Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I just wanted to put up a quick post wishing all of my readers and fellow postacademic bloggers a Happy New Year.

2011 has been a surprising year of ups and downs for me. I started out the year anticipating several interviews for academic jobs, with all of its attendant stress and worry. Within 2.5 months, I'd been on three academic job interviews and had resoundingly decided that this life wasn't for me anymore. What has followed has been 9.5 months of the most intense soul-searching I've ever had to do in my entire life.

I started this blog in March, hoping that it might give me some clarity on leaving ... and thinking that one or two other people might find it out here in the blogsophere and find something I wrote helpful. To my great surprise, many people have found it, and lots of you have told me that it's been a tremendous comfort for you.

I'm grateful that I could provide this space for other people to read and comment and know they aren't alone. Writing has been immensely therapeutic for me, and I'm glad to be one of the people out here (along with my fellow bloggers to the right) who are getting the word out about people who - gasp! - don't enjoy academia or simply want to pursue a career with better prospects. As I keep telling you, you're not alone.

But I'd also like to say that for as many of you who've said that this blog has given you comfort? Well ... all of your comments and pageviews and emails have comforted me as well. As certain as I was that I wanted to leave, it it always nice to know that you're not crazy or making a terrible mistake when you're making a big life change. And all of your pageviews and comments and everything like that have reminded me on a daily basis that I'm not crazy for seeing flaws in academia, I'm not stupid for not wanting to chase the academic job market, and - at the end of the day - that I'm not alone in wanting something else for my life.

So on this New Year's Eve, I wanted to put up a post thanking all of you for reading here and leaving comments. My intention is to keep this blog up and running until I find my "next job" outside of academia. Posting may be a bit lighter in the next few months, since I'll be spending time job searching. But I'll keep putting up new content at least until I find a job, so it has a clear beginning and end point. (And of course, if I feel motivated to keep writing after that, I will).

But one thing I'll do - as long as Google allows it - is to keep the archives published and always keep the email address associated with this blog active (and set to forward to my primary email so that I don't miss anything). So if you are finding this years after it's been written, don't hesitate to comment or email. The chances are pretty good that I'll respond.

And in the meantime, as of December 31, 2011? Thank you all for reading and commenting. I would also like to remind you that tomorrow begins a brand new year ... a great time for new beginnings and New Year's Resolutions. If you're thinking that it really is time to leave academia, perhaps tomorrow is the day to start.

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Postacademic Rant 6 - On Moving Anywhere

I'm visiting my family this week for the holidays, spending time with them and my partner's family and my old friends in the state I grew up in. I'll be here through the new year, getting some much needed relaxation and catching up with old friends until I head back home to get back to work and start the search for my next job.

It's worth noting, actually, that the city my partner and I would like to relocate to is near where we are this week. After having interviews in several locations where I'd never even considered living, we decided that now was the time to try to move closer to family and friends and to actually move to a city we'd want to live in, rather than to "any place that will have me as a professor."

And since this is the first time I've seen a number of my family and friends since last December (when I was on the academic job market), I've been having a lot of conversations with people about what I'm doing now and what comes next. In discussing the academic job market and why I'm done with it, one of the things that other people have found the most surprising was the fact that everyone on the academic job market is (more or less) expected to take whatever job is offered to them, regardless of geographic location or whether they'd be happy taking it.

My friends and family in nonacademic jobs find that to be ridiculous beyond words. To them, having no control over where they would live, work, raise kids, etc., seems unimaginable. They keep asking me: "Well, couldn't you just apply to Schools X, Y, and Z in this area?" When I explain that it's not how academia works - that I'm at the mercy of whatever schools around the country happen to be hiring during the year I go on the academic job market? They're amazed that anyone would settle for such a thing. 

So since I'm busy this week and probably won't have time or motivation for a full "new content" post, I thought that this particular postacademic rant would be particularly timely to post ... addressing the geographic constraints of an academic job search. As always, language is very NSFW.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Postacademic Rant 5 - Academic Conferences and Privilege

Because I'm bored at work today, I thought I'd post another postacademic rant. Following up on the recent post about academic conferences at 100 Reasons and some comments about conferences I got on one of my posts a few days ago, I thought I'd put this one up ... about the main reason why I hated academic conferences. (Hint: it has to do with money).

Again, these rants were written months ago, and shouldn't be taken as an exact indicator of how I'm feeling now. (Although I freely admit that I still think academic conferences are stupidly overrated and overpriced and virtually worthless).

But I also thought that this might be a nice introductory post to the discussion about privilege in academia that I'd really like to start having here. I've alluded to it multiple times in the past, and I'm hoping to get some concrete thoughts out in the next couple of weeks. Let's just start by saying that I find something deeply disturbing about an academic system that pays graduate students and adjuncts poverty wages to do something as apparently important as teach college students ... and then also expects them to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars traveling to conferences while not having any outside employment to help them cover their expenses.

The system is basically forcing people who don't come from privileged backgrounds to go into massive debt in order to just go about the expected business of their job. And in the end, what that does is privilege students from wealthy families over others. Wealthy students can go to conferences without incurring additional debt, don't have to worry about outside employment to help foot the bills, and can graduate debt-free. Less privileged students face a completely different situation.So not only do conferences likely not do much to actually further anyone's career, but in my opinion? They do further the obvious (but unremarked upon) class divide in graduate school and academia more generally.

Anyway, I'll write more on this soon, probably in a multi-part post. In the meantime, here is another postacademic rant about conferences (again: language NSFW).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You're Not Alone - Part 8

Search terms bringing people to this blog in recent weeks:

-how to leave academia
-i hate grad school
-reasons to leave grad school
-graduate school and i hate it
-i want to leave academia
-I hate grad students
-feel like a loser in grad school
-grad school has made me hate academia

...and my favorite:
-are postacademics happy?

Yep! Or at least I am. I may not be pursuing a Ph.D.-level job anymore or doing academic research. I may just be working in an office and may be looking for a job where I'll have a boss and defined work hours.  I may be giving up my summers off and a little bit of flexibility in my schedule. I may not wind up doing something that inspires an awed reaction like "college professor" does (in certain circles, anyway).

But I'm happy. And to me, that's what counts.

To the rest of you: you're not alone. I doubt the same person has been running all of those searches, so there's at least a few of you out there. Remember: just because no one talks about being unhappy doesn't mean they aren't. You are not alone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Warning Signs I Should Have Paid Attention To

So I've been reading the wiki and forum for my discipline's job market* quite a bit lately - just out of curiosity, mind you. After going through the market last year, I've been curious to see how this year's market has shaped up and how it looks to me now that I've made my decision to leave. (Hint: not great.)

Anyway, this year's forum and wiki have been full of posts from candidates who talk about their despair over not getting any interviews and about the possibility of having to leave academia ... or about their panic about finding funding for next year. Others report excitedly about getting a phone interview for a one-year VAP post on the other side of the country or a fly-out interview for a 4/4 tenure-track job in Nowheresville, Idaho. To me, these jobs sound horrible, but these people all write about how lucky they feel. How excited they are to be given this fantastic opportunity. How desperate they are to get the job in question.

And over and over, I see the repeated assertion that people there will be happy - no, ecstatic - if they manage to get a job. Any job at all. There's little concern expressed about where the jobs are or what the teaching load is (I'm seeing an unusual amount of people say that they're applying to both R1s and SLACs, even though in my experience, people generally pick one of the two). But the people posting at the forum this year seem to be flailing around, desperate to get a job - any job. 

I mean no disrespect to the people who want academic jobs. I went through the market last year, and it is a crazy, stressful, anxiety-producing time like nothing else I've ever experienced in my life. And with the down economy and the tight market, I'm not at all surprised that people are trying to do whatever they can to try to land themselves a job - any job - that pays better than a grad student stipend or adjunct salary. (Of course, we've talked here about how unlikely it is that anything you can do at this late stage will improve your chances on the market ... but again, I can't blame folks for trying).

Reading these forum posts and thinking back to my own experiences on the job market, though, has made me realize something important about myself as a grad student.

I didn't want an academic job - or an academic life - badly enough. And not just when I was on the market and unwilling to apply anywhere and everywhere for any job that would have me.

I didn't want the life of an academic ... even when I was living it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Your Tuesday Funny

Since it's the end of the semester for many of you, with all of the related grading that entails ... I present the Five Stages of Grading for teachers, from the blog Not that Kind of Doctor.

It's been a couple of years since I taught, but this rang very true ... and made me laugh. I always liked teaching, but anyone who tells you that grading a giant pile of papers is anything short of utter misery is lying. Anger, denial, bargaining??? I've experienced it all. :)

Anyway, I hope that those of you who are still in academia are surviving these last few weeks intact ... and that you'll be able to enjoy the holidays and the semester break with at least a little bit of free time to enjoy your life outside of work.

Just keep in mind - you'll get everything done, and you're doing just fine. And if you're thinking you can't take it anymore, you're not alone.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reason I'm Leaving #9 - I'm Tired of the Pointless Encouragement

Remember how I said a few weeks back that I would probably only post new ranty anti-academic posts when something specific happened that frustrated me? Yeah.....this is one of those times.

This week, I contacted Grad Department for a minor clerical reason ... basically, I needed our graduate program director to sign off on something for me.

The (very kind) director, who I don't work with and don't know very well, responded by asking me some questions about what I was doing now, when I'd be defending, etc. They were all reasonable questions; no problem. It's natural for people in my department to be curious.

To answer the first question, I just said I had gotten a nonacademic job that I liked very much and left it at that, with no details. I deflected the second question by asking what the procedure would be for defending if I was out of residence next year (just in case I do eventually defend - that's not the plan right now, although I don't want anyone in my department to know this).

Grad director wrote back telling me that it was "such a shame" I was leaving, since "my research was so interesting" and "my teaching evaluations were excellent." And how there were still a few jobs being posted this year, and what was the harm in putting some packets together just in case? Because I had so much to offer, and academia would be so sorry to see me go!

Oh, come on now...

I struck out on the market last year. No one has seen me on campus since February. I haven't spoken to my advisor since the winter. I haven't published a paper or taught a class or showed up at a seminar since the fall of last year. I skipped the last national conference for the first time in five years. I couldn't be more removed from academia at this point, and I haven't produced one single bit of academic work - either in teaching or research - in more than a year.

But "academia would be sorry to see me go????" Really???