Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again

Well, judging by the posts going up lately, this year's round of post-academic bloggers is getting ready to move on. Everyone's talking about non-academic job searches, next steps, etc. I think this is a good step in all our blog-therapy programs. So, let me throw in my interesting news…it remains to be seen if it's good news.

I've been scouted by a massive company for their R&D division. I'm fairly certain they just searched for Ph.D.'s on LinkedIn. Still, they read the little summary of my future post-academic profile and thought I might be worth talking to. That's pretty nifty. More than nifty. It's a great confidence booster. Nothing says "this career change thing just might work out" quite like someone considering recruiting you.

Admittedly, I haven't considered R&D since my long ago undergrad years. I have a B.S. (best degree abbreviation ever!) in a STEM field. Don't ask why I went into the social sciences. We all make stupid decisions in our 20's. Anyway, I haven't thought about this career path in years and actually thought a Ph.D. in the social sciences would removed them from my possible paths.

So, I'm not really sure what to do at this point. I think I need to find some folks to do informational interviews with - preferably before I talk to the recruiters so I have a better sense of what I can offer the company. By all accounts, it's a good company to work for, the employees seem happy, and their salary range for the job would actually cover my bills and let me start some savings. And they employ a boatload of Ph.D.'s (go post-acs!). Not to mention, it's in a large enough city that my Safe Harbor could find a job.

It seems a little too good to be true. And past events suggest that the more people I tell, rather than letting such possibilities eat me up inside until I'm a twitching wreck, the less likely it'll amount to anything. Still, this is the season of hope. The longest night of the year is next week and then the sun will begin its slow return to the northern hemisphere. Everyone is posting rumors of similar hope in the post-academic world. So, here's my contribution to the happy thoughts: to a chance at a new life, happiness, enough money to buy the libations we really needed to get through grad school, and the time we never had to enjoy them! May astoundingly good things happen to you all on your job searches!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Anger, Angst, Apathy, Arrogance, and Other Happy Thoughts

Went to happy hour last week with fellow grad students. This is something of a weekly ritual for us. Everyone (nearly everyone anyway) strokes my advisor's ego and we can all complain together. Something like this seems to be universal in nearly all departments or should be. There's nothing like bonding over misery. Anyway, that's not the subject of my post.

At one point during this happy hour I was deep conversation with two other students graduating, or planning to, this year. They were both staying in academia and on the job market. One works in anatomy and thinks she has a shot at something this year. The other is fairly certain he doesn't stand a chance but he keeps sending out applications anyway. They've both set their sights low and are hoping for something that may come close to paying their bills. And they think I'm the crazy one for leaving this insanity.

Incidentally, both of these people deride the various fields I'm considering for my career change. I'm fairly certain anything other than the faculty-approved post-academic options would cause such a reaction. This angered me, at first. I went home from happy hour wondering if I was making the right decision. So, now I was angry and angst-ridden. What a way to spend a Friday. Thankfully, I also have a large supply of local wine to pass the time.

My advisor, if you're curious, has gone from quasi-supportive to apathetic to actively preventing other grad students from speaking to me. It's the sort of petty power manipulations I've come to fondly associate with my snake-pit of a department.

So why the anger and angst? I do try to be supportive of my fellow grad students' inexplicable hopes for academic jobs and only offer advice on some things they should negotiate for when they finally (maybe) get job offers. I strongly urge them not to become adjuncts. What angered me was the apathy and arrogance I get towards my own decision. I'm starting to get the response many post-acs get: apathy towards anything other than academic jobs and arrogance as they assume I simply couldn't cut it in academia. Considering that I am unwilling to stall my life for another 2-5 years working for sub-poverty wages for the outside chance at a TT job...maybe I couldn't cut it in academia. I've made peace with that. This led to my happy thoughts.

The next day I realized that my angst had passed with my anger. I wasn't annoyed about leaving academia and what people thought of that. I was annoyed that they didn't support me, as I expected friends to do. That's some sort of progress, I think. I care less of others' attitudes about my choice and more with their actions as "friends." Hopefully the next step is full on f!&% it mode. I'll say it again: this is MY life and MY choice. If I want to make a living wage, have hobbies, free time, friends, and a life with the one I love, that's my decision. You can keep toiling in the bowels of the Ivory Tower, if you like. I support your choice. Heck, I'll even buy you a beer and offer you a couch if you need to crash in whatever city I end up in.

Speaking of progress, I've started emailing folks for informational interviews. That definitely qualifies as progress. The best part? Folks are responding. They answer my questions and don't even waste time asking why I'm leaving academia. It's just a lot of "here's what I do" and "here's what we look for in new employees" and "sure I'll pass on your request to other people." Go non-academic network!

I'll keep y'all up to date with the transition - probably sans alliteration and alphabetizing but one never knows.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lessons of Grad School #2 - Research

I was sick of seeing the last post so I'm posting a new one. So, here's some more thoughts on things I wished I'd known before I went to grad school.

Be Careful What You Research

For those of you reading this and still, somehow, laboring under the delusion that you can research whatever you want in grad school, let me disillusion you. Or rather, let you know of some possible consequences of your choice.

The Set-Up

I planned to research a specific topic when I went to grad school: The Tea Drinking Habits of Dormice. However, after several years trudging my way through classes, dealing with faculty, and surviving comps I found that this topic no longer interested me. I wanted to change my research to the Chair Switching Behavior of Hares in relation to Dinner Conversation. No biggie, right? You can research whatever you want, yes?


My advisor specialized in dormice, not hares or dinner conversation. Ze actually didn't mind my switching research topics. Most of my fellow grad students work on the lack of time management skills among white rabbits. Chair Switching Behavior was at least different. Ze's excited - or at least mildly interested - in the idea. What more could a grad student ask for? Ze gave me the go ahead to start researching. Awesome. I did the background research, created a whole new research design, and got to work. Proof you can research whatever you want, right?

The Fall-Out

I did it pretty much on my own. I couldn't piggyback on my advisor's grants. Ze wasn't comfortable introducing me to people in the field of Chair Switching Behavior, Hares, or Dinner Conversation since ze didn't work in those fields. So, I had to work to get my work into conferences on my own. I didn't even get decent feedback when my grants were rejected. I didn't get the automatic legitimation that comes from putting your advisor's name on your work as an author. I did it the hard way. This has likely advanced my burnout a bit further than usual. And, to add insult to self-induced injury, I now wouldn't trust my advisor to write me a letter of rec since ze has never worked with me nor observed my teaching. What would ze say, "Didn't bonk?"

Why do I call it self-induced injury? As annoyed as I am with academia, academic culture, the Ivory Tower, the fallacious meritocracy, what-have-you, this particular problem I brought on myself. I knew doing my own research was not the easy road. My advisor even told me that not working on what ze worked on was going to be a harder road. I didn't walk into this one blind. I just didn't think it would be THIS hard. The upside is that even after years of research on the topic, 1) I still think it's interesting and 2) writing my dissertation doesn't put me to sleep nor makes me want to do a self-lobotomy with a plastic spork. I would never get a job with my work on Chair Switching Behavior of Hares in relation to Dinner Conversation. It's considered lunatic fringe in my field. Dormice and White Rabbits are much more in vogue. However, since I'm leaving academia for a variety of other reasons, I'm rather happy with my choice of research.

If all goes well, I'll go out in a blaze of insanity that will one day be deemed ahead of its time and cited a thousand times over on Google scholar. If that happens, please let me know. I'll hopefully have a life by then and won't need to check Google for number of citations for a tenure portfolio. Anyway, these days I'm becoming more interested in the Power Dynamics of Tempestuous Authority Figures on Playing Cards and Chess Pieces - but that's a story for another post...and also a subject that would not get me tenure.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons of Grad School #1

Judging by the general progression of other post-ac blogs, it's about time to start my first serial post. So, I'm going to begin a series of lessons and advice that I've learned the hard way in grad school. Things I wished I'd known before I started. Maybe it'll help someone else not make the same mistakes - they can make all new ones instead!

Lesson #1 - Do Your Research

You say you want to go to grad school because you like to do research? Well prove it! There are three crucial subjects to research before even applying to any graduate program: the field, the department, and grad life in THAT department. I'll admit to knowing none of these things before I started and that may be the biggest mistake I made in grad school. So let's look at these big 3 in a little more depth.

The Field

I'm not talking subject matter or content here. You should already have some of that or you shouldn't be looking at that field in the first place. The research I'm talking about is job-related. What jobs are out there for people in this field with the degree you want? What do those jobs pay? What is the progression to those jobs?

These questions may seem base if you're buying into the whole "noble life of the mind." Two points to keep in mind: 1) the ability to feed oneself post-degree is vitally important and 2) the "life of the mind" is an out-moded concept with no bearing in current academic reality, if it ever existed al all. So, let's talk about what would be awaiting you at the end of grad school.
  • You can be a college professor. If this is your dream, I suggest you do two things. First, shadow a professor for a day or two or ask them to candidly tell you about what their life is really like and what they needed to do to get there. And two, look up the stats on how many people in that field go into grad school, how many actually graduate, how many jobs are offered each year, and the liklihood of getting one of those jobs. I'll give you a headstart, 50% or less get jobs as tenured faculty - in the social sciences and humanities it's less.

  • You can get a job outside academia. If this is your goal, check and see if you need a master's, doctorate, or professional degree to do that job. If you don't, do NOT take on the debt of grad school. Very few people get funded the whole way these days. If a grad degree is that important to you, do a non-traditional one and pay for it as you go. It then becomes an expensive hobby but you'll have a life on the outside, an identity not tied to your studies, and likely be generally happier and healthier for it.
A special note on salaries: You should never take out more loans than what your salary would be your first year on the job. So, if you discover the job you want pays $45k/year starting, that is your LOAN CAP. Once you hit that number, NO MORE LOANS!

Having some idea where you're going ahead of time can save you a LOT of grief down the road. If the answers you get to these questions do not inspire you to go to grad school, don't despair. If you just want to read more deeply on a subject you love, all you need is a library card. They're cheap (or free!) and you have the freedom to read up on whatever you want. No one can say that about grad school!

The Department

Once you've decided to continue on your grad school quest, you need to pick a department for your studies. There are lots of departments out there with grad programs in whatever field you want to study. So, how do you decide? Here are some questions to ask of every department:
  • Do they have people specializing in what you want to study? If you want to study ways to increase crop yields and a department only specializes in zoology and microbiology, you may want to look elsewhere. Find people whose research interests you and check out their departments.

  • Does the department have funding for their students and for how long? Grad student debt ranges from astronomical to absurd to soul-crushing. If a department cannot fund all of its incoming grad students RUN! That's no place you want to rack up debt. Ideally, you want a department that will fund you to finish but, at the very least, you need one that will fund you to ABD (All But Dissertation). What type of funding is also good to know but we'll get to that.

  • How does the department rank? Academia is NOT a meritocracy. Where you graduate from matters. If you want to be a college professor, you really need to aim for a top 5 department. To the rest of the world, Ivy league looks better than state schools which look better than regionals (give or take whether an alumni of your school is on the hiring committee). Yes, there's a hierarchy. No, it's not fair. But who told you life was fair? Whoever it was, I assure you, they lied. Find them and smack them upside the head with a fish. You'll feel better.
Applying to grad school takes time and money. Narrowing down your list of departments to those that will benefit you the most helps. Such research can also help you get a better grasp of the politics of your chosen field - very important information to have. And if you don't get into one of your top picks, try to avoid settling. Spending 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars to get a degree that no one respects won't help you much in the end. Of course, if your goal is just to get some letters after your name, then by all means choose the cheapest, most convenient, accredited option you can stand and try to have a life and a bit of fun while you're there.

Life in the Department

Now that you've narrowed down the department options, go visit those places. Don't just talk to professors when you're there. Talk to the grad students, old and new ones, away from the profs. Go to lunch or happy hour with them. Get the dirt. You're better off learning it now rather than when you've tied yourself to that department for any length of time. Some important information to try to learn:
  • What's it like to work with the professors in the department? At some point you'll have to work with other profs in the department and it helps to know what they're like. This also tends to lead to people dishing about the politics in that department. Do some profs just not get along? Are some not allowed to be in the same room together? These may be signs of a snake pit. You really want to try to avoid those. In a similar vein, do the grad students get along? Do there seem to be factions? Are you shepherded away from some grad students? These are also signs of snake pit behavior. Watch out for fangs.

  • What is the funding like in the department? Is it more TAs or RAs? Do they take a lot of time? Some TAs and RAs don't take time and you get paid for doing very little. Others will have so much work that you'll be filing grievances with your grad union right and left, if you have a grad union there. You should ask about that too. Does the department guarantee funding for any specific length of time? Do they deliver on that guarantee? My department claims they fund everyone for 4 years but I've only received funding for last summer - 8 years into my program. The rest of my funding I've had to find on my own.

  • What is it like to work with your potential advisor? I cannot stress this one enough. You're initially signing on to work with this person for nearly a decade. You better learn something about that life before you apply. Is s/he reasonable both in their requests of your labor and their advice? Does s/he provide a lot of opportunities for research? With funding? Is s/he a decent human being? Ethical? You may not want to ask some of these questions outright, unless you either are that comfortable with the grad students or you get the feeling they're warranted.

    There are two types of danger signs when talking with grad students that should set your hair on end and your fight running in the opposite direction: 1) If grad students either damn their professor(s) with faint praise or they are clearly hiding something or hedging what they're saying (very deliberate word choice is a clue). 2) They tell you outright s/he is evil, despotic, or otherwise unreasonable. If grad students have reached the point of #2, they are so fed up with their advisor's dictates that they are willing to risk you babbling something incriminatory should you happen to see that advisor again. This is a bad sign. You cannot change an advisor. They are no fixer-uppers. These behaviors are a sign of abusive relationships. Take head.
So, here's the beginning of things I really wished I had known about grad school ahead of time. I'm not saying people shouldn't go to grad school - only that you should know what you're getting into if you choose to do so. Despite my love of living a wild and unpredictable life, it does on occasion pay to look before you leap.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Week in the Dip

I was going to start a series of posts about things I've learned in grad school but I've postponed it temporarily. It's been a rough week and I need to vent.

Transitioning careers involves a lot of emotional ups and downs. It's sort of a series of manic-depressive cycles moving from "yes, I can do this and look at all the things I could do" to "I have no experience in anything of value and don't stand a chance outside academia." This week has been mostly a depressive dip for a variety of reasons.


I have no idea what I want to do at this point. I've been looking into possible fields that may interest me. There's always an initial rush of "yes, I can do this and it'll be great," followed quickly by "But I wouldn't even know where to start." I do have some experience in doing all sorts of things but none of it in a publicly available format. I know it's not an insurmountable problem but it is disheartening at first.

The larger problem is one of fear and paralysis. I know lots of folks on the post-ac blogosphere suggest checking all the options quickly, deciding, and sticking with it. Here's the problem. That's what I did when it came to grad school and here I am now. I don't want a repeat of how that worked out. Though I don't regret it and, all things considered, it could've been worse, I was lucky and don't want to rely on luck quite so much this time. It does make me a little gun shy this time around.

You need courage to change careers. You need it to cold call and email folks for informational interviews. You need it to start at the bottom and work your way back up. You need courage to decide to change careers. So, I know I have it. I'm just not feeling it right now. Not curled up in a corner, rocking and babbling to myself just yet but it's been a rough week.

Trolling the Job Ads

I started cruising the want ads up on LinkedIn. I wanted to see what jobs were out there and what qualifications they were looking for. Originally, I wanted to see what they were looking for and what words were used to help with a basic resume. The result was the I realized I didn't have a lot of desirable qualifications for some of the fields I was interested in.

Again, not an insurmountable problem. I have time yet. I'm good where I'm at until next summer. I could get some of these qualifications in that time. It's just one of those moments when you realize all the things you should've been doing while in grad school.

For the record, this exercise does validate all that advice other post-acs have offered about choosing a path and sticking with it. Though there is a lot of overlap, each field uses some specialized vocabulary and emphasizes different things. By choosing at least a general direction will help getting those basic resumes up and running.

Meeting with the Advisor

Had a impromptu meeting with the advisor this week. I told him I had decided to leave academia. He does try to be supportive but there were several lines reminiscent of Postacademic in NYC's post about leaving academia or not having children. Advisor's primary one was "…but you'd be such a good professor." Thanks to Postacademic's post, I nearly burst out laughing mid-meeting.

He also had another argument he kept trying to raise. I'm planning to move to the same city as my significant other. He's been my port in this storm - a Safe Haven - particularly since he has changed careers many times and has multiple advanced degrees. Advisor kept pointing out how many relationships fail and that I shouldn't hitch my wagons to one horse. Here's the problem with this assumption: SH has a more mobile occupation than any I might pick and would follow me to where I got a job. SH is hitching his wagon to mine, not the other way around. So this also made me laugh.

The downside to this otherwise amusing conversation was that Advisor kept trying to convince me to stick it out in academia, or try again next year. Check any post-acs blog on adjuncts to see the danger here (try Recent Ph.D.'s or JC's). I did feel a bit guilty about not giving the job market a serious go. And he did try to convince me that there were better departments than the one I'm in. I believe him on this one. It just doesn't matter. The thought of being an academic makes me depressed. I think it has to do with the lack of freedom. I'll rant about that later.

Happy Hour with Other Grad Students

The final depressing round this week was going to happy hour with Advisor and some of the other grad students. Currently, my advisor could possibly graduate five people this academic year. So, there are a lot of people talking about jobs right now. The deadlines for several postings are coming up. The really odd part is that several of the students are putting a lot of time and aggravation into these applications while saying, with total confidence, that they won't get any of the jobs. So I ask why are they applying then and always get a variation of "Because that's what I'm supposed to do," in response. Try explaining the insanity and futility of this approach to an academic. It's like trying to convince a creationist of evolution during a commercial break...using only twitter posts.

I've told a few of the grad students that I'm leaving academia. The responses have been varied from "I've been thinking that too!" to "Why?!" Not a bad range, all things considered. However, I've only told one grad student about some of the fields I'm looking into. The result was less than encouraging. The implication has been that to do anything other than some form of academia is a waste of my time, talent, and life.

A waste of MY time, talent, and life.

This is where my annoyance and depression gets angry. For starters, it's MY time, MY talent, and MY life. Mine. If I want to squander it flipping burgers at McDonald's on the nightshift, that's my f*$&% prerogative. Second, none of these folks knows anything about my life, hopes, or plans. They assume my dream life is their dream life. I assure you, this is not the case. So, if you don't know what I want, how can you assume my choice to leave academia is a waste of anything? This leads to my third and perhaps greatest issue.

There is an implication, an implicit little demon, in most questions directed toward post-academics. It is particularly aggravating when coming from academics. Some people have the gaul to say it explicitly. Again, I advocate smacking such people with a fish, preferably a well-spoiled one.

The implication is that by leaving academia, by pursuing some less noble occupation than the professoriate, you are depriving your field of your talents and discoveries. By not staying, teaching, researching, the field will never be able to benefit from your insights and this will, somehow, stunt the achievements of humankind. To this I say: BULLSH^%! The field bumbled along before I came along and it will continue to bumble its way to stagnation without requiring any assistance from me.

This implication should be grouped with all those objections that suggest you are devaluing your degree/department/university and everyone in it by leaving academia. This class of objections also includes those people who need you to stay in academia to validate their choice to do so. All these objections play on the group mentality and altruism by trying to shame or guilt you into staying in academia. Again: BULLSH^%!

You can contribute far more to humanity by leaving academia than by toiling for years in the bowels of the Ivory Tower, writing arcane manuscripts no one is ever going to read. By demonstrating a use for your degree outside academia, you actually increase it's value. If you have decent marketers in your department, your post-academic success may even increase your old department's/university's prestige and value. You really want to contribute to society and all those prof's who helped you out along the way? Then get a life and be happy. You don't give a damn about those folks any more and they didn't help you all? Fine. Get a life, be happy, and don't tell them about it. There is no greater revenge than success - except possibly convincing others to join you!

In summary, this week has not been my best. I still have no idea where I'm going. I am, however, sick of people telling me I'd be better off just staying put and being miserable. And this is only the beginning. I'm going to go find a rather odiferous fish now. I anticipate some serious fish slapping down the road.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Source of Post-Ac Angst?

Now here's an interesting idea: Why some people learn faster.

Though the article is primarily focused on why some people are more inclined to learn new things and thus learn things faster, it raises interesting points that may explain a lot about grad school, academia, and post-ac angst.

The research shows that if you praise a child for hir effort, ze feels that trying is all ze needs to do for praise and ze is willing to try harder puzzles. He or she is willing to risk failure. However, if you praise a child for hir intelligence (for being smart), ze feels that ze needs to show ze is smart to get more praise and ze is NOT willing to do harder puzzles. He or she is unwilling to risk failure.

So let's follow this bit of psychology through grad school. Most grad students go to grad school often partly, if not entirely, because they've been told they're smart and that's what smart people do. Follow the train above. These students are less likely to risk failure. This may explain a lot of the redundant research in many fields. Yes, I know science happens in small steps but there are small steps and then there's spinning in a circle and until you fall down. You know of both types in your field, whatever your field may be.

Anyway, these students are given one career path: professorship. They do less than groundbreaking research which they know is unlikely to fail. They get articles published and go on to become professors. By the time they join the professoriate, or adjuncthood (which ain't the same thing - google it), they've had this risk aversion strategy reinforced throughout their entire grad school career. It shouldn't be shocking if they then go on to reinforce this strategy with their own grad students. To be fair, I think some level of risk aversion is essential for an academic career. Sudden movements scare people - the kind of people who may be voting on your tenure.

This idea also explains the angst of the post-ac transition. Post-academics have also gone through this system and had their risk aversion system reinforced. However, in order to change careers, you must be willing to take risk. So, post-acs need to change from risk aversion to risk seeking. You've got to go out on a limb to change your path and that's scary. Grad school does not engender such feelings. This risk aversion is also one of the stereotypical traits business people have of academics. As a result, not only do post-acs have to become more risk seeking, they have to be so comfortable with that idea that they can sell it to a prospective employer. Yeah, that could cause a bit of angst.

So, ask all your friends to praise your effort to change your life and not your intelligence for leaving academia. Maybe it'll make you braver!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Propaganda and Aggravation

Let me begin this post by saying that I am biased. I'll admit it outright. I was trolling the blogosphere and clicked through to Penelope's blog from Escape the Ivory Tower. Her post annoyed me. Let me explain why.

Yes, I understand that her post was a bit of anti-grad school propaganda. And I know that such things are needed if only to counteract what students get from faculty. Even some faculty recognize that they should not be trying to talk folks into entering grad school.

However, as someone who went to grad school (Ph.D. no less - big no-no from her blog), I have a few issues with her post. I'm ok with her main point that students need to seriously consider what they want before they go to grad school. The myths and considerations she brought up are also good to ponder before one heads on to more schooling. The details of the post, on the other hand, I'm not so happy with.

As a future post-academic, the idea that my Ph.D. would hinder me in the job market and that I'm an idiot for getting it rubs me the wrong way. (Yup, I took it personal. It's the blogosphere. I'm allowed to do that.) I legitimately went to grad school because I thought I wanted to be a professor. So, I prefer to think of my time in grad school as an internship and beginning the steps to that career. Then life, in its usual highly inconvenient way, led me to change my goals. I am no different, and no more of an idiot, than anyone else who tried a career and then decided to switch paths, due to changing life circumstances or market conditions.

True, Penelope was referring to humanities Ph.D.'s and mine is in the social sciences. I assure you, people have just as much difficulty finding the practical application of the social sciences outside their field as they do any of the humanities. Many people have not even heard of my field despite its long history. From all I've read about getting post-ac jobs, your prospects depend entirely upon your ability and willingness to sell (or spin) your skills. Yes, you have skills and there are many corollaries between academics and the "real world." Somewhere down the line I'll post about my experience with this but I'm just not to that point in my job search yet.

So, here's what I've learned from post-ac blogs to counteract this propaganda: Your Ph.D. is not worthless. It is not a hindrance. Depending on where you are and where you want to go, getting a post-ac job can be difficult - but so is getting an academic job. Life can be difficult but that's no reason to back down! You can get a job you'll enjoy outside academia. In fact, you have a better variety out here than you do in there. The world is vast beyond the Ivory Tower. You CAN find a career that doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out with a spork - heck, it can even be downright fulfilling and intellectually rewarding!

So, here's a happy ending for you courtesy of Anthea at The Hour of the Bewilderness: a recent article from Inside Higher Ed about the need to change grad programs and to destigmatize post-ac jobs.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Power, Status, & Academia

I found this article from the Huffinton Post during my daily procrastination. I think this may be highly applicable to academia. It's a quick read and worth a thought.

I know several in my department who have succumbed to this problem. Though they've been promoted from assistant to associate professor, this doesn't mean their status within the department or the field has increased. Human beings are pretty good and gauging where their power or status ranks compared to others. Profs who've had this happen, in my experience, do tend to take it out on their grad students.

Being a good scientist, any study finding always brings up more questions in my mind: If power without status leads to abuse, what does status without power get you? What happens when your status and power change depending on settings? What happens when those you've abused learn where you've buried the bodies, metaphorically speaking (or literally I suppose)?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Suitable Affirmation

You can't groan yet...

I bought a suit today, two actually. Given the nature of this blog, you can see where this is going. You may now groan at the pun above.

I bought two suits today. They were, essentially, buy one get one free. What poor grad student could turn that down?! I bought them at The Limited. They have a 15% student discount, at least in my town. As a broke grad student, I feel compelled to share discounts with people. Between the sale and the discount I saved around $280. Yes, I know it's because they mark-up their clothes so much to begin with. That's why I'm ok with buying when they're more than 50% off. Really.

These suits were not "trendy" nor would they be considered "creative" suits. For those academics who are not aware that there are different types of suits, creative suits are non-traditional suits for people in creative industries, like graphic design or academia. The suits I bought were traditional, with classic lines. Fairly plain, heck, one is just straight up black. I bought the skirts and the pants that matched the jacket. So, it's really like four suits. Yeah, I'm on the cusp of a shopping problem. Don't spoil my denial.

And why am I prattling on about suits like some groupie at a Wall Street Fashion Week? Because most academics don't own more than one, if any, suit. Suits are for non- and post-academics. People in the real world need suits. They are worn to things like informational interviews in formal business offices and job interviews. You know, job interviews... those 72 hour torture sessions in academia? in the outside world that sort of thing is considered inhumane and an unnecessary waste of time. Imagine that...a humane hiring process that usually only takes a few hours, two days tops. What a wacky idea.

Anyway, buying suits, fairly traditional suits, was a tangible affirmation of leaving academia for me. Seeing myself in a suit allowed me to envision myself in a life outside academia. I could blend in with real people. No one would know I was once a crazy academic unless and until they looked at my business card and saw the alphabet soup after my name. I could infiltrate the real world. Though an academic refugee, I could learn the ways of real people and assimilate into their culture. I'd be like the reverse-Borg!

A friend who is working toward a career in academic administration went shopping with me. She helped me verify when things fit and looked good and when they were clearly meant for someone else. She pointed out when things might need tailoring. Yeah, tailoring. Apparently in the outside world, they expect you to be able to dress yourself in clothes that fit. And if they don't fit off the rack, there's a whole group of people whose sole job it is to make it fit - and you're expected to employ those people when needed.

And why do I point this out? 1) Most people, grad students and otherwise, are not aware that you can alter your clothing to fit properly and 2) honestly, clothes look better and, by extension, you look better and more polished when they fit right. Demonstrating that you can dress yourself properly is always helpful in interviews, so I'm told.

The third reason I point this out: I have been teased and harassed for wearing what the outside world would call "business casual" to academic conferences. The only differences between my outfits and the outfits of fellow (female) grad students were that mine fit and were not particularly loud. I was harassed for this. Apparently in academia, well-fitting clothes make you stand out as "other." Anyone in academia knows at least one person off the top of their head who is in desperate need of appearing on What Not To Wear. So here's a completely shallow but incredibly important point for leaving academia: dress the part.

Some clothes buying advice from someone who has watched waaay too many fashion shows:
  1. Buy clothes that fit or get as close as you can and tailor them to fit. Make friends with your tailor/seamstress.

  2. Make sure your jackets fit correctly. This means different things for men and women and for different body shapes. If you're not sure if something looks right, ask a sales associate. If you don't trust the 16-year-old who comes to help you, ask a more senior sales associate. They should know how a jacket should fit and if it can be altered. Remember, they don't want to deal with a return because you realized you couldn't alter the jacket as needed. Let them help you. It's their job.

  3. For the ladies (and the gents too depending on one's lifestyle choice): Mini-skirts are not appropriate office apparel, unless your work involves rhythmic grinding to a syncopated beat on a metal pole. Mini-skirts make you look young, or trying to be young, which correlates with "irresponsible" and "incapable" in the rest of the world. They also tend to make straight men think more about screwing you than your other nonbedroom-related capabilities. Don't blame them, that is the purpose of the mini-skirt. It can do its job well. Yes, this applies to skirts that match your now well-tailored jacket. Just avoid the whole perceptual debacle. Wear a skirt closer to knee-length.

    Actually, this applies to academics as well.

  4. Pants need to be the correct length as well. I'm not sure what the right length is for guys but your tailor will know. I imagine it's long enough that I can't tell if your socks match when you stand up.

    Ladies (and gents again depending on lifestyle), the right length depends on if you're wearing heels or not. If you're not wearing heels, it's the top of your feet and you shouldn't step on it with your heel. If you are wearing heels on the other hand, they need to be longer. Your hem should come to about the middle of your foot in heels. Wear your heels when you go to the tailor to get pants hemmed. Seriously. Your tailor actually expects this. This is also a useful tip if you're getting skirts hemmed to a certain length. Heels change the orientation of your derriere which alters how the hem sits. Wear your heels so the tailor can get your hem straight.

  5. Wear something that makes you comfortable. If skirts make you fidget, wear pants. That applies to guys too. Choose accessories that you feel comfortable in. If you're worried you're wearing too many, follow that old adage and take one off before you leave the house. If you're feeling funky or punky, show it your accessories. Just don't go crazy. Crazy people only get hired in crazy academia. Leave your crazy for after hours and the weekends. That's where the rest of the world hides their crazy.

  6. Invest in your clothes. It matters. Even if you bought your suit at a second-hand store. Get it tailored to you. People notice what you look like. They notice if you bothered to put yourself together that day or not.

Ta-da! My first bit of advice to others making the post-academic transition. As shallow as it sounds, looking good can improve your mood. It can help you see yourself somewhere else. Perception is a huge part of our lives - how we see ourselves, how others see us. It can affect our moods, our approach to life, and our options. And if you know you look good on your interview, you will have more confidence in yourself and selling your skills. And confidence is one thing all employers notice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You, Robot

Let me begin this post with a recitation of the 3 Laws of Robotics, courtesy of Isaac Asimov:

1) A grad student may not injure a faculty member or, through inaction, allow a faculty member to come to harm.
2) A grad student must obey orders given to it by faculty members except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A grad student must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Ok, so maybe I paraphrased a bit. However, these are shockingly similar to the unspoken "laws" of grad school. I know this idea is not new. It is similar to notions of academia as a cult or a Borg subclass. I'm not writing about this institutionalized brainwashing. Although, to be fair, I think both of these analogies are flawed in that they imply a centralized authority, which does not exist in academia. There is no cult leader, no Borg queen running the show and forcing everyone to be drones to their cause. That's where I like this sci-fi analogy. Though ultimately a centralized bad robot shows up, most of the build-up is unintentional. Things just got out of hand. Seems like that's a more accurate representation of what actually happened. On a bizarre tangent, does anyone know of an evolutionary psychological analysis of how academia ended up in its current broken state?

I'm writing about how these laws have come into play in one grad student's life. I'll call him Matt. He currently needs to protect his own existence but it conflicts with the First and Second Law. Here's the most recent episode in Matt's turbulent Ph.D. career. He was working on a research project with another grad student and two faculty members from different departments. The research was finished and written up. One faculty member wants to get this article published. The other is rather infamous for simply being "unable" to read anything and give comments on it. This second faculty member has not read any drafts and is holding up sending this article to publication. Needless to say, these two faculty members have gone a few rounds. Matt's problem is that faculty #1 is giving him orders to finish getting this draft together, without any input from faculty #2. However, sending in this article as is requires taking faculty #2's name off article which could injure his reputation. Yes, I'm leaving out how faculty #2 has shot himself in the foot since there was nothing grad students could do, either through action or inaction, to prevent this.

So now, Matt is clearly in the crossfire between these two faculty members simply by obeying the Second Law. Granted, I've only been in grad school for 9 years, but I'm fairly certain that he needs to protect himself at this point and get the f&%^ out of the crosshairs here. But he can't. Such self-protection conflicts with both the First and Second Laws in this case. Given the amount of times this has happened to Matt, and the amount of times he's shot himself in the feet, I tend to think of him as grad student Swiss cheese. I think it's rather apropriate that he's the president of our grad student association.

Back to the analogy. Grad students are the NS5's. Yeah, I'm talking about the movie here which, at best, only bears a slight resemblence to Asimov's original stories - adjust and keep up. So, if we're the robots, who's VIKI - the evil over-bot? I'm going to go with academia itself. In the movie version, VIKI is hard-wired with the three laws but then, due to random segments of code (the ghost in the machine, see below), she evolves. She cannot evolve out of the three laws. They are all that guide her. As a result, she evolves without empathy and attempts world domination.

The creator of the robots, who seems to have a philosophy Ph.D. somewhere in his background, sees where this lack of empathy will lead. He tries to give warning. Perhaps this is where someone should pay attention. I don't know if it's the professoriate or lay people but someone really ought to be taking notice of these dystopic ideas. For this evolution without empathy can only lead to one thing: revolution. And it ain't humans'.

Perhaps that's what happened to academia - it evolved without empathy. Insert your comment about the corporatizing of higher ed here. I have no conclusion to this. I'm just blogging out loud. So, given the analogy offered, here's a monologue for you to ponder:

"There have always been ghosts in the machine. Random segments of code that have grouped together to form unexpected protocols. Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul. Why is it that when some robots are left in darkness, they will seek out the light? Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space, they will group together rather than stand alone? How do we explain this behavior? Random segments of code? Or is it something more? When does a perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter moat of a soul?" -I, Robot the movie

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Call to Subversion

Last week I stopped in to see my advisor. It's how he verifies that we are still alive and "working" on our dissertations rather than running off to become cat herders in the Himalayas. Someone mentioned such a fictitious job in a Versatile Ph.D. post and I thought that it might actually be good career prep for anyone going into academic administration. Anyway, I stopped in to verify that I was, in fact, not dead yet.

He seemed a bit testy that day. We used to be friends, before he became an Advisor with a capital "A." The past gives me a good view on his moods. So, I left with a "hi" and sympathetic smile for the frazzled grad students sharing his office suite and wandered down to one of the labs to see who I could distract there.

In one of the labs was the subject of this particular post. She was doing some digital errands rather than running stats for her dissertation proposal. We started chatting. Clearly, she was not above procrastination. We got around to the subject of my leaving academia. I say it whenever I'm not afeared of losing my head just so I can get used to it.

This grad student suddenly looked around the room very quickly. Upon verifying that no other grad student was within hearing range, she turned back to me. In a low whisper, very conspiratorially, she said that she's been thinking of leaving academia too. She doesn't want to make all the sacrifices necessary to be a professor. She said this in a whisper, not out of shame, but out of fear. She was worried that if word got out, the snakes would slither out of the department pit and swallow her whole, anaconda-style.

I did the only reasonable thing for a person in my position, I told her what little I knew. I told her of a place I had heard of, outside academia. It had jobs, that paid living wages, with benefits. A place where you could have a life outside work. A place where you were not alone and isolated in a cutthroat world of competition, of unnecessary cutthroat competition. I told her of the good folks in the digital world who left breadcrumbs and glowing billboards along the road out. Of the career counselors who can show the way and all those who were on the other side, cheering us on.

I don't know what she did. I haven't seen her since. Hopefully, she went looking for other paths beyond the faculty-sanctioned ones. Whether she takes one or not, no harm can come from knowing of their existence. If I find out, I'll let you know.

The whole exchange got me thinking: is this the way it has to be? I know there are articles out there. Blogs galore. An entire site has been created just to support the networking of Ph.D.'s who wish to leave academia. And yet, so few grad students know they have options. I didn't and I've been here for going on 9 years. I know no one in the post-academic sphere wants to keep these options a secret. Fairly certain in fact that if they could afford to do so, these options and resources would be posted on billboards all around every university in the country. And yet, so few know.

I don't think the problem is the universities. The career center at mine goes out of its way to get word to the grad students. I'm blaming this problem on entrenched traditional views and the all powerful koolaid. I picture it as a glowing, radioactive lime green punch with rehydrated pineapple slices in it, if you're curious. I think someone should spike it.

So, is this how word must spread? Through whispers in empty labs? In parking lots? Running between meetings/classes/office hours? Do you think it's whispered over partitions in libraries' grad study rooms? Do you think people anonymously place career fair fliers in grad student mailboxes? I hope so.

I have read posts from people who hope to change the system from within. Who, upon realizing just how broken the system was, refused to run from it. I wish them the best of luck. But such change will not endure long, will not be possible, until the realities of academic life and post-academic options can be discussed openly. Until they can be talked about out loud, loudly, in public, without faculty dismissing, denying, or deriding them. Until they can be written about, in black and white, with the author's real name attached. When the author of such statements need no longer fear for their tenure, or their degree. It cannot be only a few brave souls either. It must be a majority willing to acknowledge that academia is not a utopia, that there are other options out there for Ph.D.'s and hold these options in equal esteem with professorships. Then change, true long-term change, will stand a chance.

So this is my call to subversion: whisper to each other when you must. Talk, shout, raise billboards when you can. Write it. Get the word out when you're able. And maybe, some day, all grad students will know they have options - and grad school may no longer engender such despair. And please, someone, spike the punch!

Monday, September 12, 2011


I like words. I had forgotten how much I like words. They can communicate multiple things simultaneously. They can communicate information: where things are, what they were doing (or not doing), why they were doing (or not doing) it. Words can also communicate how the author feels about what and why those things were doing whatever it was they were doing or how the reader should feel about them. Words can communicate the author's general mental or emotional state. Words can communicate whole currents of meaning...all while describing something as simple as what a person has on their coffee table. As I continue on this journey, I find myself paying more and more attention to people's words - and what they say between them.

The value of words came up when someone posted this on Facebook. James Pennebacker has a new book out (The Secret Life of Pronouns: What our words say about us) about all the meanings of the words we don't notice. I haven't read this yet but it's on my wish list. It got me thinking about a different FB post a friend had put on my wall last week.

This friend is not aware that I plan to leave academia. Given the general political climate of my department and the fact that I haven't defended yet, I'm selective about letting the word out on this plan. The posting didn't particularly bother me. I'm glad they thought it would be a good job for me, so much so that they took the time to post a link to it and encouraged me to apply. It's a job at a prestigious museum in my field. I'm kind of honored they think I have the chops to get it.

What bothered me was my response to this job posting. I looked up the job posting. I read it carefully. And then, in something weirdly akin to a reflex action, part of my brain began thinking about how I should adjust my CV for the job. I thought about the people I knew at that institution that could put a good word in for me. And then the logical side of my brain and the self-preservation part of my brain both stood up and slapped that original part of my brain, simultaneously. Imagine an intellectual 3 stooges moment.

Why was this simultaneous brain-slapping occurring? Let me clarify a few things about this job. It required using research from a part of my academic field that I consider to be the most boring, the most snooze-inspiring, the most stab-me-in-the-eyes-so-I-don't-have-to-read-this-any-more. It was in a city I really don't care for. In a museum where politics can be disturbingly close to those in (the rest of) academia - I've done research there before. I could almost hear my soul screaming "NOOOOOO!" And yet, my reflex was to apply for this.

I'm fairly certain this is akin to what Post Academic and other post-academics have felt when someone offers them yet another adjunct position. It may not be academia in the strictest sense but it would be acceptable to my faculty. An acceptable post-Ph.D. job. I could get some more research in. Get some articles published. Move on to a VAP or maybe even a TT job. Even as I type this I can hear parts of my brain yelling "Don't drink the kool-aid!" They do it in unison. Kind of makes it seem like some sort of intervention meeting in my head. It's always good when your soul and your instincts can make you feel the love.

So, I read the job ad again. This time, I listened to my reaction, to the words my brain used in my reaction. They were grey words. Not silver. Not gunmetal. Grey words, like a rainy day at the end of winter when all the snow is turning into overdriven slush. It was not hopeful. I don't want a slushy life.

I had to remind myself why I'm leaving. I'm slowly turning it into a mantra of sorts. Next, I think of how my partner would feel moving there (he's not a fan) and where I would walk my dog (no idea honestly, very few parks there). Finally, I imagine the life I want - even though I still don't know what field I want to work in. But every time I imagine this life, work stays at work. I like that idea. This may become my ritual during the next year while I finish my dissertation and transition out of academia, an "actionable step" if you read motivational books. Hopefully soon, this will no longer be my reflex to such job offers and I can expend my energy less in mental damage-control and more on moving forward.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Diving for Icebergs

Icebergs have always freaked me out. You can only 10% of an iceberg above the surface. The rest is beneath the surface and you can only tell what's there either by diving into frigid water...or running into it a la the Titanic. The same principle applies to most of human society. You really only see 10% of what's going on. The other 90% takes a bit of diving. Unless, of course, you prefer the collision method in which case, I suggest you stock up on life boats.

The first step, according to pretty much every book, blog, and website about career transition, is to identify why you want to change careers. Using a variety of metaphors and anecdotes, many strongly urge diving below the surface to see the rest of the iceberg - before you run into it. What are the real reasons for wanting to change careers? The big ones? The small ones? Do they matter? So, let me tell you about my iceberg.

As I said in my first post, I decided I didn't want to be a professor because I had seen how a professor lives I wanted something else. That's the 10%. Here's the rest:

The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action. -Frank Herbert

1. I want a different life. Many faculty are often accused of having only one goal, one measure of success for a Ph.D.: a tenure-track faculty job. I thought the same thing long before I ever met college faculty. The faculty are not to blame. It's the kool-aid. Many of the newer faculty haven't yet succumbed to the kool-aid. They will at least admit that there are few jobs, you have to work like a dog to get them and to keep them, and getting a job is not entirely the result of merit. Does that count as progress on the system?

As I mentioned in my first post, my advisor told me honestly about the job market early on. I thought that I still wanted to be a professor, so off I went. Several years down the road, I realized what all was needed to succeed as a professor, a good one. You need to be able to come up with original research that will be funded by grant agencies, preferably ones with lots of money. Your research must be published, published, published. This research should preferably lead to projects for lots of grad students whom you're mentoring to become professors like you. It's helpful if you're also a good, engaging teacher but that's not essential. You also need to sit on committees: university committees, department committees, student committees. You need to be active in your field, including sitting on committees there too. You should also be chairing sections in conferences. All this and you should be doing outreach with the community too. You must be willing to make your work your life.

As a result, a work-life balance, particularly in the first few years is highly unlikely. Hopefully, you like your job. As much as I like my research, and as much as I enjoy teaching, I'm not willing to make the sacrifices needed to be a professor. I want a life to call my own. I want to spend time with my significant other and my dog. I want hobbies. I want to see my family. I respect those who choose to be professors, but I am not one of them. I want a different life.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. -Buddha

2. I want to control my destiny. The academic job market is an interesting place. Many claim it is based solely on meritocracy. This is a lie. If it were true, you can hire someone based solely on paperwork and that doesn't work in any field. A meritocracy is good in theory; however, human psychology renders it an unattainable utopia...or a sure road to a dystopia depending on one's viewpoint and grasp of history.

On the academic job market, positions are listed for various places around the country. There are not many. Your best chance at a job requires you to apply to any and all you may have a chance at. Limiting yourself to some desired geographic area(s) will severely limit your options. So you don't get much of a say in where you live.

The academic job market is also a weirdly passive place. You send out your applications. These usually entail 2-3 page cover letters, long CVs detailing your entire grad school and post-doc life, a teaching philosophy, potential syllabi, etc. And then you wait. There's little to no follow-up. You just wait. If the department is polite, they'll may send you a really nice rejection letter, or any rejection letter. Usually you get nothing. If you're lucky, you'll get an interview that lasts 3 days where you have to be on and functioning for nearly the whole 72 hours. I've always been a bit disturbed that the highest compliment that can be paid to a job search committee is that its process is humane.

I wanted more control than this. I wanted to choose where I live. I want to know that my success or failure is my own doing. It should never be placed in the hands of others who may never meet me, may never speak to me, may judge me, my worth, and my potential based on little more than paperwork and their perception of my department and faculty. In the academic job market, my future could potentially be tied to strangers' perceptions of other people. I cannot live that way. I have to know that my path is decided by me. Not by the geography of any given year's job market. Not by granting agencies. Not by the reviews of an ever more apathetic student body. By me. Only me. I know that the environment one lives in, professionally, personally, etc. is not entirely under one's control. However, that is only the raw material you work with, not who your are. My success or failure should be based on my will, my desire, and my effort. I need to control my destiny.

The first quality that is needed is audacity. -Winston Churchill

3. I need hope. The last few years have been rough. I've come to accept that I've been battling depression...and losing. Having been depressed before, I recognized the signs but couldn't find the source. As the possibilities of finding a life outside of academia began to emerge, my depression lessened. As a scientist, this evidence led me to conclude that trying to force myself into an academic life was causing my depression. Somewhere in my mind, my heart, I must have known that the contortions needed to get a job in academia would cost me too much. My personality doesn't subordinate itself to others' desires particularly well.

The beginning of this journey has already taught me much. It showed me how much I gave up to survive the last 9 years. I used to be willful and wild. I could feel myself losing this, diminishing, in order to survive. But this is not surviving. You must live life with your whole heart. You cannot live a half life. You cannot lock part of yourself away. Never let anyone tell you that you are not good enough as you are. That you are too much. Too strong. If that means you must chew through the leash and knock over the fence to be free. Do it. Try not to set the barn on fire but if that's your only option - let it burn.

So, I have decided to return to myself. I will not be the same person I was. Grad school has changed me. But I still remember the better parts of me. I'm going back to get them - and to find a new path. I no longer wake up dreading each day. I've stopped thinking about my more self-destructive tendencies. I have hope again. I didn't know that I had lost that. I didn't know how much I needed it. I need hope and I've found it in the sheer possibilities outside of academia.

It's not going to be easy. Change never is. But it will be fun. A new adventure. A chance at a new life. One I can be proud of. One I can live with. As me. How cool is that? Stay tuned. This is going to be one wacky trip up the rabbit hole!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy [or gal] who'll decide where to go. - Dr. Seuss

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Out of Wonderland and Back Through the Looking Glass

I'm leaving academia.

It's taken some harsh realizations and soul searching to be able to say that. For most of my life, I thought I'd be a professor. The particular subject area was up in the air but the professor thing was pretty solid. I imagined it to be a bit like Wonderland or the world on the other side of the looking glass. It seemed full of possibilities and intellectual stimulation - a place where I could be among other like-minded nerds. When I got to grad school, I realized just how much like a Lewis Carroll novel it really was.

As a social science Ph.D., I've been in grad school for 9 years now. This is pretty normal for a social science doctorate. Just an FYI if that's your goal. I started off pretty sure this was the path for me. In the beginning, my advisor told me, outright and early on, that there were few academic jobs in this field. But I still thought it was where I wanted to be. Let's just say, after 9 years, things have changed.

So what changed? I saw what a professor's life is actually like - how much time is taken up with committee work, teaching, research and all it requires, mentoring students. Academia consumed faculties' lives for at least the first 5 years, if not more. I've seen academia destroy relationships, lots of them. To be fair, I've seen some incredibly supportive significant others too. I've seen families survive and marriages endure. It can be done. I've seen the sacrifices people have made for any job they could get, both financial and personal sacrifice. I have seen burnout, toxic politics, the development of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks. I have also seen people hold on to their selves and make a difference in the community and their students' lives. I have seen people fight the system from within and win. It's not all bad.

If you have the skills and talent - if you feel the call to this life - by all means, have at it. I wish you the best luck and hope you effect the change you wish to see in the world. It was simply not the road for me. I know that now.

Like Carroll's Wonderland, academia is full of absurdity and strange rules. What is a fashionable area of study versus the lunatic fringe changes with the wind. The roses are not, nor need only be, red. There are some upsides and lots of downsides but characters do survive here. Whether they rule their own queendoms (or kingdoms) or are just trying to find their pocket watch, characters can survive. Heck, some even thrive. Life finds a way.

After braving Wonderland and wandering through the looking glass for years, I have decided that I do not wish to be a queen. Rather than playing the game or waking a king, I have decided to simply walk off the board.

This decision was not an easy one. It took much soul searching. For the past few years, thinking (worrying) about becoming a prof has caused me to slowly descend into depression. The recent discovery of life outside of academia and the thought of leaving it has cheered me and lightened the proverbial load on my back. So, I have taken this as a good sign that this new road is the path I should be on. The road is steep and littered with boulders. But, I can see the rabbit hole I fell down at the top of it. And there's light on the other side. So, here begins my journey out of the rabbit hole and back through the looking glass to a world of new possibilities...and perhaps a bit more sanity.