Thursday, March 1, 2012

How My Life is Better Since I Left - Part 3

Apologies for the quickly vanishing post yesterday. It felt great to vent and get some affirmation that the commentary directed at me was stupidly clueless and rude ... but after thinking on it a little bit more, I didn't want to leave it up just in case anyone might stumble across this blog and recognize that I was talking about them.

I'm anonymous here, obviously, but I'm not really all that concerned about whether anyone would start reading over here from my grad program and figure out who I was. I'm not embarrassed about what I've written here or my decision to leave.

However, I'd hate for anyone who I still consider to be a friend to come over here and recognizing that I am calling them out, specifically, in one of my posts. Eek. So I pulled down the previous post, just in case. We'll just summarize it for those who didn't see it by saying that even once you leave academia, other academic types that you know may take a long-ass time to really understand that you are leaving, and even longer to believe that you really are content with that decision.


Anyway ... here are the next 5 reasons in my list of why I'm glad I left academia one year and one week ago...

11. My work hours are normal. Do I really need to elaborate on this one, after all of the writing I've done on this blog about the insane work hours (and non-work "guilt hours") that academia imposes on us? I don't think so. Just check the archive to the right if you've missed those previous discussions.

I don't need to rehash the discussion of the insane work expectations of academia to tell you that another reason I'm glad I left (in fact, quite possibly my biggest one) is that I have a normal work schedule again.

At my current job, I work 9-5 Monday thru Friday, and there is no pressure on me to work at any other times when I am not on the clock. And when I'm not at work, I'm off the clock, both physically and mentally. I'm not getting paid in the evenings or on the weekends; therefore, no one expects me to work in the evenings or on the weekends. Time away from work is truly time away from work, and everything understands and accepts that.

Some people may not mind the insane work hours in academia. I minded. I'm so glad to be away from that nonsense.

12. While I look for a new job, I'm not shackled to a "job market season" that rules my life. If I'm sick for a few days like I was a couple of weeks ago? The world won't end if I don't send out any resumes, because new jobs will be listed tomorrow. If no jobs that pop up on a particular day sound interesting? I can ignore them and look again in a few days, since I have a job right now (not a time-limited grad school or adjunct contract) and therefore, I'm not desperate.

But at the same time, if I get desperate for a new job for some reason? There are new jobs posted every single day, all year long. Not just from August to January.

It doesn't mean that I'll land a job quickly or anything like that. Absolutely not. The job market outside of academia is still tight.

But it does mean that I'll never have to face the dreaded moment in which all of the job postings have dried up and I know that I'll be facing a long 6 or 7 month slog before I can apply to new ones. That's just not how it works outside of academia. And even though finding a job is still hard and stressful, it doesn't feel quite as desperate or hopeless as the academic job market did ... simply because I know that every day is a new day with new available job listings.

13. I now realize that I don't need academia in order to get my writing and ideas out there. If this blog has shown me anything, it's that if you write anything publicly for which there is an interested audience, people will find your work. If I miss writing, I can always find outlets for it through blogging or freelance work or something else. Academia does not have a monopoly on the written word or on having your voice heard by the larger world.

(In fact, if you consider the average audience size for an academic journal, it's quite possible that even a poorly-trafficked blog will still gain you more readers than a publication in a top journal!)

And if I ever feel motivated to get back to doing actual research or academic writing, I can certainly do so. Being an independent scholar is a possibility. Non-academics get book contracts all the time. Even if I'm not writing in the hopes of getting tenure or something like that, there is absolutely no reason why I couldn't still do research or write scholarly papers if I wanted to.

And this is true for anyone. Sure, it may not get us the attention or accolades that we were working toward in academia. But if you still love writing and researching, it's not like you lose your ability to write or to analyze text or to run statistical software programs once you hand in your Grad Student Card. If you miss that work, you can still do it.

And in fact, you may enjoy the work even more once you're freed from the constraints that are imposed by academia.

14. I am no longer under the thumb of my uncaring, standoffish advisor. I don't know if I'll ever write a long, sustained post about my advisor. Zie is out of my life, and wasn't the primary reason I left, and frankly? Zie isn't worth the brain cells it would take to write a longer post about hir terrible advising over the years.

Let's just say that one sizable reason that I'm happy I left is that I am no longer forced to chase an advisor around campus who clearly viewed me as nothing more than a moderately annoying fruit fly who wouldn't stop buzzing around zir head. Never again will I have to send multiple emails begging hir to please please please carve out 15 minutes a month to meet with me or to please please please make sure my recommendation letter is filed before the deadline.

For a lot of reasons that I won't go into here, having a standoffish advisor was good for me based on my work style and my personality. I would have been even more miserable with an advisor who was up my rear end and in my business 24/7, trying to remake me in hir image.

But now that I've left and can look at the whole situation objectively? Fuck hir for not making it easy for me to move through the program. And fuck hir for never checking in once in the past year to see how I'm doing.

15. I feel healthier. There's no real way to quantify this, so you'll just have to take my word for it. I've always been fairly healthy, and never experienced any of the health complications of going to grad school that some people have described. I didn't gain weight or develop high blood pressure or depression or headaches or anything like that. And my health insurance while I was in grad school was pretty solid, so I didn't have to skip checkups or anything like that.

That being said? Since leaving, I genuinely feel healthier. I spend more time outside. I spend more time just relaxing, and I feel calmer. I'm less stressed out and anxious now that the academic guilt and the uncertainties of the academic job market are no longer hanging over my head.

I have more free time after work and more spare time, so I have the money and time to afford a gym membership and to shop for and cook healthy meals - all good things when you're trying to stay healthy, of course. I can also afford the occasional "luxury" like a new outfit or a weekend trip away, which are nice treats that can help you feel mentally better. Everyone deserves a little treat every now and then, you know?

A lot of people talk about how much free time and flexibility you have in your work schedule as an academic. As we've talked about before around here, though, this flexibility comes with the expectation that you'll be constantly working. And when you're constantly working (or worrying about how you should be working), you won't be concentrating on keeping yourself healthy and sane.

Now that I'm gone, I can concentrate on me. And not just the "work" part of me ... but all of me. And it feels fantastic.


  1. ah, you make it sound so appealing! So many good things to look forward to...

    1. Indeed. It's not so bad out here.

      Actually, going along with the substance of this post ... it's currently 6:11 PM, and I'm just now leaving the office. I got a little overloaded with work, so I decided to just stay an extra hour. But you know what's awesome? I get paid time and a half for this hour (yes, I'm on hourly pay; no, it's not a crappy wage).

      And now? I'm walking out of the office and heading out to meet a friend for a quick bite to eat before heading home to watch TV. Not even the tiniest thought of work will enter my brain tonight.

      Come out into the real world. We have lives out here!! :)

  2. I'll admit even though I'm still finishing up my U contract, it's been appealing just having the free-ed up mental head-space of "feeling" post-academic (ie. not stressing about academic jobs and not worrying about publishing in academic journals/attending conferences all the time). I'm looking forward to having all of these perks--free time, weekends, pleasant colleagues--PLUS having a non-academic job and learning a liveable wage sometime soon! Fingers crossed!:)

  3. The confining of work to workday hours is HUGE. Even though I'm a type 2 leaver and liked academic work, feeling guilty for not doing it every minute of every day was a major burden on my mental and physical well-being. I need time for other things, like taking a walk or doing yoga or making dinner or playing with my cats or going shopping or doing nothing at all! Writing or grading or doing research was always in the back of my mind before when I was doing other things, always the nagging guilt that I SHOULD be doing something else. Now, my hours are M-F 10-6, and, as JC says, it's SO nice to be able to leave the office when work is done and completely forget about it until the next workday begins.