This comic made me laugh, but also provided some humorous backup for my earlier observation that the idea that you can read and think and write about anything in academia is misleading. After the first few years when you're more or less allowed to explore a wide variety of areas in your field, you're expected to specialize ... and often to specialize in a direction that is consistent with what your advisors are doing and what the "hot areas" in your particular field are. The Ph.D. Comics folks are pretty observant about the reality of academic life, so trust me ... this is basically spot-on.
It's worth noting that since leaving academe almost six months ago, one of the hobbies that I've rediscovered is my love of reading. Like many grad students, over the past few years as I worked on my dissertation and other research projects, I had basically stopped reading for fun. Simply put ... if I had time for reading, I needed to be reading research in my field to keep moving on my dissertation and research.
Now that I'm done, though, I've been reading for fun like crazy. I've devoured mystery novels (my personal favorite), sci-fi novels, historical fiction, and a couple of biographies.
I've also finally gotten around to reading a few books from within my discipline that I've had on my "to-read list" for years. These are books that aren't related to my substantive research interests, but nonetheless came from the social sciences and were on topics that I found very interesting ... but again, that I had "no time" to read since I had to work around the clock on my own research. But now I have the time, so I've finally gotten around to reading a few of those books. And most of them were terrific. Interesting, informative, well-written, and engrossing. You could almost say that I've fallen back in love with my discipline - the breadth and scope of it - through leaving it and being freed from the constraints of what I'm "allowed" to read and think about.
Who knows - maybe I will even drift partially back into writing and thinking about the research in my discipline in the future ... but in a lower-pressure setting like a blog or perhaps a little bit of freelance writing.
But regardless, I'm done reading/researching only what my dissertation advisor or tenure committee wants. I'm rediscovering that freeing "life of the mind" that I was promised when I applied to graduate schools.
I'm back in town now, and will have some more substantive posts up in the next few days. I think my brain is still struggling to recover from travel, wedding festivities, and catching back up at work. In the meantime, I see that there are still a number of folks finding this blog through Google searches indicating their misery with grad school and academia. Trust me ... there is life on the other side.