome to the postac blogosphere – happy to have you!

    And echoing recent Ph.D. – yes. Congratulations on making the decision to leave. It’s tough, but sometimes it’s necessary. And if you’re happier doing temp work than you were in academia you definitely, definitely made the right choice.

    I’m out of town right now so I’m neglecting my blog, but I’ll write up an intro for you sometime next week, if you have a few more posts to put up. Welcome and congrats again!!

    • I’d love an intro on your blog :). I should definitely have a few more posts up by next week. Thanks for your comment – and I’m so glad there was already a postac blogosphere to help me as I decided to leave!

  2. I’d like to echo both JC’s and recent PhD’s ‘welcome’. It is tough to leave academe and it is much harder than one realises but often so necessary.

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