But sometimes I think that just a simple affirmation - a simple reminder of how it's okay to make a decision to take your life in a different direction - is needed.
So I give you one of the dedications from a co-author of the invaluable book* So What Are You Going to Do With That? When I was newly into my decision to leave academia and was dealing with some very fresh emotions and concerns over my decision, I ordered this book and sat down on the same day it arrived to read it.
I opened to the first few pages, and read the dedications ... and instantly, out of nowhere, felt my eyes well up with emotion. The dedication read:
For M, C, and J, who never make me question what I want to do with my life. When I'm with them, I'm doing it.The dedication seems to refer to the author's husband and children. Now, I do have a partner, but do not have children. However, I have family members and friends who I love, as well as pets who I consider faux-children. :)
And reading this dedication really hit home to me.
The people who love you - who know you best, and who want you to be happy? Those people are not going to sit and second guess you and question you about what you want to do with your life and urge you toward a particular career because it is somehow the "only thing worth doing." They just want you to be happy, and to spend time with you and support you and see you living a good life.
(Okay, maybe some of us have parents or relatives or friends who nag us about our careers. But there are exceptions to every rule - and I'm going to venture a guess that even if you have someone in your life who constantly nags you about your career, you have many others who just want you to be happy, in whatever you do.)
The thing that many academic-types do? Where they chastise you for expressing doubts and belittle outside jobs and tell you that academia is the only important or meaningful job you could ever do, or the only one that will make you happy?
They're feeding you a line of bullcrap, and they're quite possibly letting their own insecurities shine through. But one thing they are not being is someone who cares about you. They're not being friends or pseudo-family or someone who cares about your well-being. Because the people who care about you know that if you are not happy in a particular job or city or position in life, you should find another position. The people who care about you wouldn't urge you to stay in a position that makes you unhappy.
And most likely, the reason that the people you are closest to are the people you are closest to is because you enjoy spending time with them. I know that for me, I am the happiest when I am with my partner and family and close friends and pets. It doesn't matter what I am doing with them, and it certainly doesn't matter what jobs or careers we all have. What matters is that we are together. That's when I'm living my life.
I can't be the only one who feels like that. When I am with the people who matter to me, I am doing what I am supposed to do with my life. The rest is just window dressing.
*Seriously. If you are even considering making the leap out of academia, go buy this book NOW.