This post is about how sometimes, it's a good idea to listen to the people who know you best. Two stories illustrating this seem appropriate:
(1) I've mentioned a few times around these parts that my decision to look for jobs outside academia came only after I went on the academic job market and had interviews.
That's right - in this era of a terrible market, I did all the applications, did phone interviews (each of which left me overwhelmingly nervous, nauseous, and shaky), had four campus visit offers (went on three), and was ultimately offered a temporary faculty position to replace someone who was on medical leave.
When I got the offer, my stomach sank. I did not want to live in the place where that job was, and the pay was terrible, and I hated every second of my interview there. And then I'd wind up having to go back on the market the following year. Even the idea of going through this process again made me feel physically ill and exhausted.
My partner (T) helpfully pointed out that I didn't have to take the job if I didn't want it - we both have jobs that pay the bills, and there are a lot of things I can do with my degrees that didn't demand that I move to a place I hated to work with people I had nothing in common with.
It was as if this revelation had never occurred to me before - and in the realm of academia, it hadn't. You take whatever you're offered in the academic world, full stop. You don't turn anything down, no matter how degrading the job is or how miserable it would make you.
This had never occurred to me before. I turned the job down that evening, and instantly was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and elation that I cannot even describe to you. I literally danced around my living room with excitement at actually being able to choose where I would eventually live and what kind of work I would do.
(2) Then again last night, T and I were talking, and I mentioned that I felt like a bit of a flake when chatting with people (especially those who'd remained in academia), since I had only made the decision to leave the academic world only after going through the job market. I said, "I feel like others will think I'm just having a temper tantrum. I didn't get the tenure-track job offer I want, so I'm taking my ball and going home, after all my years of complaining about my department and talking about how much more I would enjoy working in academia at a smaller liberal arts school. And now I'm giving that up after one year. I don't know how to explain that to people."
T pointed out that it wasn't weird at all to leave at this point. That as I noted above, I'd always complained about how much I hated my department. This is no secret to the people who know me best.
As T pointed out, though, it was only once I was on interviews at liberal arts colleges that I realized that I hated academia. In other words, I only thought I'd love a different kind of job before I got a taste of what it would really be like. Once I got a taste of what my life would be like at a school entirely different from Grad U, I had to realize that I didn't want those jobs either. In short, I didn't want an academic job at all.
But the only way to figure out I wanted out of academia was to go sample the type of campus and job that I'd always assumed I'd really love. And as T pointed out, there was no way that I could have gone through this process without actually going on the market.
Well, that makes sense!! :)
So, my advice to you ... whether it's a partner or a friend or a family member or a therapist, listen to the people who know you best outside of academia. Ask them for advice and perspective on what you're struggling with. It can be very, very helpful.