In the interest of sharing all of my ups and downs with you, dear readers ... here's a Negative Nelly post for you. Because it's a Negative Nelly kind of day.
I've been feeling weird for the past 24 hours, ever since I read WTF's last post where she writes about how she still googles her former academic colleagues and feels kind of wistful about the academic life, missing it and wondering if she'll ever go back. Some of the other postacademic bloggers have expressed similar emotions in the past ... which, for the record, I totally understand. They're (mostly) Type 2 leavers, so it's normal that they would feel wistful and nostalgic about their old lives. It makes sense, and I don't judge or think it's at all weird that they're feeling that way.
But every time I see a post like that, it makes me feel sort of weird ... and it takes me a day or so to shake the weird feelings.
First, I feel sad for them that they're not able to pursue the work that they love anymore. I can't even imagine how hard leaving would be if I actually missed academic work but just couldn't find a job. That must just tear you up inside. And it makes me furious at academia. The industry should want to keep the bright, motivated people who love the work ... not farm them out in a constantly rotating stream of adjuncts with no job security and a shamefully low salary.
At the same time, though, those wistful posts kind of make me feel like a loser or a flake. Because I don't miss the work at all. Haven't looked back once since I left last February. I haven't looked at anyone's CV since I left, and haven't been curious to. I haven't read a single journal article or felt compelled to write anything other than this blog. (I have read a few books from my discipline, so I guess I'm not a total loser...) And when I hear about other people slaving away at journal articles or syllabi until late in the night, I always think "suckers!!!!" I just really realize now how much I disliked academia and I know that I dodged the world's biggest bullet by deciding to leave.
So on one hand, yayyyy! I know I made the right decision if I don't ever feel even remotely compelled to go back or to dip my toes back into the academic life!!
But, damn. I also feel kind of stupid. How could I have not realized sooner that I wanted to leave? Why did I hang on for a few extra years, stressing myself out and taking on another student loan?
And more importantly ... what does it say about me as a person that I could just walk away and never look back from a career path I was supposed to love and want to pursue more than anything?? What kind of a flaky person am I, just up and quitting my career without a backwards glance???
Now, at my core I realize that I'm just a Type 1 leaver, and it's therefore totally normal to not miss the work. And I realize that leaving academia is, in the end, just another career change. And if I don't think people who leave other careers and never look back are losers or flakes, then I am most certainly not one either. Sometimes you just have to run away and not look back.
But I still feel kind of stupid today. Like I'm doing postacademia wrong or something. Like I'm really not a good model for other people who want to leave. Because clearly there is something wrong with me for not missing the life or the work at all, whereas everyone else will pine away for their academic lives if they leave based on my advice.
I'm also feeling weird today because when I came into work this morning I couldn't shake the feeling that this job isn't one I'm passionate about or want to do for the rest of my career. I think I'd feel better if I had left academia for another field that I loved and was pursuing a career in. But I didn't. I took a well-paying job with a decent title that I don't hate and don't dread coming to every day. It's a perfectly fine job, but it's nothing I'm excited about. And I hope to not be doing this in five years. I hope to be doing something else.
But I have no idea what that would be, and I really don't feel compelled to search for that next career yet.
Which swings me back around to feeling like a flaky loser again. I left academia - a prestigious career - without a backward glance or a feeling of regret ... only to take some stupid job I am "meh" about? Wasn't I supposed to be chasing some career? Am I, at my core, some stupid loser with no career goals who is destined to just work "meh" jobs from here on out for the rest of my life? That scares me.
Now, on one hand ... if working a "meh" job makes me happy, then why should I care? If I can pay the bills and am happy, who cares if I'm pursuing a meaningful career or not?
On the other hand, though ... I hate the idea that I might have no career goals after spending the entirety of my twenties singlemindedly chasing a career. For eight years I wanted to be this one particular thing more than anything in the world ... enough to move two states away from my family and friends, work 24/7 and give up a middle class income to pursue? But now, after all of that ... I'm just settling for whatever job will have me? That's depressing. I'm supposed to be more ambitious and smarter than that.
So I'm having really mixed and not-altogether-positive feelings this morning. And in the interest of full disclosure, I guess I feel compelled to share them on this blog.
In the end, I guess I'm glad that I'm not wistful about leaving. It makes the whole thing easier, and I know I made the right choice to leave.
I guess that I just sometimes wish that I was a little bit wistful, or that I had a career goal right now that I was working toward. It'd be nice to know that all of the time I spent in grad school meant something ... or that I was heading toward an awesome career in the future. Without those things, I'm sort of feeling like I'm really not a postacademic this morning ... I'm just someone who quit a job when everything wasn't perfect, and who shouldn't have gone to grad school in the first place.
I guess it's time to dive back into What Color is Your Parachute, huh?? Time to start thinking about future career goals, and to at least get my mind reoriented toward what comes next.
Or maybe I just need to take a nice long beach vacation ..... :)