Friday, June 22, 2012

Postacademic Rant 8 - On Being a "Quitter"

I'm having writers' blog again, guys. Sigh...

Sadly, I can't seem to even make another "Ask a Postacademic" post come together coherently. Posting will be back to normal next week, I'm sure. But in the meantime, I'll post another postacademic rant to tide you over until I can squeeze some fresh new writing out of my brain.

As an aside: now that I'm just writing as a hobby rather than for a job, it's been kind of interesting to see - really see - how my motivation/creativity/excitement to write ebbs and flows. I seem to go through about a week every couple of months where even trying to get a few paragraphs out is almost physically painful. Looking back, I remember going through periods like this when I was in grad school, although I never really paid careful attention to it like I do now.

Because back then, when I'd go through a writers' block period, I'd panic. I'd start berating myself for not being able to write. I'd be hunched over my computer, calling myself a slacker and a fraud. "You write for a living, and you can't even get a paragraph out? You're a loser who's never going to get a job." And then after I'd get a couple of crappy paragraphs put together, I'd berate myself for writing so incoherently. It was a nasty cycle.

In academia, where you're supposed to be working constantly and where there are no true "off hours" for your work, you'll start beating yourself up anytime you sit down to write and nothing comes out. "What's wrong with me?? I'm a writer! Anytime I want to, I should be able to sit down and write for hours! That's it ... I'm not a writer. I'm a loser!!! And once I show my advisor this horrible work, zie is going to see what a loser I am and they're going to kick me out of my program and I'll never get a job!!" All because you are going through the same work and motivation cycles that nearly everyone in the world goes through.

But in academia, see, it's not good enough for you to be just like everyone else. Because everyone else is inferior to the exalted people who have made it into the hallowed halls of the Ivory Tower. Academics are unique and special and can produce flawless work 24/7 (or so they like to tell each other they do). So when you go through an unproductive period, you will start beating yourself up for not being as good as your colleagues.

But now that I'm not in academia anymore, I don't have to deal with any of that crap. Since my job doesn't require me to produce endless pages of written work every day (that has to be flawless even though nobody will ever read it), I'm not stressing about this writer's block. I'm still good at my job and I'm still a worthwhile employee and person, even when my brain is a little tired. And the readers of this blog will still be here when I come up with something new.

What an awesome feeling! I write when I want to, on topics that interest me. If I've got nothing, I just go do something else. Yayyy for postacademia!!

So until my writers' block passes, here's another postacademic rant to tide you over. Standard disclaimer: these were written more than a year ago, when I was in therapy dealing with my hatred of academia and my decision to leave, and "writing out my feelings" on recommendation of my therapist. As it turns out, I had a lot of feelings ... pages and pages worth, which have been neatly distilled into "postacademic rants" for you to read.

But it's important to note, lest anyone wonder ... I'm not this angry anymore. The anger does pass.

However, I know that some of you who find this blog probably are this angry. So this is for you. :)

Oh, and the language is very much NSFW.

Fuck your attitude that anyone who leaves academia is “quitting”

Whenever someone talks about leaving grad school, a chorus of academic voices chimes in, urging the person not to “quit.” Don't be a quitter, don't give up so soon, just give it one more shot. One more year in grad school ... or one more semester of teaching ... or one more run at the job market. Just give it a little more time, and you won't want to quit! You won't be a quitter. Because quitters are losers. So if you leave grad school, you'll be a quitter/loser.

I am always too worked up and angry to say this to someone's face, but fuck that shit.

It’s not “quitting” to take your hard earned graduate degree and use it to get whatever type of job will make you happy.

It’s not "quitting" to decide that the work you're doing doesn't make you happy anymore, and that you want to find a new job that you will like more.

It's not "quitting" to decide that you want to leave grad school (edit: or adjuncthood) because you want to start making an adult salary and have some job security.

That's called "being an adult who makes adult decisions about your own life." You're making a proactive decision to make your life better ... not throwing your ball down and yelling "I quit!" like an immature child. You're making adult decisions about your own life. And fuck the academics who try to belittle and cut you down for doing that, as if you're doing something stupid or childish. To me, deciding to leave academia after all I've poured into it is probably the most adult decision I've ever made in my life. Fuck these idiots who can't understand that.

And why do these people even care if I “quit?” Some of them don't even know me!!! So why does it matter to them?

And why is this such a big thing in academia? In what other industry or career does one person say “I think I’m going to leave the banking industry!" (or counseling, or accounting, or whatever) ... and everyone else in that field tries to talk them into remaining a banker? When's the last time you heard someone who left a job in another industry being derided as a quitter? I know a lot of people in a lot of industries, and I've never heard anything like that anywhere but in academia.

Because in every other industry that I'm aware of, people understand that people change careers. People understand that the job you loved at 25 might not be the job you love at 40. Changing jobs and careers is seen as a completely normal part of life almost everywhere else. But in academia, it’s seen as a terrible, embarrassing, bad thing. You’re not switching jobs ... you're "quitting." You're not finding something else that will make you happier ... you're "leaving everyone behind." Giving up on the dream.

I have no real idea why academics react so badly to one of their own leaving their ranks. You'd think they'd be ecstatic! After all ... as there are fewer people in academia, there are fewer people vying for the scarce number of jobs out there. You'd think they'd be thrilled to see someone leave!

Could it be, perhaps, that seeing some people choose a different life and point out some negative aspects of academia makes them a bit uncomfortable? Perhaps it makes them realize that they, too, could choose a different path? Perhaps it makes them face some uncomfortable truths about how academia isn't actually the flawless bed of roses they all pretend it is?

To be honest with you, that's what I think is going on. And it kind of makes me laugh to think about. But also angry. Because people need to quit projecting their issues and insecurities onto me. I'm fucking sick of it!!!

So screw you, judgy academics. I'm not a quitter.

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