Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcome Back ... to Overthinking :)

I'm back at work today, with a pile of things on my desk and a lengthy to-do list for this week. So, you know, it seems like a good time to write a new blog post. :)

As I've mentioned multiple times before, this job is perfectly fine for the time being. I make enough money to pay the bills plus have a little extra, I like my boss and especially my coworkers a lot, and (perhaps most importantly), this job is not academic work and therefore pays me a fair wage while allowing me to live a normal life without academic guilt and the expectation that I will work 24/7, and on all vacations and holidays. (I mean, my grad student friends who celebrate Christmas were posting on Facebook on the 26th that they were "back to work after a relaxing two days off!" Come on, now...)

The hunt for my next job begins this week, so we'll see how it goes. At this point, I'm looking simply for "a better job than I have now, in Dream City." From there, I'll see what comes next.

In my best moments, I think this is a great plan. The city we currently live in and my (and my partner's) jobs are perfectly okay for the time being. I feel like we could be here for up to another year without really feeling desperate to leave. (Although it is my sincere hope that it won't take that long to find something). But up until I find a new job, I'm paying my bills and paying down debt and living a good life here. And that feels like enough for me right now, after all of the upheaval of the last year and my eight-year pursuit of a career that I now realize I absolutely did not want and was miserable pursuing.

But then again, today I logged into Facebook and saw that one of my close friends from college starts a new job today - hir second job since college, and a noticeable step up in both pay and prestige from her previous job. Basically, zie has taken a huge step forward in hir career.

I'm so, so, so, SO proud of my friend. Zie has worked really hard and is just a fabulous person who deserves all the success in the world.

And yet ... zie is two years younger than me, is already living in the city where zie wants to be, and is steadily advancing through hir career. Without a pile of student loan debt and useless graduate degrees, to boot.

It's hard sometimes not to think about "what might have been" or to not be jealous of friends or family who are moving foward in their careers. Even when you know, unequivocally, that you're making the right decision and that your previous path would not have led to a fulfilling career for you. But now that I'm in this position, I can tell you that it's easy to feel disappointed that you're just starting something new when you're watching others advance in their careers.

Still, this isn't a reason to stay - to either keep doing work you hate or pursuing a career path that's only going to lead you to adjuncting and poverty.

So aside from the five minutes of doubt that crept in this morning, I've been keeping myself focused on the fact(s) that (1) I know I'm doing the right thing, that (2) jumping headlong into an entirely new career didn't serve me well the last time, so I really owe it to myself to take it slow this time, and (3) that I can't turn back time.

And I also need to remember that there are a whole hell of a lot of people out there right now who are doing worse than I am. My partner and I are both employed, own a home that we should make a small profit on when we sell, and have family, friends, and a dog who we love very much. We are very, very lucky and fortunate in a lot of ways. And we'll get through this.

Anyway, I just thought I'd throw this post up this morning to reiterate that even when you know you're making the right decision and that all you can do is keep moving forward, worries and fears will still occasionally creep in. If you're contemplating leaving academia, try not to get caught up in the "what ifs," especially when comparing yourself to others. Doubts are occasionally going to crop up no matter what you choose to do. If you stay in academia, you'll wonder what else you could have done. If you leave, you'll wonder what would have happened if you stayed or if you'd never gone to grad school.

Just try to keep your mind focused on the balance of your life and your mental health, and try to figure out whether you will feel better - on average - inside or outside of academia. I know that for me, the happy and rejuvenated and excited moments and hours I've had in the last ten months far, far, far outweigh the amount of time I spend worrying about what comes next or wondering if I made the right decision. By a factor of at least 100 to 1. So I know that I made the right decision.

For me at this moment in time, my mental well-being and happiness is more important than doggedly pursuing some particular career goal just to impress other people. So that's the path I'm on right now. Perhaps that will change in the next year or so ... and if so, I'll adjust accordingly. For now, however, I just need to keep focused on what comes next and not let the "what ifs" take up residence in my subconscious mind when my conscious mind knows I've made the right decision.

The questions about what could have been will never go away, and most of us have them about something - a job, a relationship, etc. But ... meh. For every path you take, there's a path not taken. Instead of dwelling on where you could have gone, try to keep focused on where you're going from here. And you'll be okay, just like I am. Because I really, truly am okay.

...And thus ends JC's Existential Life Lesson for the day. Now, it's back to the real world and the pile of work on my desk. :) Have a great week, everyone!!


  1. Phew! Your last post made me a little nervous, like we may not be getting to hear from you very often now...so I was really happy to see this post!

    Lots of great points in your "Existential Life Lesson". Thanks for the reminders!

  2. Ha - no, I'm still around and planning to post! I have just noticed that I post more often when I have fewer things on my agenda ... and that with renewed job hunting and all of the things that entails, I might not find the time to post as much as I have been for the past few months. But I wanted to reassure people that I wouldn't be abandoning the blog. I would never let people read my entire postacademic story without knowing how it ends! :)

  3. Another terrific post--thanks, JC. Great reminders about sunk costs, opportunity costs, and the like. I often get caught up in time machine fantasies, but it's really just a time waster and means of self-torture. I'm not gonna do it to myself any more. Not in the glorious year of 2012!