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.