Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You're Not Alone - Part 5

I haven't done one of these in awhile, so here you go...recent search terms that people are using to find this blog.

Hopefully no one reading here feels odd if they see these posts and recognize a phrase they've searched for. I don't see any identifying information about who's running the searches, so don't worry ... and plus, I've definitely run similar searches over the years. :)

But I think it's important for people reading here or arriving at this blog after one of these searches to understand that they aren't alone. I'm here, the folks blogging at the links on the left are here, and all of these people who run these searches to arrive at my blog are having the same thoughts about academia and grad school. Just because you don't hear people saying it in the grad labs or hallways or even over the weekends at parties or bars or the departmental potluck does not mean you are the only person having doubts.

There is a huge, huge stigma in academia attached to admitting that you don't enjoy the work or that you'd rather be doing something else, because virtually everyone parrots back the refrain that academia is the best job in the world. And there's also the openly stated and joked-about assumption that everyone in grad school and everyone working in academia is miserable. Folks joke about how overworked and overstressed they are, and about all of the antidepressants, etc., that they take on a daily basis. Saying that you're miserable isn't considered to be a good excuse for leaving academia ... it's often assumed that as a grad student or faculty member, you're supposed to feel is overstressed and exhausted and even depressed. That's the default, not a reason for leaving.

Leaving aside how completely f*cked up that is for a minute ... these two factors basically work together so that there is no social acceptance and no support for people who want to leave. Rather than being supported and encouraged to find something that will truly make them happy, they're treated like (or we assume we'll be treated like) social pariahs and failures. That is flat-out wrong.

So I present these search terms in order to promise you ... you are not alone. If you are miserable, you don't have to stay. It's just your job. Like people in any other industry, you can change careers if you want to. There's nothing that special and wonderful about academia ... no matter how much people working in it want to pretend there is.

Recent search terms bringing people here:  
-advice for graduate student considering quitting
-i hate my research
-i hate my cohort
-can academia possibly provide happiness
-i want to leave academia behind
-why can't i be happy in grad school
-academic job market awful no options
-why i came to grad school miserable

And the one that breaks my heart:
"hate grad school advisor depression drop out"

People leave careers and jobs all the time. If you're miserable, you can also leave. You're not a slacker who couldn't cut it ... you're normal. Trust me.


  1. Thanks for the post! I am in the same boat, and it does feel isolated and lonely. I would be interested to hear what career prospects you are exploring in future posts. I feel stumped about the whole recareering process.

  2. It's funny - just as I posted this one today, it occurred to me that I should post an update to where I'm currently at in terms of my own job search. You read my mind!

    I will get a post together tonight or tomorrow to update everyone on where I'm at. Thanks for reading!