Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reason I'm Leaving #3: I Deserve Free Time

Since making the decision to leave, I have rediscovered weekends/hobbies/free time. And it's been wonderful. I've read a couple of "just for fun" books, took an impromptu daylong trip to a nearby city with my partner, and have been able to catch up on a bunch of errands and participate in household duties.

In short, I'm having a normal person's life. Between my part-time job and applying for different jobs, I'm working about 40 hours per week. And when I'm not doing those things? I'm relaxing. I'm taking my dog for a walk or wandering around a store or watching a movie or catching up with a friend over the phone.

As I've mentioned, academia is rife with the idea that you should be working 24/7 ... and that if you're not working at any given moment, you should be ... or at least that you should feel bad and guilty about the fact that you aren't working, since your laptop is right over there ... and if you're sitting down to read, you should really read a book related to your research...


You know, if you're someone who can manage the guilt, and is genuinely happy and satisfied when you're working on your academic tasks, and doesn't mind a 7-day workweek, then that is wonderful. You should stay in academia.

But if you're like me, and you value having a wide range of hobbies and interests, and you resent the amount of time that you're spending on your academic work ... you should reconsider.

There is nothing inherently valuable or noble about working an 80 hour week, or of losing track of the things other than work that you love to do. There is nothing inherently good about devoting an entire weekend to work if you've been working all week, don't have a looming deadline to meet, and frankly - if you just don't want to. There is no other job out there that I can think of that requires this. Sure, things like medical residency are insanely time-intensive and demanding. But when you're not physically at work, you're allowed to not work without guilt. Not so with academia.

Frankly, it's a little crazy to turn yourself into a constantly-working automaton who has lost track of your outside interests and hobbies and friends, especially if you are finding yourself increasingly unhappy with that type of schedule. Just because something is the norm in the field doesn't mean that you have to stick with it if it makes you miserable.

And for me? It made me miserable. I got so sick of the guilt hanging over my head for not working late into the night. I got so tired of the fact that it would take me a month to get through a frivolous mystery novel, since I didn't feel like I could sit down on a Sunday afternoon and devour it. I got so tired of seeing my friends posting on Facebook about the fun things they were doing on a beautiful Saturday while I was inside working ... and not due to a looming deadline, but just because constant working is the norm.


So I'm leaving. I'm choosing to reclaim my beautiful Saturdays.

There is no concrete reason why you can't take a couple of hours, or a full day, or even a full weekend off. This does not make you a slacker, and it does not make you lazy ... it makes you a normal person.

And if your job won't allow you to be (or feel like) a normal person? Perhaps it's time to say goodbye.

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